UNESCO engages the military academy in cultural heritage protection in Cameroon
Relentless targeting and attacks on cultural heritage in conflict situations has amplified the crucial need to engage the state defense forces
On 10 March 2023, within the framework of the Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF) the Ministry of Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Defense, the UNESCO Regional Office for Central Africa and the Command and Staff College organized a training session on the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage in times of peace and conflict. This activity saw the participation of 71 Captain officers (3 from Central Africa Republic – CAR) from various military corps.
UNESCO aimed to acquaint the officers and future executives of the army with the fundamentals of cultural heritage, international cultural conventions of UNESCO as well as sensitization at the level of Defense and Security Forces to include the crucially important element of cultural heritage as they carry out their duties in times of conflict. The interactive session established a connection between the law of war, international law and the protection of cultural heritage by the Defense Forces while highlighting the additional need for the protection of cultural heritage to safeguard the history and identity of the people at risk of extinction in conflict.
Using the 1954 UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the elaborate introduction by the UNESCO heritage experts during this training highlighted the disturbing trend of heritage as a target in conflict situations. Records have demonstrated the targeting of all types of cultural heritage in war, extremism, and terrorism. Evidence in history shows that besides the looting and damage of artefacts during conflicts, cultural sites have also been targeted as part of malicious plans of cultural extinction.
“A museum or heritage site may be identified as a hideout for nonstate armed groups. Posterity depends on the discretion of the military to devise a strategic approach to clear the site without necessitating a targeted destruction.” Said Dr Franck OGOU, Director of the African School of Heritage (EPA).
Within Cameroon alone, UNESCO through the Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF) has assessed over the past 4 years damages to cultural heritage in conflict and crises situations as one of the leading consequences of war and conflicts, as well as natural disaster.
The training also reinforces the ongoing brainstorming on a roadmap towards the inclusion of heritage protection as an important module of military training.
We wish to thank the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund and its donors (the Qatar Fund for Development, the Kingdom of Norway, the French Republic, the Government of Canada, the Principality of Monaco, ANA Holdings INC., the Republic of Estonia, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Principality of Andorra, the Slovak Republic, and the Republic of Serbia) for their support which made this activity possible.