"I wish to begin my visit to the Central African Republic with a tribute to this country's cultural heritage and to those who have the courage and determination to protect it," said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, upon her arrival at the National Museum Barthelemy Banga in Bangui. This event marked the beginning of her two-day official visit to the Central African Republic.
After being greeted at Bangui airport by Her Excellency Ms Gisele Bedan, Minister of Education, the Director-General visited the National Museum, where in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Crafts, UNESCO is working to secure the museum's collections following the acts of vandalism that took place last year in the museum.
His Excellency Mr Romaric Vomitchande, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Crafts highlighted the devastating impact of conflict on cultural heritage and cultural expressions of all segments of the Central African society.
Recalling that the museum represents "the window of the Central African cultural identity," he thanked UNESCO for its support and called for a strong commitment to safeguard the cultural heritage of his country, essential for national reconciliation.
Highlighting the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of the Central African Republic for social cohesion, the Director-General said that "The museum is more than a" temple" in which valuable goods and artefacts were exposed and preserved. It is a place for knowledge that is inseparable from the life of society, in terms of culture as well as and economic and education," she went, renewing her call "our shared responsibility in the transmission of our heritage and for the security of the institutions responsible for its preservation.”
Supporting the renovation of the National Museum Barthelemy Banga and protection of its collections, UNESCO is helping to establish a comprehensive inventory, digitizing objects and helping to pack them in order to move them to a more secure location.
"The richness and diversity of cultural heritage is the soul of a people -- I thank you for opening your soul and allowing us to help you preserve it," concluded the Director-General.