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Moroccans begin online campaign for return of historic letter exhibited in Austria

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Moroccan activists have launched an online campaign demanding for the return of a letter that dates back to the 18th century which they see as an important part of the country’s history.

The historic letter which is currently being exhibited in Austria was reportedly written by Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail Ibn Sharif to Charles Stewart of the United Kingdom in 1720.

According to media in the North African country, the letter was a diplomatic correspondence that was sent in December 1720 by the Sultan to Stewart who was the English Ambassador at the head of a mission sent under the reign of King George I tasked with negotiating peace with Morocco.

A social media influencer in the country, Monir Doli, who is one of those leading the campaign, wrote on X:

“Message to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and the Embassy of Morocco in Austria to intervene to stop the sale of our documents and our history.

“It concerns a handwritten letter from Sultan Moulay Ismail being offered for sale at a price of €28,000 euros at an exhibition of antiques and manuscripts in Austria.”

The post garnered thousands of reactions from Moroccan netizens who lamented the sale of Moroccan heritage and even offered to set up funding campaigns to raise money to buy the historic letter.

Another influencer who also denounced moves to auction the letter, wrote:

“Ohhh Mehdi… has this news reached yet? A handwritten letter from Sultan Moulay Ismail is up for sale for 28,000 euros at an exhibition of artifacts and manuscripts in Austria.

Moroccan history narrates that the letter referenced prior communications through notable figures such as Pasha Hamet Ben Ali Ben Abdallah and Ibn al-Attar, affirming that its message had been ratified and agreed upon by relevant authorities.

“In the letter, Sultan Moulay Ismail said he hoped that the proposed agreement would meet the ambassador’s expectations. He underscored the longstanding diplomatic ties between England and Morocco, citing the relationship between his cousin, Ahmad Al Mansour, and Queen Elizabeth I as a historical precedent,” a local media wrote.

“In addition, Sultan Moulay Ismail extended an open invitation to renew the covenant and treaty between the two kingdoms, stressing his willingness to facilitate and encourage bilateral relations.

“The correspondence was sent during the English ambassador’s journey to Morocco in 1720.

“A small squadron, led by Commodore Stewart, set sail from England on September 24, 1720, with Stewart authorized as a minister plenipotentiary to negotiate with Sultan Moulay Ismail. Their mission culminated in the signing of a pivotal treaty of peace in January 1721 at Ceuta.

“The terms of the treaty were significant, securing the release of 296 British slaves, granting free movement for British ships in Moroccan waters, and offering access for Moroccan ships to trade with Britain.

“Prior to their return to London, a conference took place in May 1721 with Pasha Hamet Ben Ali Ben Abdallah, further solidifying diplomatic relations,” the publication said.

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Director of ‘Dahomey’ Mati Diop shines at Berlin Film Festival 2024

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Senegalese-French writer and and director of African documentary movie, “Dahomey,” Mati Diop, made history when her movie was selected for a special world premiere at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival.

She was joined by other directors of African descent including Gildas Adannou, Habib Ahandessi and Joséa Guedje at the premiere where Kenyan Hollywood actress, Lupita Nyong’o became the ever black person to head the festival’s jury.

“Dahomey” which is one of Africa’s entry in this year’s festival, is a documentary that explores colonization through the return of stolen artifacts plundered by French colonial troops and returned to Benin in West Africa.

Dahomey” follows the journey of plundered artifacts taken by French colonial troops in 1892, being sent from Paris to the Republic of Benin and the impact of their return.

Other African films selected for the festival include “Black Tea” by Mauritanian-born Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, and “Who Do I Belong To” by Tunisian-Canadian director Meryam Joobeur.

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Tanzanians protest against Nyerere statue

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Some Tanzanians have taken to social media to protest against a recently unveiled statue of their founding father, Julius Nyerere.

According to them, the statue “does not look like” him.

The African Union (AU) had unveiled the statue in honour of the revered Tanzania founding president outside the Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

At the unveiling of the statue at a ceremony attended by numerous African heads of state, AU Commission leader Moussa Faki Mahamat said:

“The legacy of this remarkable leader encapsulates the essence of Pan Africanism, profound wisdom, and service to Africa.”

However, some Tanzanians have criticized the statue which they believe does not look like the pan-Africanist who led what is now Tanzania which was then known as Tanganyika, from independence in 1961 until 1985, a played a key role in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which later became the African Union.

A user on X, Maria Sarungi, who expressed her disappointment at the statue wrote:

“I know the gesture counts the most, but this statue’s face bears little or no resemblance to Mwalimu Nyerere (old or young),” she wrote.

Another user who was not happy with the simply said:

“That is not our Nyerere.”

Known as Mwalimu, a Swahili word for teacher, Nyerere is remembered for uniting the country made up of more than 120 different ethnic groups, including Arab, Asian and European minorities.

He did this by promoting the use of Swahili as a common language and through his vision of Ujamaa (Familyhood) and his version of “African Socialism.”

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