At its 29th session (Durban, 2005), the Committee, although having decided to remove the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, also decided that if substantial progress was not made in drawing up a management and rehabilitation plan for the preservation and sustainable development of the old city of Timbuktu, the property would be reinscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006).
In order to draft the management and rehabilitation plan, Mali obtained USD 15,000 in financial assistance from the World Heritage Fund, and technical assistance provided by Italy. At the invitation of the State Party, a World Heritage mission visited Timbuktu from 6 to 15 March 2006 to determine progress being made on drawing up the management and rehabilitation plan. The mission made the following observations at that time:
a) A municipal order No. 002/CUT/2006 for the creation of a Committee for the Conservation and Management of the Old City of Timbuktu was officially signed by the Mayor of Timbuktu. This Committee, comprising community and administrative officials, as well as the Imams of the three mosques (Djingareyber, Sankoré, Sidi Yahia) is in charge of finalizing the management and conservation plan, and for its implementation for the period (2006-2010).
b) The mission noted the full commitment of the national and municipal authorities of Timbuktu and the communities living in the old city to comply with the condition set out in Decision 29 COM7A.14, by the deadline of 15 May 2006. The Imams and the inhabitants of the city had already provided to the coordinators drafting the management and rehabilitation plan all the information pertaining to the history and values of the property. The national authorities, through the intermediary of the Ministry of Culture, seconded a group of professionals to Timbuktu who were responsible for producing, by 15 May 2006, the document that should be submitted to the 30th session of the Committee.
c) A definition of the objectives of short-, medium- and long-term conservation is currently being validated in public meetings with all concerned parties. Maps of the property are also being produced.
The Centre and ICOMOS were informed in December 2005, by letter from a civil servant, of a future construction project for the new Ahmed Baba Centre, which could be built on the land facing the Sankoré Mosque. This project, a joint initiative of the Presidents of South Africa and Mali, aims to safeguard the manuscripts, the oldest of which are thought to date from the 9th century, by providing the city of Timbuktu with an architectural complex which would house in one place a large library, as well as archive and research areas. The Centre’s mission also analysed the impact that this future construction project might have on the Sankoré Mosque. From an analysis of the architectural documents, and the information gathered following the meetings with the authorities of the Ministries of National Education and Culture, the mission concluded that the present architectural project could affect the universal value of the World Heritage property. Indeed, the architectural project indicates that the construction would be carried out in the buffer zone. Its dimensions, typology, and the materials envisaged for its construction, do not provide a guarantee of the integrity and authenticity for which Timbuktu was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988. With regard to the operational aspect of this important project, the following recommendations, based on the Vienna Memorandum and the Guidelines, were formulated by this mission:
a) It is essential to undertake a historical study of Sankoré Square, based on the objectives and activities defined in the management and conservation plan of Timbuktu. The purpose of this study will be to better understand the history of the Square and its architecture, and to provide a framework for a spatial approach for a better integration of contemporary architecture in the future.
b) The drafting of an urban development plan for Sankoré Square, including all measures to guarantee respect for the historic fabric, is a prerequisite to any architectural intervention. This framework, that could impact on the functionality of the Square, the typologies, materials, lighting, the urban furniture, the green spaces, would facilitate the coordination of the construction of all the contemporary buildings, in the respect of the universal value of the Sankoré Mosque.
c) It is important for the authorities of Mali and South Africa to review the architectural concept of the project in order to ensure the compatibility of such a new construction next to the Sankoré Mosque, inscribed on the World Heritage List.