Ethiopia renews efforts to return stolen artifacts

April 29, 2018


(C) : Quartz


Source: Xinhua   2018-04-29 18:13:26

ADDIS ABABA, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia has renewed its decade-old demand for 468 looted artifacts stored in British museums to be permanently repatriated.

The artifacts were looted by Imperial British forces after their victory over an Ethiopian king, Emperor Tewodros I, in 1868 in Meqdela, northern Ethiopia.

Speaking exclusively to Xinhua on Sunday, Gezahegn Abate, Public and International Relations Director at the Ethiopia Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT), said Ethiopia's efforts to return the looted artifacts from the UK are complicated by the fact that British law makes it difficult for looted artifacts to return to their original homeland.

Ethiopia's largely underreported efforts to return its looted artifacts is about two decades ago.

While MoCT is working hard to return the stolen artifacts, the ministry is also pushing back on suggestions by some foreign officials that Ethiopia may not have adequate facilities to house artifacts and countries like Germany and Britain can do a better job of showcasing Ethiopian treasures.

Abate told Xinhua his government deems these suggestions unacceptable and the Ethiopian government as well as private citizens have invested and are investing their money and know-how in building and renovating museums to preserve the country's rich historical tradition.

"We're diligently working to keep our treasures, register them in digital archives so we can identify and showcase to the public and in turn helping guard them against being stolen," he further said.

MoCT is also giving professional services to institutions holding invaluable artifacts like churches and mosques on how to better protect and preserve treasures.

"While domestic legislations in countries like UK hinder return of looted treasures to their original homeland, momentum is on Ethiopia and other countries who want their looted treasures return," Abate said.

Abate also said the Ethiopian government intends to make the return of its looted artifacts an international matter and is utilizing international conventions on artifacts to ask for their restitution.

Ethiopia is also working through the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to pressure foreign governments and private institutions to return Ethiopian artifacts.

"Ethiopian treasures are the expression of our identity, culture and history and a source of our civilization," said Abate.


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