The Uganda Museum has described the move by Cambridge as a significant step toward reclaiming the continent’s lost heritage Traditional artifacts repatriated by the University of Cambridge, shown exclusively to AP journalists, sit in a box in Kampala, Uganda, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. © AP Photo / Hajarah Nalwadda

The University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA Cambridge) has returned 39 traditional artifacts which were looted from Uganda during British colonial rule to the East African nation under a long-term loan agreement more than six decades after it gained independence.

Tribal regalia and delicate pottery were among the items transferred to the Uganda Museum over the weekend, according to the Associated Press (AP), which said they were “exclusively” shown to journalists on Wednesday. The items had been reportedly selected by curators from the former British colony from a collection of around 1,500 ethnographic objects from Uganda that Cambridge has owned for the past century.

Some of the artifacts had been acquired through confiscation, conversion, and theft, according to the British university. Several others were donated to the museum, with many brought to Britain in the 1890s by Reverend John Roscoe, a British Anglican missionary who worked in Uganda, the institution added.

Mark Elliott, MAA Cambridge’s senior curator in anthropology, is cited by AP as saying that the objects, which remain the property of the British university museum, are being loaned to Uganda for an initial period of three years.

Elliott said the restitution effort, which is “very much a museum-to-museum collaboration,” followed years of negotiations about the possibility of returning objects deemed “exceptionally powerful and exceptionally sensitive to communities whose belongings they were.”

Europe has stolen Africa’s heritage. Will justice prevail? Europe has stolen Africa’s heritage. Will justice prevail?

Museums in the UK have been under increasing pressure to return items stolen during the colonial era to their countries of origin. Ethiopia and Nigeria have both demanded that Britain repatriate looted ceremonial artifacts.

In January, the British Museum and Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum announced that they were returning more than 30 gold artifacts, including crown jewels looted from Ghana’s Asante royal palace in the 19th century, to their owners. The items were loaned to the Manhyia Palace Museum in Ghana under a long-term agreement for an exhibition in April. Last July, Oxford University also offered 196 cows to Maasai families in Kenya and Tanzania as compensation for artifacts stolen and exported to the UK over a century ago.

Ugandan officials first visited Cambridge in November 2022 to seek restitution for the cultural items that the Uganda Museum in the capital, Kampala, now plans to display in a temporary exhibition next year.

“Finally home! 39 treasured objects taken from Uganda in the 1890s and early 1900s during the British Colonial rule made it to the Uganda Museum. This is historical and a milestone in the repatriation of Africa’s lost heritage,” the Uganda Museum wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday. (RT)