Mr. Ensa Touray, a history lecturer at the University of The Gambia is of the view that “knowledge” in all areas of human interest has been embedded in Timbuktu, a place he regarded as a “centre for intellectuals” across the horn of Africa.
Mr. Touray, who was speaking at a press conference organised by the History Club of the University of The Gambia (UTG) at the Brikama campus, denounced the on-going turmoil that led to the destruction of several valuable shrines and historical heritages in and near Timbuktu, an ancient town in Mali.
The destruction of ancient heritage followed the establishment of three rebel movement- Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which are alleged to have recruited dozens of children into their forces; carried out executions, floggings, and amputations as punishment under Islamic law and systematically destroyed numerous religious shrines of cultural and religious importance.
According to renowned historian, this forum (press confab) was long overdue and aggravated numerous anger from all those who embrace the significance of historical values.
He explained that the action of the rebels has no connection with any Islamic principles as widely claimed by the perpetrators, while relating this action to a couple of Islamist armed groups controlling northern Mali.
He alleged that these groups are committing serious human rights abuses against the local population with the claim that they are enforcing their interpretation of Sharia or Islamic laws at the expenses of the civilian populace. He described these actions as “ungodly and inhuman”.
“In the olden days Timbuktu was one of those fundamental points of reference for a number of intellectuals on research,” the historian said, describing the actions of Islamists as “racial and inter-generation injustice” which he believed is part and parcel of the unrest in Mali.
Touray said: “What is going on in Mali is non-political but rather terrorism and we need to substantially understand history in a bit to protect our generation.”
He suggested that there is a need to fully protect and preserve the cultural heritages that could serve as a tourist attraction for African countries and that no religion teaches that one should burnt down and destroy cultural heritages.
He concluded that they (historians) at the UTG “vehemently condemn” the move he said is an “attempt to destroy their heritages” which need to be preserved for Africans to known and trace their rich cultural values for prosperity.
Also speaking, Mr. Saho Samba, a senior English Language lecturer at the UTG said he disagree with the moved taken by the Islamist groups who destroyed historical monuments in Mali’s northern region that were built centuries ago.
He centred his argument on the significance of the sites, as intellectual identity that contributes meaningfully towards knowledge production for both learners and researchers.
When asked by a journalist on the suitable solution to the turmoil in the West African country of Mali, Mr. Samba said he have “mixed ideas” about what solution is best as of now.
“If people decided war as an alternative there is high tendency that the war will eventually engulf the whole of West Africa and several lives will be taken as a case study of Sierra Leone and elsewhere has proven,” Mr. Samba said.
The senior lecturer was quick to advocate for dialogue as a tool for solving the problem in Mali. Serious talks are needed, he said while noting that a possible showdown by ECOWAS troops could have serious consequence.
The President of Social Sciences and Humanity Students' Association (SoSHSA) of UTG, Mr. Alieu Saidykhan corroborated the senior lecturer’s position.
He pointed out that certain institutions such as the African media, politicians and the academic spectrum has a significant role to play in putting an immediate end to these inhuman acts rather than keeping mute on the issues.
He argues: “If we the 21st century generation didn't talk about this mischief in Mali, history will judge us. And I strongly commend the History Club for this move (press confab).”
Ideological warfare ought to be instituted in a bit to overcome appealing issues such as the crisis in northern Mali, said Paul J.P. Gomez, a history major. University students should always think critically on issues whenever they erupted and find out tangible solutions for it.
SOURCE: THE VOICE