We, intellectuals of the African continent and its diaspora and our colleagues from the Americas, Asia, and Europe, reunited in Dakar for the Symposium Afrika Nko, protest the destruction and vandalizing of ancient manuscripts kept in the Ahmed Baba Institute of Timbuktu.
This act of destruction, which comes after the significant loss of life and many other forms of brutality in Mali, has targeted priceless intellectual resources accumulated through centuries and safeguarded by generations. It is an attack against memory, against the human spirit, against African being, and against the whole of humanity.
This act of destruction recalls the long history of the destruction of libraries that is far from exclusive to the African continent. We are witnessing manifestations of nihilism and anti-intellectualism elsewhere in the world - product of a systematic will to erase culture that has expressed itself in Mali via the destruction of Islamist mausoleums and historical sites. It also exemplifies a geopolitical reality in which Africa has become the site of new forms of looting, new forms of predation, and new wars against its peoples.
We condemn this act and lament our loss. As we have gathered here to discuss "the colonial library" and "the African library," the destruction of these manuscripts reminds us that protecting and transmitting knowledge is a priority and a right, and any violation of this right is a crime.
We demand urgently that the African governments no longer make empty promises but enforce concrete acts to ensure the protection of libraries, manuscripts, and other creations of the human spirit before it is too late and nothing remains aside from hypocritical laments. War targets people, yes, but it is also a deadly assault against books, libraries, and culture.
Dakar, 29 January, 2013
DR. Ebrima Sall
Prof. Mamadou Diawara