Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ethiopia Vents Anger as Obelisk Stays in Italy

It took Benito Mussolini only two years to cart Ethiopia's most revered ancient monument from the ancient city of Axum to a busy traffic junction in central Rome. It has taken his democratic successors 58 years and counting to do what they promised and give it back. And it is still stuck in Rome.

This week the return of the Obelisk of Axum to Ethiopia, pledged by Silvio Berlusconi in the first flush of his election victory four years ago, was postponed yet again. It was supposed to take place yesterday. Foreign journalists gathered at the site of the ancient city. Anticipation was high.

Then came the news that for "technical reasons" the return had been postponed yet again.

One angry Ethiopian told the Daily Monitor in Addis Ababa: "This is a decision that would make no one happy. We have waited all these years to have our identity back. But now they are coming up with every small reason not to do so. That is a shame."

The 24-metre high monolith, weighing 180 tons, is the finest of more than 100 obeslisks which stood in the ancient city of Axum, birthplace of the Queen of Sheba. Ancient Rome was littered with monoliths removed from Egypt and other corners of the world and that now punctuate many of the city's piazzas. Mussolini wanted one of his own. For the best part of six decades it stood outside the building that is now the headquarters of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation in central Rome.

The Independent

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