The Italian government officially returned Ethiopia’s first plane, named Tsehay, in a ceremony that took place on Tuesday. This significant event marks the end of an almost nine-decade-long chapter of historical injustice when the aircraft was stolen during the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.
The aircraft, a red two-seater plane, had its maiden flight in December 1935, covering a distance of about 30 miles from Addis Ababa and lasting approximately seven minutes. Built during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, the plane was a collaborative effort between German pilot Herr Ludwig Weber and Ethiopian engineers.
However, with the fall of Addis Ababa to Mussolini’s forces in 1936, Tsehay was abandoned as Italian forces approached the Ethiopian capital. Historians note that the plane was requisitioned and taken to Italy, leaving behind a legacy of occupation and the theft of a vital piece of Ethiopia’s history.
The plane is named in honour of Princess Tsehay, the daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie.
“At last, Tsehay returns home after a painful separation of almost nine decades. A symbol of our resilience and pride,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted.
The official handover ceremony took place after the Italy-Africa summit, where leaders and representatives from 45 African nations gathered in Rome to discuss the Mattei plan. Named after Enrico Mattei, the founder of Eni, the plan advocates for Italy to support African countries in developing their natural resources and improving their economies.
Guido Crosetto, the Italian Minister of Defence, highlighted the significance of the gesture, stating that the return of the unique specimen plane sends a strong message about the bond between Italy and Ethiopia.
“The delivery of Tsehay is more than the return of an aircraft; it symbolizes the restoration of historical justice and fosters stronger ties between our nations,” said Minister Crosetto.
The aircraft had been kept at the Italian Air Force Museum since 1941, and its return signifies a step towards reconciliation and acknowledgment of historical wrongs. As Tsehay once again graces the Ethiopian skies, it serves as a powerful symbol of the enduring ties between nations and the importance of rectifying historical injustices through mutual understanding and cooperation.
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