Ethiopian PM Urges International Community To Return Looted Heritage Objects

ABU DHABI, Dec 5 (BERNAMA-NNN-ENA) -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has urged the international community to help return heritage objects looted from Ethiopia during previous foreign invasions.

The prime minister, who was in Abu Dhabi to attend a conference on cultural heritage, said here over the weekend that the process for the restoration of the stolen treasures had been slow.

As a country of diverse cultural heritage, Ethiopia had been subject to plundering and looting of its heritage objects both in times of foreign invasions as well as through trafficking in these objects, he added.

He said Ethiopia had been a victim of cultural heritage plundering and looting resulting from foreign aggression, trafficking and smuggling, which resulted in the loss of many ancient valuable manuscripts, religious objects and archeological remains, among others.

The manuscripts which have been illegally taken out of the country include books on religion, medicine, astronomy, calendars, philosophy, law and administration.

A 1868 British expedition and a 1935 Italian invasion are among the times which led to the looting of Ethiopia's heritage objects.

More than 3,500 Ethiopian manuscripts are believed to be in many European countries and the United States, Hailemariam said, adding that looting and trafficking of heritage objects is a problem for most developing countries.

More serious than looting and trafficking of heritage, said the Prime Minister, is the deliberate destruction of heritage, which is part of the deculturalisation process used by terrorist groups and which had become a danger.

As a home to diverse cultural heritages, Ethiopia is deeply concerned with this deliberate destruction of heritages, aimed at de-culturalizing the world, Hailemariam said.

The destructing of cultural heritages by groups such as Daesh (ISIS) and aL-Qaeda has forced communities to abandon their culture and customs as seen in the cases of deliberate destruction of ancient heritages in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hailemariam stressed the need for strong international co-operation to effectively safeguard cultural heritage from armed conflicts, terrorism, and illicit trafficking.

The conference, which ended on Saturday adopted the Abu Dhabi Declaration in support of the global mandate of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts.