French Court Fines Congolese Activist €1,000 For Snatching African Artefact

A court in France on Wednesday fined a Congolese activist €1,000 for snatching an African artefact from a French museum in June.

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza and four other were touring Quai Branly museum in Paris on June 12 when he grabbed the 19th-century Chadian funerary post in protest of the looting of art during colonial times.

His companions also grabbed different African artworks and made for the exit before they were stopped by guards.

The incident was filmed and live-streamed on Facebook by one of the activists.

It is not the first time Diyabanza, who belonged to a group that campaigns for the return of stolen African art, would be snatching artefacts from museums.

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He had also snatched African artefacts in museums in the Netherlands and in the French port of Marseille.

He faces court cases in those cities too.

Wednesday’s hearing came a week after French lawmakers voted to return prized artefacts to Benin and Senegal more than a century after they were looted by colonial forces and hauled back to Paris to be displayed in museums.

Benin will recover the throne of its 19th-century King Glele — a centrepiece of the 70,000-odd African items held at the Quai Branly museum, which showcases indigenous art.

Senegal, meanwhile, will get back a sword and scabbard said to have belonged to Omar Saidou Tall, an important 19th century military and religious figure.

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Diyabanza told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing that he would appeal the ruling.

Three of the activists who accompanied him to Quai Branly museum received suspended fines of 250 euros ($294), 750 euros ($589) and 1,000 euros ($1,177).

A fourth was cleared of the charges.

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