British varsity returns Ugandan artefacts looted 100 years ago

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British varsity returns Ugandan artefacts looted 100 years ago
Crates of the artefacts at Entebbe airport on Saturday | Courtesy

By Joshua Kagoro & Sunday Ssebagala

The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has received 39 cultural heritage artefacts from Cambridge University.

The valuable pieces were taken from Uganda during the 1890s and early 1900s by British colonial administrators, anthropologists, missionaries, and soldiers.

A Qatar Airways flight from London touched down at 2pm at the Entebbe International Airport. Onboard were crates with human artefacts that had been taken from Buganda, Bunyoro, Lango and Ankore in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

In a symbolic reception of the precious cultural objects, Martin Mugarra, the state minister of tourism, said while there are still many Ugandan tourism products in the united kingdom, this is the biggest consignment of all African countries.

Minister Mugarra said the returned artefacts will increase on the tourism products in the country.

"This an important addition it will increase tourism products and boost tourism and cultural heritage of the country," he said.

"The ministry will continue to analyse the artefacts at the Uganda Museum and is expecting all Ugandans and foreign visitors to see the historical objects returned from Europe."

The artefacts, which had been housed at Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for more than 100 years, were returned following negotiations between Uganda and the British university.

Jackline Besigye Nyiracyiza, the acting commissioner of museums and monuments at the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, said among the artefacts are five human remains, the Balongo from Buganda picked from Wamala tombs.

"We are going to return the artefacts to their respective communities/kingdoms and negotiations are going on," Ms Nyiracyiza said.

"We are grateful as a Ministry for the funding support extended from the Andrew Mellon Foundation who facilitated the research and transportation of the important the artefacts back to the communities. It took us over $100,000 to repatriate these artefacts."

This is the second time Uganda is returning its cultural heritage artefacts from Cambridge University. The first return occurred in July 1962, during the independence celebrations, when the Kibuuka Regalia were repatriated.

Derrick Peterson, professor of museum and anthropology at Michigan University, says it is natural for African identity that had been stolen by white supremacists be restored to tell the rich cultural heritage and history of Africa.

The sacred objects will be acclimatised with Ugandan conditions and returned to the community.

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