The 24-metre (80ft) high Axum Obelisk which was looted by the troops of the fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was returned in 2005 after a long diplomatic negotiation with the Italian Government. On Saturday the government of Ethiopia honored individuals and institutions spearheaded the campaign to return the Obelisk.
People like Fitawrari Amede Lema who unfortunately passed away waiting for its’ return had been engaged through the long diplomatic negotiation. Some people like Eng. Tadele Bitul are among the living witnesses to see the fruit of their hard work as a national restitution committee.
The government of Ethiopia has recognized the effort of the members of the Axum Obelisk Restitution Committee and other personalities Saturday at the National Palace. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Axum residents representatives has given a nationwide recognition to the committee.
According to Eng.Tadele, the struggle wasn’t easy to return the Obelisk back to its home because of some reasons that had been given from the Italian government.“The Italians never said no but they just produced reasons to delay the return. They said it would be broken on its way back. They talked about lack of technology to cut the Obelisk from where it was erected”.
According to Eng. Bitul, they even were worried how it would be transported. Even the then Italy Deputy Culture Minister V.U.A. Maria Sgarbi argued that they would not return the Obelisk for it had stayed in Rome and became part of their culture for more than 50 years. I and members of the committee it took us seventeen years of negotiation.”
According to Eng.Tadele, the Italian Government has also tried to negotiate with financial compensation. “Our history would not be compromised for sale” was the answer we gave them”. However, after long diplomatic negotiation the Italian Government had paid most of the cost from the beginning to the return of the obelisk, he said.
The Ethiopian Government through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in collaboration with Axum residents representatives has given a nationwide recognition to the committee.
On the occasion, Culture and Tourism Minister Engineer Ayisha Mohammed said that not only the committee but different political leaders like the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had raised nation voices in a number of international meetings for the return of Axum Obelisk that influence the United Nations to give concern for the issue.
The minister has also commended the role played by the Former foreign Minister Seyoum