Monday, August 27, 2012

Library Project reaches High Drama Juncture
So, I went along to the Prefecture this morning for a couple of hour's intense talking to by the Prefect and his Adjoint, as they gave me a chronological representation of the Djenne Manuscript Library from its beginning to the present day. I listened relatively patiently to their version of a story that I know very well.

Their problem with the Library is that it has been, and remains a hotbed of conflict. They are the administrators of the town of Djenne and their duty is to keep the peace.

The problems are complex, but they boil down to the circumstances already explained a couple of days ago: The library was created by funding from various sources, by an Association created by the Imam of Djenne. Problems arose between the Imam and certain factions in town about the management of the Library, and the Iman and his Association pulled out, although their Association was not dissolved.
A Management Committee for the Library was put in place by the then Minister of the Culture, Cheik Oumar Sissoko, with a mandate for five years. This management committee was to have their mandate renewed by all the different authorities of the town, inluding the Prefecture. During these five years I came on the scene, with funding from the British Library. It is with this committee that the work of my project with the Endangered Archives Project (BL)started.
There was a Pilot Project worth £7000 in 2009. After this project there was a year's waiting for the funding for the Major Project (£56 000) to be sought and authorised.

During this time I sought interim funding from the French Embassy, to tide us over and give the salaries for the library archivists etc. The French Embassy insisted on working directly with the Library. The problem is that they needed an Association or a formal structure to work with. The Library Committee did not want to work with the Association of the Imam, so they went ahead and had a new Association created. As it happened we never found the funding with the French Embassy.
The Imam has now insisted that the new Association which was created was illegal, so it was dissolved accordingly. Therefore in the law, and also in practice the Prefecture claims that the first Association is still valid. The problem is that the town does not want it! The Prefecture also claims that the Management Committee put in place by the Minister of Culture, with which I have been working, is illegal.

When I finally was allowed to speak I tried to explain my opinion, which is that the people who have been chosen by the town of Djenne to represent them in this 5 year period should be given the time and opportunity to present their accounts to put an end to their mandate in a way which is stipulated in the statutes of the management committee, which after all was put in place by the Minister of Culture himself. As far as they know they have done their duty, and they need to present their work, so that a new management committee can take their place.
As far as I am concerned, I said I only wanted to do my duty and to carry out my responsabilities: I have no quarrel with anyone in Djenne.

However, there is this pressing problem:
Abdul Wahid, Grand Savant de Tombouctou, and his assistant are on their way to Djenne as I write this. They are scheduled for their conference with the Djenne manuscript owners to start on Wednesday morning, to run for a week. Tomorrow they will be introduced to the library staff, and have a tour of Djenne etc. This fact propelled the Prefect into action: he decided there and then to call an emergency meeting with all concerned at three o'clock this afternon at the Prefecture: in less than one hour. He asked me who I wanted to be present. I asked for Samake and Babou Toure of course, for Yelfa and for Hasseye Traore, as well as Ali Toure and all the town councillors. The Prefecture will call the Imam and the Maire.
More later....


Blogger David said...

Nail biting drama in real time. You'd think that all would be amazed and grateful for that huge subsidy from the
British Library. But who knows what machinations go on behind the scenes in a small town. We are keeping fingers crossed to ward off any maraboutage...

6:45 PM  

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