The United Kingdom has expressed readiness to engage with Zambia on bilateral negotiations for the return of the Broken Hill Man Skull.
This is contained in a joint resolution between the two governments adopted at the 21st Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of the Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution of Illicit Appropriation following a case brought against the UK before the Committee at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France on Thursday.
And the Committee has welcomed Zambia’s willingness to engage the UK in bilateral negotiations towards.
Presenting the case on behalf of the Zambian delegation to compel the United Kingdom to return the Broken Hill Skull, National Heritage and Conservation Executive Director Collins Chipote stated that the relic was Zambia’s indigenous and earliest hominine finds.
Mr. Chipote explained that the Skull was discovered in Kabwe on June 17th, 1921 by Tom Zwigglar of the Broken Hill Development Company, during a mining operation after blasting of a kopje and that it was found in association with a number of items including upper jaw, a sacrum, a tibia and two femur fragments.
He added that the skull was of great sentimental value to Zambians and its absence in the country had deprived nationals of the knowledge about technology and human development in the distant past.
Mr. Chipote further stressed skull’s presence in the UK had deprived Zambians of research in human origins leading to inadequate public interest that was needed to pursue the fascinating study of human origins.
He further told the intergovernmental Committee that the justification by the UK that the skull had been placed for public display in the British National History Museum did not address the needs of the Zambian people as most citizens could not afford an air ticket to travel to the museum to view a relic that was in fact theirs.
He said the Skull was taken away from the people who at the time had no say over their property and heritage as colonial authorities presided over affairs of the land now known as Zambia.
After the case presentation, Zambia received overwhelming support from the Committee composed of 22 member states of UNESCO elected by the General Conference at its ordinary sessions including observer states that were in attendance.
Turkey stated that it fully supported Zambia’s case and that it was not justified for the UK to base it’s continued holding onto the relic on legal grounds.
The Turkish delegation stressed the need for bilateral negotiations as fundamental for promoting the return of objects.
Benin who also called for the immediate return of the skull questioned why people needed to go to other continents and not Africa to view or study items related to African heritage.
Earlier, Italy pointed out that the laws could not be used as justification for denying the return of cultural property as they were made by governments and could equally be revised to promote the return of objects to their respective countries of origin.
Other countries that supported Zambia were Argentina, South Africa, Venezuela, Greece, China, Japan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Republic of Korea.
Furthermore, the Committee thanked the United Kingdom for its readiness to engage with Zambia on bilateral and mutual basis on the return of the Broken Hill Man Skull and thereby inviting the UNESCO Director-General to assist in convening necessary meetings between the United Kingdom and Zambia aimed at resolving the matter.
And Tourism and Arts Permanent Secretary Reverent Dr. Howard Sikwela thanked the 15 out of 22 Member States that spoke and supported Zambia.