Senegal: « What is the state of our public archives? », by Elhadji Gora SENE

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The « controversial » handover between the outgoing president of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC), Aminata Touré, and the incoming president, Idrissa Seck, once again raises the issue of the management of archives in our public administrations and institutions. Indeed, the media interventions of the two main protagonists in this affair reveal an imbroglio on the issue of archives, specifically their transmission in case of transfer of service.

Beyond this situation, which is far from being a unique case, there are many precedents (non-transmission of archives and administrative documents to whom it may concern) in our administrations and public institutions, especially during political changes, governmental reshuffles, replacements of directors, dissolutions of services, retirements, to name a few.

In principle, such situations (abnormal and paralyzing) should not arise, especially since there is no legal vacuum in this area. Indeed, Law n° 2006-19 of June 30, 2006 on archives and administrative documents states in its Article 6 that : « Any magistrate or civil servant, any representative, agent or servant of a public authority or of one of the organizations referred to in Article 21, any private organization in charge of the management of a public service or invested with a public service mission, any public or ministerial officer is required, upon the cessation of his activities, to transmit to his successor all of the archives he holds by reason of his duties or to transfer them to the competent archive service[1]. « 

Thus, we note that any failure to comply with the above section constitutes a violation that must be punished. In this regard, the aforementioned Archive Law states in Article 26 that, « Anyone who willfully alters in any way or destroys other than in accordance with the conditions provided for in the texts in force administrative documents or documents of public archives or private archives entrusted to deposit, shall be punished by imprisonment of five to ten years[2]. » In addition to the law on archives, various decrees and service notes complete, specify and remind administrative agents and services of their obligations and responsibilities with regard to archives and administrative documents.

In spite of the legal and regulatory framework, many shortcomings in the area of archiving (non-compliance with archival legislation, insufficient material and financial resources, lack of professional qualifications of personnel, absence of reference systems, premises unsuitable for the preservation of archives, absence of archival services, etc.) remain in our administrations and public institutions. Moreover, the audit reports of the various control bodies regularly mention these shortcomings which constitute an obstacle to their work. Hence the urgency to act in order to remedy this deplorable and disabling situation for the proper functioning of our administrations and public institutions.

Let us remember that beyond their scientific, patrimonial and memorial function, archives are also tools of governance. On the one hand, they contain the information and data essential to the decision-making of the authorities; on the other hand, they preserve the evidence and traces of the acts and actions of administrative agents and organizations. In other words, archives contribute to good governance and transparency, which remain challenges, aspirations and requirements in our country.

In sum, it should be noted that Senegal has archival legislation and regulations that provide a framework for any action in this area, and well-trained and qualified archivists. The missing link in the chain remains the political will. This will, beyond speeches, promises and commitments, must be translated (among other things) by the rigorous application of the archives law, the reinforcement of the material and financial means of the archives services, the recruitment of archivists within the public administrations and the construction of the archives house so long awaited by our corporation.

Moreover, our responsibility as archivists is also called into question, as Professor Ahmeth Ndiaye pointed out in 2015 in a contribution: « The recurrence of the observation of poor record-keeping is in reality the translation of the existence of a deep crisis that deserves a more in-depth study. The crisis is indeed that of the institution that embodies the archives, the crisis of the profession and the crisis of the archives function itself[3]. 3] Thus, we must act as Professor Saliou Mbaye, former Director of the Archives of Senegal, said: « It is up to us archivists to take up the challenge, to make ourselves indispensable in a society that needs to remember, and thus to create the conditions for a new national archival order[4]. »

Elhadji Gora Sene is a doctoral student in Information, Communication and Documentation Sciences

Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 University

[1] Law n° 2006-19 of June 30, 2006 on archives and administrative documents

[2] Loi n° 2006-19 du 30 juin 2006 relative aux archives et documents administratifs

[3] Ndiaye Ahmeth. The IGE reopens the debate on the crisis of administrative archives. Seneplus.com. Available on : https://www.seneplus.com/article/l%E2%80%99ige-relance-le-d%C3%A9bat-sur-la-crise-des-archives-administratives

[4] Mbaye Saliou. Problems of Archives and Records Management in Francophone West Africa. In: La Gazette des archives, n°127, 1984. pp. 287-298. Available on : https://www.persee.fr/doc/gazar_0016-5522_1984_num_127_1_2904

Source: SENEPLUS