France agrees to return 26 African artworks claimed by Benin

Other News Materials 24 November 2018 08:47 (UTC +04:00)

French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to return "without delay" 26 African artworks claimed by Benin, according to the president's office, Al Jazeera reported.

The decision on Friday came shortly after Macron received a report detailing how former colonisers can return looted artworks to Africa.

Governments from Ethiopia to Senegal eagerly awaited the report, commissioned by Macron and complied by French art historian, Benedicte Savoy, and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr.

It recommends that the thousands of items in French museums taken without consent during the colonial period be returned to the continent.

Unless it can be proven that the objects were obtained legitimately, they should be returned to Africa permanently, the report's authors say.

Savoy and Starr also recommend changing the French law to allow the restitution of cultural works to Africa, after Macron announced that he wanted the process to begin within five years.

French law currently forbids the government from ceding state property, regardless of how it was obtained.

"I cannot accept that a large part of the cultural heritage of several African countries is in France," Macron said during a visit to Burkina Faso last year.

"There are historical explanations for this but there is no valid, lasting and unconditional justification. African heritage cannot be only in private collections and European museums - it must be showcased in Paris but also in Dakar, Lagos and Cotonou. This will be one of my priorities," he said.