Congolese activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza was sentenced Wednesday to a fine of 1,000 euros for having attempted to seize last June of a funeral post of Chadian origin at the Quai Branly – Jacques-Chirac museum. By this “political gesture”, the activist wanted to denounce the cultural “plunder” of Africa.
The Paris Criminal Court condemned the Congolese activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza, sentenced Wednesday October 14 to a fine of 1,000 euros for having tried to seize last June at the Quai Branly – Jacques-Chirac museum of a funeral post of Chadian origin to denounce the cultural “plunder” of Africa.
Initially prosecuted for “attempted theft”, he was finally sentenced by the Paris Criminal Court for “aggravated theft”. The other activists tried with him were sentenced to suspended fines ranging from 250 to 1,000 euros.
The Congolese activist has announced that he will appeal. Lawyers for Pan-African activists, Me Calvin job and Me Hakim Chergui, considered the court decision “disappointing”.
“A mock theft and not an attempted theft”
“Even though all the parties to the trial had noted the absence of any real intention to steal the statuette, this decision amounts to treating activists of a political cause as vulgar free-riders and, in this way, to confuse a mock theft and an attempted theft, “lamented the lawyers.
For them, this judgment “responds to the violence of the occultation of colonial history by the assumed refusal to face the political character of an undoubtedly militant action”.
“In this sense, denial on denial, to political blindness is added, faithful to the colonial continuum, judicial blindness”, underlined Me Job and Me Chergui.
Members of the pan-African association Unity Dignity Courage, these five activists seized on June 12 a funeral post Sara (Chad) of the XIXe century by tearing it from its base at the Quai Branly museum. Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza had taken the object in his arms, shouting: “We are bringing him home.”
“We will continue the fight”
Recognizing the “militant” character of this action, the president of the court explained Wednesday in rendering his judgment that this modus operandi should be “discouraged”. “You have other means to attract the attention of the political class and the public” on the issue of restitution of African works, he added. The prosecution requested a 1000 euros fine against the activist at the hearing.
“The legitimacy to seek what belongs to us does not rest with the judges of a prevaricator government”, commented Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza while leaving the courtroom. “We will continue the fight with all the means at our disposal. We are not dissuaded”, he warned.
The suite in Marseille and the Netherlands
The Congolese activist has not finished with justice. A few weeks after the coup d ‘brilliance of the Quai Branly museum, he seized an ivory object at the Museum of African, Oceanic and Amerindian arts in Marseille and then tried to take a sculpture from the Congo to the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands. He is to be tried in Marseille on November 17 and in January in the Netherlands for these actions.
A report by academics Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr, submitted to the government in November 2018, called for extensive restitution of objects that arrived in France during the colonial era.
Today, only one saber has been returned to Senegal and 26 objects will be in Benin within a year.