African Archives Plan Better Coordination

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Recommendations have been drawn up for streamlining coordination among archives in southern and eastern Africa, following a two-day meeting held in Windhoek this week. The meeting was attended by member countries of the Eastern and Southern African Branch of the International Council on Archives (ESARBICA). Namibia’s Director for the National Library and Archive Services Ella Ndeshi Namhila pointed out that archives in the various member countries fall under different ministries or institutions. Some are administered by their ministries of culture, education and labour or even directly by the President’s office, while others fall under the nation’s universities. According to Namhila, this creates problems for archives when issues concerning their work are brought up at sector ministerial meetings of SADC, the AU or NEPAD. At a recent AU meeting of culture ministers in Nairobi, a matter affecting archives had to be removed from the agenda because many of the culture ministers present complained it did not fall under their jurisdiction. A meeting of the ESARBICA board held in Nairobi in July this year expressed concern over the delay in implementing a declaration by ministers responsible for archives signed in Cape Town in October 2003. The ministers mandated the South African Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Ben Ngubane, to submit the declaration to the NEPAD secretariat so that archives could be adopted as a NEPAD good governance programme. The ESARBICA board meeting in Nairobi then established a committee under the chairmanship of Namibia to specifically look at how the inconsistent jurisdiction over archives is hampering regional and bilateral cooperation in the archives sector. A statement issued by the committee at the end of the meeting noted that in some instances archival establishments are not given appropriate recognition in government structures. The committee also noted the mandate of archival institutions is not integrated into regional bodies and fora. Another area of concern, the committee said, is that the OAU Liberation Committee archives are not known, and therefore cannot be accessed by people of the region. The committee said the meeting made a number of recommendations to be tabled at relevant government fora concerning the placement of national archives within government structures, regional cooperation, and the governance of archives.