Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier awarded the German Africa Award 2014 to Dr Abdel Kader Haidara on 6 October in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office. The director of the private Mamma Haidara Memorial Library is one of the most important archivists in Mali and received the award for his commitment to the cataloguing and preservation of the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu.
With the support of colleagues and residents of Timbuktu, Haidara was able to avert unimaginable damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site: At the beginning of 2012, he spent a month cataloguing the historical manuscripts of Timbuktu during the night, packing them into over 1000 metal boxes and hiding them from the Islamist rebels fighting for the independence of northern Mali.
In his address to almost 300 invited guests, Hartwig Fischer, President of the German Africa Foundation, emphasised in his speech that the existence of these numerous testimonies of African history was a significant argument for refuting the widespread prejudice of Africa as a continent without history: “The perception of the African continent and its people is still often characterised by discriminatory prejudices and misjudgements here in Europe. It is thanks to Dr Haidara that the manuscripts of Timbuktu teach us better. They show us that Africa has of course written its own history, completely independent and yet integrated into the scientific, political and economic networks of its time. They help us not always to see Europe as the measure of all things”.
The President of the Jury, Dr Volker Faigle, also supported this statement: “The writings of Timbuktu hold up a mirror to all those who repeatedly claim that Africa is without history and has at best an oral history.”
Federal Foreign Minister Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who presented the German Africa Award 2014 to Dr Abdel Kader Haidara, paid tribute to the outstanding achievement of the award winner and his helpers in saving the historical cultural treasures: “Mr Haidara, your rescue operation required great staying power. It was not possible to foresee how long the terrorists’ reign would last. What would have happened if someone had betrayed you? How long could you have maintained your hiding place? Today we are happy that 95% of the manuscripts have been saved. But it could have turned out very differently.”