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Ethiopian Obelisk Finally To Be returned - 2003-11-10

The Ethiopian government says it is happy with plans to return an obelisk that Italian troops took from Ethiopia 66-years ago.

Italian workers are in the process of dismantling the obelisk, estimated to be two-thousand years old, which now sits in Rome. Italian troops stole the landmark from the northern city of Axum in 1937, when dictator Benito Mussolini ordered an invasion of Ethiopia.

The obelisk's return has been the subject of a bitter feud between Ethiopia and Italy for at least 50 years. Agreements to return the obelisk were made, and not honored, several times.

But now the obelisk, which was originally carved from one stone, is being taken apart in the same sections as it was transported in 66-years ago, in preparation for its journey back to Axum.

A spokesman for Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kinfe Nidaro, says the obelisk's return is deeply significant.

"It means just gaining back its (Ethiopia's) heritage, its history, its culture. It is just finding back what is lost, what is taken from it unjustly."

Mr. Nidaro says it was a long struggle for Ethiopians to get the obelisk back. He says he does not know the exact date the obelisk will arrive in Axum.

The return of antiquities is a big issue in many countries, as conquerors and former colonial powers are coming under pressure to return items to several countries in Africa and elsewhere.