President Thabo Mbeki to host Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure in Tshwane

Tshwane - South African President Thabo Mbeki will, together with his Malian counterpart Amadou Toumani Toure, address the South Africa-Mali Timbuktu Fundraising Dinner at the Presidential Guesthouse in Tshwane on Saturday, 1 October 2005.

President Toure will arrive in South Africa later today Friday, 30 September 2005 ahead of the South Africa-Mali Timbuktu Fundraising Dinner.

The SA-Mali Timbuktu project originated during President Mbeki's State Visit to Mali in November 2001, during which he toured the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu which contains one of the most important collections of medieval Arabic-script manuscripts in Africa, if not the world.

Unfortunately the facilities at the institute are inadequate and the manuscripts in poor condition. President Mbeki, inspired by the cultural importance of these manuscripts for the African Renaissance, pledged South Africa's support for the conservation of the manuscripts and the upgrading of the infrastructure of the institute.

In August 2002, the South African and Malian Governments signed an agreement expressing the two countries' commitment to undertake a government-to-government project aimed at conserving the manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute and at rebuilding the library and archival infrastructure of the Ahmed Baba Institute.

The dinner is part of South Africa's concerted efforts, in collaboration with the Government of Mali, to raise funds from South African business and the public for the preservation and protection of the Timbuktu manuscripts as well as the rebuilding of the archival and library infrastructure.

The South African Presidential Project to restore and conserve the invaluable Timbuktu manuscripts represents the first official cultural project of NEPAD. In this regard, President Mbeki on Tuesday, 27 September 2005 said the, "joint project was initiated by the governments of South Africa and Mali as part of our contribution to the renaissance of Africa."

The Presidential Project includes the training of Malian heritage professionals and conservators, while a team of academics, including South Africans, are busy studying the manuscripts.

The training of conservationists of Mali has proceeded successfully and the building of a new Ahmed Baba Centre off the Sankore Square in Timbuktu will commence in the near future.

President Toure will depart from South Africa on Sunday, 2 October 2005.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853
Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
30 September 2005

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