Robbery or social justice? French court fines activist who pinches colonial relics

A French court has convicted Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza of aggravated robbery and fined him 1,000 euros ($1,176) after he snatched a 19th century central African funerary post from a Paris museum in June.

Diyabanza, who has lived in France for 20 years, belongs to a pan-African movement that is pressing France to return thousands of art works removed from its African colonies and make reparations for acts of slavery.

He told Reuters he would lodge an appeal.

“It’s a big joke from French justice”, Diyabanza said.

“We will appeal to show elements that the judge has obviously missed,” he added.

With an associate, Diyabanza prised the carved wooden ornament from its stand in the Quai Branly museum as a third man live-streamed the act on social media.

He was then stopped by a security guard as he made for the exit.

The museum holds some 70,000 African objects, French art historian Benedicte Savoy told Reuters in 2018.

Diyabanza faces a second theft charge for removing an artefact from a Marseille museum. He says his actions are politically justified. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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