A looted history, a self-determined present: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travels to Nigeria
In Abuja Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, together with Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Claudia Roth have returned the first 20 Benin bronzes from five German collections to Nigeria., © Florian Gaertner/photothek.de
With 218 million people, 500 languages and more than 400 ethnic groups, Nigeria is undoubtedly one of the most diverse countries on the African continent. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is visiting the country from 18 to 20 December. She is taking with her a very special treasure.
Depicting former rulers, brave warriors, big cats and diplomatic visits, the so-called Benin bronzes are returning to their homeland of Nigeria after more than 100 years. In Abuja Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, together with Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Claudia Roth, will return the first 20 Benin bronzes from five German collections to Nigeria.
We are taking a long overdue step. It will not heal all the wounds of the past. But together with the Länder, cities and museums we are showing that Germany is taking seriously its efforts to address its dark colonial history. – Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
The artefacts from the 15th to the 19th centuries rank among Africa’s most valuable art treasures. They were seized by British troops in 1897 during the plundering of the Edo kingdom in what is now Nigeria. In London, many were auctioned, some being bought by German collectors. Today, around 1100 of the more than 5000 Benin bronzes are in the possession of German museums. In July this year, the governments of Germany and Nigeria signed a joint declaration in which they agreed to transfer the ownership of all relevant artefacts in German collections to Nigeria. With the handover by Foreign Minister Baerbock, the first bronzes are now returning.
The first state restitution of looted art from the colonial era on this scale is also laying the foundation for building on relations between the two countries. To this end, Foreign Minister Baerbock will hold political talks in Abuja on bilateral and international cooperation.
With more than 210 million people, Nigeria is the largest democracy in Africa. It has a strong voice in the international community – not only as the host country of the regional organisation ECOWAS and a key pillar of the African Union, but also as an important troop contributing nation for UN peace missions. We want to work together even more closely with this important partner, especially with a view to addressing the greatest global challenge, containing the climate crisis. – Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
Germany’s peace engagement in the Lake Chad region
“Bring back our girls” – the signs made by desperate parents and teachers of Nigerian schoolgirls who have become victims of mass kidnappings by the terrorist group Boko Haram have burned themselves deeply into our visual memory. The Lake Chad region is regarded as the hub of the activities of terrorist groups.
Germany is dovetailing its humanitarian assistance, civilian stabilisation measures and development cooperation in order to help build stability in the region and create prospects, security and new livelihoods for the people there. One example is the village of Ngarannam, which Foreign Minister Baerbock will visit. It was almost totally destroyed by an attack by Boko Haram in 2015, and the village community was driven out. Germany, together with partners, has rebuilt it. To this end the Nigerian star architect Tosin Osinowo was commissioned, who planned the reconstruction in consultation with the community. In Ngarannam, Foreign Minister Baerbock will speak to women, schoolgirls and members of the community about the challenges they face and their return to their home village.
The prospects of women and the younger generation are also the focus of Foreign Minister Baerbock’s visit to the Skills Academy, supported with funds from Germany, in the Nigerian capital Abuja. Here, young Nigerians can complete vocational training in the construction industry under the dual system.