Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 

Ethiopia demands treasure return

Yeah, I know, this is hardly a political post, but I love Ethiopia and I wanted to post this anyway.

Ethiopia Demands Looted Treasure Return

2 hours, 4 minutes agoBy ANTHONY MITCHELL, Associated Press Writer

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) is morally obligated to return to Ethiopia sacred objects and ancient artifacts looted by British troops more than a century ago, a leading scholar on Ethiopia said Tuesday.

Blair — scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia on Wednesday to explore new ways of helping Africa — should repatriate rare religious books and manuscripts and hundreds of other Ethiopian treasures, historian Richard Pankhurst told The Associated Press.

"Blair was not guilty of looting the treasures, but he is guilty of not returning them," said Pankhurst, who was honored this year by Queen Elizabeth II (news - web sites) for his services to advance Ethiopian studies.

British troops took many of the sacred objects and artifacts after annihilating the Ethiopian army at the Battle of Maqdala in 1868.

The most important items include a gold crown and chalice belonging to Emperor Tewodros II, some 350 manuscripts, 10 tabots or altar slabs, and religious crosses.

The British Library and British Museum, the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and the Victoria and Albert Museum hold most of the items. Britain's Royal family possesses six religious manuscripts, said to be the finest examples of Ethiopian manuscripts in the world.

The most valuable item is one of two copies of the Kebra Negast — or Glory of Kings — Ethiopia's holy book held in the British Library.

The 25-million-strong Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the nation's government have been pressuring Britain to return the items, which groups backing Ethiopia's claim value at $3 billion.
Britain says the items may be repatriated only through a parliamentary vote. However, others argue they could be returned on permanent loan without a vote.

Pankhurst said he will give Blair a letter calling for the return of the treasures.
"This looting was sacrilege in as much as it was looted from a church," said the 76-year-old historian, who has lived in the Horn of Africa nation for four decades.

During his three-day trip to Ethiopia, Blair is to attend the second session of his Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. He has promised to focus on the plight of Africa and climate change during his chairmanship of the Group of Eight industrialized nations next year.

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20041005/ap_on_re_af/ethiopia_britain_artifacts_1

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