1.         Old Towns of Djenn√© (Mali) (C 116rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   2016-present

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/116/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1981-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 59,577
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/116/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 110,000 (Italy Funds-in-Trust); USD 23,100 (Croisi Europe); USD 86,900 (European Commission)

Previous monitoring missions

2002, 2005: World Heritage Centre missions; 2006: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) No management and conservation plan;

b) Pressure from urban development;

c) Deterioration of dwellings;

d) Waste disposal problems;

e) Encroachment of the archaeological sites.

On 22 March 2012 a military coup d’etat ousted the President of the Republic of Mali. The cause of this uprising was the difficulties linked to the conflict in the north of the country that, since mid-January 2012, opposed the Mali army to the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), mainly supported by the Islamic groups Ansar Dine and Al Qu’aida in Islamic Maghreb (AQMI). The primary demand of the MNLA rebels concerns the territory called Azawad that covers three regions in north Mali: Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. These regions finally fell into MNLA rebel hands and Islamist groups on 1 April 2012. The populations evacuated the area in great numbers to seek refuge in other cities of Mali or frontier countries.

These regions contain two of the four World Heritage properties: Timbuktu – 1988 (C (ii), (iv), (v), serial property comprising three mosques and 16 tombs, and the Tomb of Askia – 2004 (C (ii), (iii), (iv)) in Gao. The two other World Heritage properties, the Old Towns of Djenné – 1988 (C (iii), (iv)) and the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) – 1989 (C (v), (vii)) are located in the region of Mopti. In the face of this situation, the State Party addressed a letter to the Director-General of UNESCO dated 6 May 2012, to express the concern of the Mali authorities and requesting UNESCO assistance in the event that the situation should further deteriorate in the future. Thus, the Director-General immediately sent a mission to Bamako from 18 to 20 May, with the objective of gathering detailed information on the current state of conservation of the World Heritage properties and the provisions that the Mali Government intended to put in place in view of the present situation in the northern part of the country. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/116/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

A state of conservation report was submitted by the State Party on 8 February 2012. It includes a description of current conservation conditions and challenges faced for the property. The report notes that gradual changes have occurred both in the urban fabric and in the buildings, which could modify the character of the place if provisions are not implemented to alleviate development pressures and other factors such as impoverishment of the local population, which is unable to meet maintenance needs, leading to a serious state of disrepair in some buildings. In addition, new construction, introduction of new equipment for urban development, a tendency to cover earthen facades with baked brick or modern materials, illegal occupation and land speculation pose a challenge to maintaining the conditions of integrity and authenticity of the inscribed property.

a) State of conservation of archaeological heritage

The archaeological components of the property are also being affected by natural and man-made factors. For the latter, interventions were undertaken to mitigate decay derived from erosion. However, no updated information was provided regarding the current status of development projects in areas adjacent to the archaeological components.

b) Waste disposal problems

The historic city continues to face severe sanitation and environmental problems arising from poor solid and liquid waste management practices. The report notes that these problems have been partially addressed in some neighbourhoods by the Local Sanitation and Pollution Control Services but this, nevertheless, remains a serious concern.

The UNESCO Niger-Loire project, funded by the European Union, developed a transitional waste disposal area, provided sanitation material to the community, and trained 100 women in waste recycling. Further, a feasibility study was conducted for the final waste disposal area, envisioned 5 km outside Djenné, funding for which still needs to be raised.

c) Rehabilitation of architectural heritage

The report includes information on interventions that were completed in 2011 at the Mosque, supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and at the Djenné Museum, funded by the European Union. The third phase of the rehabilitation and conservation project is currently in place, and it is expected that six houses will be restored in Djenné.  In addition, the rehabilitation of the Youth House including the development of technical guidelines for earth conservation was successfully completed with support of UNESCO/ Italy funds-in-trust in the framework of the World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme (WHEAP).

d) Demolition of Old Courthouse

The report also states that the Old Courthouse building had fallen into disrepair and had been demolished, in order to allow for a large new construction. Given that the demolition did not have the approval of the Cultural Mission, new building works were stopped and participatory discussions have started on the new project which is foreseen to house the craft market. The current proposal is to construct a new building in modern materials that would follow the Sudan-Sahelian architectural style and be integrated with the physical and urban setting.

e) Urban regulations and management and conservation plan

The report includes a recommendation to implement the urban regulations developed in the framework of the WHEAP project and the management and conservation plan but does not provide any information on how this is to be accomplished nor where the required resources could be obtained for systematic and sustainable implementation.

f) Boundaries and buffer zone

No information was provided on the clarification of boundaries and buffer zone or on the prepared town planning and construction regulations.

The proposal for the property’s zoning has been developed with the technical assistance provided in the framework of the UNESCO Niger-Loire and the WHEAP-Conservation project for Africa funded by Italy.

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The Old Towns of Djenné are located approximately 300 km from the northern territory controlled by the MNLA rebels and the Ansar Dine and AQMI rebel groups. They have remained relatively spared for the moment, even although there is a general panic in the town following the advance of the rebels to Douenza. This situation provoked the fleeing of the administrative services. A fragile calm and the gradual return of the administrative services have since been observed but the situation still remains uncertain.

The Djenné Cultural Mission no longer has the means to ensure its protection and conservation missions. This situation is all the more worrying as the property is already confronted with serious conservation problems that threaten its Outstanding Universal Value. In fact, as indicated in Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B, the implementation of the management plan and town planning regulations are well below expectations. As an example, the ancient Justice Palace that constitutes a significant element of the exceptional architectural style of Djenné was demolished, producing a negative impact on the integrity of the property.

 

Results of the UNESCO mission of 18 to 20 May 2012

On 20 May 2012, the State Party addressed a letter to the Director-General of UNESCO, requesting that the World Heritage Committee inscribe the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 36th session in 2012.

The World Heritage Centre encouraged Mali to prepare a detailed state of conservation report and priorities for intervention on the World Heritage properties in Mali, in particular the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia and to request technical and financial assistance from UNESCO and the international community.

Mali committed to finalizing the documents of adhesion to the Second Protocol relating to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, in order to impose the obligation for the integral protection of its cultural properties, notably all the scientific collections that bear witness to the Golden Age, both spiritual and intellectual, of Timbuktu, as well as all the sites and monuments in this region. 

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the State Party has made efforts in addressing the conservation of the property in spite of the limited resources available. However, they wish to particularly draw the Committee’s attention on the lack of implementation of developed planning tools to better manage conditions that threaten the attributes that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

They consider that the demolition of the Old Courthouse appears to be a symptom of the lack of adequate protection and planning controls. The building was a large and significant example of the traditional architecture of Djenne and occupied a prominent place on the market square near the Grand Mosque. The building had been restored as part of a project funded by the Netherlands funds-in-trust which renovated 100 buildings between 1996 and 2003. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the demolition of the Old Courthouse has impacted adversely on the integrity of the property. Many smaller buildings have been demolished or re-built since the inscription, and the World Heritage Committee has encouraged the development of planning tools to halt this trend. The Old Courthouse is, however, a case of one of the most prominent buildings in Djenne being demolished, not because it was in a bad state of repair but because its plot was seen to have high value. The replacement building suggested in drawings that have been submitted bear little resemblance to what was there before and, with their elaborate pseudo-Sahelian style, will present an uncomfortable intrusion into the urban landscape. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the Committee request the State Party to provide revised plans and drawings that are sympathetic to the urban surroundings; and that the urban regulations should include clear presumption against demolition.

A reactive monitoring mission would be appropriate to better assess the current state of conservation, to work jointly with the State Party in identifying an action plan to address pressing concerns and to verify whether the existing lack of planning controls and the lack of protection for individual buildings might warrant the Committee giving consideration to including the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

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The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that due to the armed conflict situation in the northern region of Mali, the present conditions do not permit the satisfactory management, protection and conservation of the World Heritage properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia. The situation is particularly worrying in Timbuktu where two tombs have been damaged and the biggest centre for manuscripts in west Africa has been damaged, rendering their conservation, already judged to be fragile, difficult. They also consider that the optimal conditions are no longer present to ensure the preservation of these properties and that they are threatened by a specific and proven imminent danger, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines.

They note with satisfaction the decision of the State Party to request the World Heritage Committee to inscribe the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They recommend that the Committee also encourage the State Party to request assistance from UNESCO and the international community to ensure the strengthened protection of the ensemble of its cultural properties, essential for the preservation of Mali culture, rich and tolerant, relating to the heritage of humankind. They confirm the need for the Committee to inscribe Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They are at the disposal of the State Party to prepare necessary corrective measures and the Desired state of conservation. Finally, they recommend that the Committee draw the attention of the State Party to the need to also safeguard all the properties inscribed on the Tentative List of Mali, located in the region of conflict. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.106

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,

2.   Congratulates the State Party for having immediately expressed its concern regarding the worsening threats to the World Heritage cultural properties, in particular to Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia, and for having requested UNESCO assistance for measures to be undertaken in the event of a future deterioration of the situation;

3.   Thanks the Director-General of UNESCO for having sent a mission to Mali to study with the State Party emergency measures to be taken to ensure the preservation of the World Heritage properties in Mali and takes note of the report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties in Mali threatened by armed conflict in the northern region of Mali;

4.   Expresses its serious concern regarding the situation of armed conflict in the northern region of Mali and the seriousness of threats to the World Heritage properties following the degradation of the Timbuktu tombs, and the threats to the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Tomb of Askia;

5.   Considers that the optimal conditions are not present anymore to ensure the preservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia and that they are threatened by a specific and proven imminent danger, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines;

6.   Decides to inscribe Timbuktu (Mali) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

7.   Also decides to inscribe the Tomb of Askia (Mali) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

8.   Requests the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS to prepare, in consultation with the State Party, all the corrective measures as well as a Desired State of Conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, once a return to stability is effective in the northern region of Mali;

9.   Launches an appeal to the frontier States Parties to Mali (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal) to cooperate in the preparation of a joint conservation strategy for World Heritage properties of Mali and to combat the illicit traffic of cultural objects, in particular those linked to these properties;

10.  Also launches an appeal to the African Union and the CEDEAO in order that all the necessary measures may be undertaken to protect cultural heritage located in the northern region of Mali and to the international community to provide technical and financial support to ensure the strengthened protection of the World Heritage properties in Mali;

11.  Encourages the State Party to request emergency funding from the World Heritage Fund to implement the priority actions identified during the UNESCO mission, and also requests the assistance of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM to this end;

12.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2013, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties in Mali and more particularly on the progress achieved regarding their Outstanding Universal Value for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.44

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B,

2.   Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.47, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3.   Acknowledges the information provided on the state of conservation of the property and the measures implemented in regard to its conservation;

4.   Notes with concern the conservation conditions at the property and the lack of significant progress made in implementing the management and conservation plans;

5.   Expresses its regret at the demolition of the Old Courthouse, a significant and prominent example of the Djenné architectural style, that had been renovated as part of an urban restoration project and considers that its destruction impacts adversely on the integrity of the property and that it is symptomatic of the lack of adoption of developed planning tools;

6.   Urges the State Party to cooperate with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, as well as any other relevant international bodies, to put in place measures to address pressing concerns regarding implementation of regulatory measures to control development pressures, conservation conditions of the built heritage and sanitation;

7.   Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2012, a boundary clarification in the framework of the Retrospective Inventory process;

8.   Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property, in particular the vulnerability of its distinctive architecture, the conditions of the archaeological components of the property and development proposals for different sectors, and to develop an action plan for the implementation of priority conservation and protection measures;

9.   Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013, with a view to considering, in the case of confirmation of ascertained or potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger