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British plunder returned to Ethiopia

Ethiopia, & particularly the Ethiopian church have been lobbying for the return of various relics looted from their country for some time now & appear to be having a certain amount of success.

The Scotsman [1]

Thursday 10th February 2005

British Plunder Returned to Ethiopia

Two sacred paintings have been returned to Ethiopia 137 years after they were ripped out of a holy book by invading British troops.

The paintings were among Ethiopian treasures looted by British troops and later locked up in British museums, royal palaces and private collections.

The paintings were handed to the Ethiopian embassy in London this week by a British lawyer who inherited them from his great uncle, an embassy official said

The lawyer’s great uncle was an officer in the British force that captured Maqdala, the mountain capital of Emperor Tewodros.

The monarch committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of British troops in 1868.

British troops and others in their company plundered illuminated religious manuscripts, gold crosses, precious crowns and royal cloth.

Experts said the two full-page works that were handed back to Ethiopia were torn out of a book of the Miracles of Jesus or Mary – both venerated volumes in the literature of the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The lawyer, who has asked to remain anonymous, told officials that he decided to hand them over because his conscience and children pressed him to do so.

“We believe that this is an example that should be followed by all institutions that hold Ethiopian loot, among them the British Museum and the Queen’s library in Windsor Castle,” said Richard Pankhurst of the Association for the Return of the Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures.

The royal family holds six religious manuscripts, which are said to be the finest examples of Ethiopian manuscripts anywhere in the world.

By far the most valuable item is one of two copies of the Kebra Negast – or Glory of Kings – Ethiopia’s holy book which is held in the British Library.

The Ethiopian Church and government has also been exerting diplomatic pressure on Britain to return the stolen items, which are cumulatively valued by Ethiopian campaigners at £1.6 billion.