As a little introduction for those who wish to learn the most important facts, here comes a bit on the Malian empire and Timbuktu. I recommend this film produced a few years ago.
Opération Serval on January 28th 2013: Regaining Timbuktu from rebels
Jenan Moussa, reporter for Arabic Al Aan TV, was one of the few journalists who reached Timbuktu in the end of January.
A memory of the world: Timbuktu's written and musical heritage
Timbuktu’s tangible and intangible heritage are unique
reminders of sub-Saharan Africa's long history of deep intellectual
endeavor. Most of the city's manuscripts are to be found in about 30
private libraries. There they have been kept by the same families for many
centuries. Those families use to
hiding away their manuscripts whenever danger is near, burying them
deep in the sand.
The marvelous stories of incredibly brave citizens who saved most of Timbuktu's manuscripts
Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, names the Malian manuscripts “the record of the golden ages of the Malian empire”. UNESCO believes most of the ca. 300,000 texts in Timbuktu, ranging from old scholarly treatises to commercial
invoices, could be saved. An estimated 2,000 manuscripts were lost
at the ransacked Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Timbuktu.
“These manuscripts, they are not just for us in Timbuktu,” Ali Imam Ben Essayouti
said. “They belong to all of humanity. It is our duty to save them.” He saved 8,000 volumes by moving them to a bunker in an undisclosed location.
"These manuscripts are our identity," said Abdoulaye Cisse, the acting director of the Ahmed Baba Institute. "It's through these manuscripts that we have been able to reconstruct our own history, the history of Africa." Cisse, says the following AP news report of February 6th, had for months harbored a secret.
Starting last year, he and a handful of associates had conspired to save
the documents so crucial to this 1,000-year-old town ... And there is another story, the story of Abba Alhadi, an illiterate man of 72 years. In summer 2012 Alhadi began stuffing thousands of books into empty rice and millet sacks. By journeys of 1,000 kilometers with the manuscripts being carried by trolley, lorry, motorcycles, boat and finally by car he brought them to Mali's capital, Bamako. "I have spent my life protecting these manuscripts. This has been my
life's work." said Alhadi.
"He emptied the shelves, filled them with children's schoolwork, and stuffed his heritage into Nescafé boxes."
Despite the Ansar Dine offering money to get information about the place where manuscripts might be hidden, they remained largely undetected.