Press Release
For Immediate Release
Paris, Sunday 9th June 2024

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has passed a resolution instructing the United Kingdom of Great Britain (UK) and Northern Ireland to return the Broken Hill Man Skull to Zambia.

The resolution was passed during the 24th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) held from 29 to 31 May 2024 at UNESCO in Paris, France. The resolution highlights the need for Zambia and UK to come up with a roadmap on the return of the skull which should be submitted to the 25th session of the committee. It represents a crucial development in the ongoing efforts to return the skull to Zambia after 52 years of no meaningful progress in the negotiations.

When the case came up for discussion before the chairperson of the session His Excellency Ambassador Liborio Stellino, Permanent Delegate of Italy to UNESCO, committee members overwhelmingly supported the amendment put forth by His Excellency Ambassador Lazarous Kapambwe, Special Envoy to the President of the Republic of Zambia in his capacity as Chief Negotiator, accompanied by Director General of National Museums Board Mr. George Mudenda. The committee supported the legitimate grounds advanced by Zambia, highlighting the spiritual importance and connection of the skull to the identity and history of Zambia.

The counterproposal from the UK did not include the return of the skull hence the two parties reached a deadlock. Additionally, the Director General Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from the UK, Ms. Polly Payne stated that the UK does not agree to the return of the skull as such suggesting a roadmap would be in bad faith.

However, in his submission, Ambassador Kapambwe underscored the ancestral significance of the Broken Hill Man Skull to Zambia’s cultural heritage. He underlined the connection of the skull to the Zambians, calling for its return to reconnect with the people and rest its spirit in accordance with the customs.

And Kabwe Central Member of Parliament Hon. Chrizoster Phiri reiterated the spiritual connection of the ancestor to the Zambians. Hon. Phiri added that the restitution case is also of concern to Members of Parliament in Zambia who are desirous to know the outcome of the negotiations.

The Zambia National Commission for UNESCO through its Senior Programme Officer for Culture Dr. Samson Kantini welcomed the resolution as a progressive milestone towards a fruitful conclusion of the negotiations.

The Broken Hill Man Skull was discovered on June 17 1921 in Kabwe, Zambia by an African miner and Tom Zwigglar, a Swiss Miner. The skull was donated to the Natural History Museum in London when it was still a part of the British Museum after it was taken to the UK for study purposes.

Zambia began negotiations with the UK in 1972 on the return of the skull and in 2018, the country submitted the case to the 21st session of the ICPRCP Committee to garner international support and cooperation for the return of the property.

Issued by:

Naomi Mweemba
First Secretary Press
Embassy of Zambia, Paris Naomi.Ng’andu@grz.gov.zm

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