A 24 meter tall Axum obelisk is one of Ethiopia’s treasures that was looted by Mussolini in 1937 is finally to return to its origin between April 19th and 25th 2005 after over 60 years situated in a square in Rome, Italy.
Italy briefly occupied Ethiopia from 1935 – 1941. At that time, the Mussolini’s invading fascist troops looted works of art, religious objects, archives, and objects of historical value belonging to Ethiopia.
A telegram of 24 October 1939 from Alessandro Lessona, the Italian Minister of Colonies, to Marshal Graziani, the Italian Fascist Viceroy of Ethiopia. In this document, Lessons explained that “H.E. the Head of the Government (i.e, his master, the dictator Mussolini) has ordered that… one of the obelisk must reach Rome in time to be inaugurated on 9 May 1937.” That date was the first anniversary of the Duce’s pronouncement of the founding of Fascist Empire in Ethiopia. Because of this telegram the Italians dismantled and looted the obelisk from its home, Axum city, which is located in the northern part of Ethiopia.
Since the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1947, on which the Government of Italy agreed to return the obelisk, the People and the Government of Ethiopia have made a very continuous and sustained struggle to claim back the heritage.
In 1997 the Italian Government signed an agreement to dismantle and return the obelisk. Accordingly, in October 2003, the obelisk was dismantled and broken down into 3 pieces segments in order to transport it by plane.
Finally, the first segment of an Ethiopian national treasure, will return home on April 19, 2005. And the remaining two-pieces are expected to arrive before 25th April. The return of the obelisk is seen as a triumph of history for the People of Ethiopia, in particular, and for the whole Africa, in general.
The first piece of the obelisk will be officially greeted at the airport and then paraded through town to its original resting place in Axum’s northern obelisk field. President Girma W/Giorgis and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, as well as Senior Government Officials, Deans of Diplomatic Community, Africa Union and the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa and expected to attend this Special ceremony.