East Africa

Ethiopian Crown Goes Home

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After about two decades that it was discovered in the Netherlands, a rare and looted 18th-century crown was finally returned to Ethiopia on Thursday.

The Dutch government facilitated the handover with the belief that it had a duty to restitute this important artifact back to Ethiopia, the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.

“This is an historic day for us,” Hirut Kassaw, Ethiopia’s minister for culture and tourism, told The Associated Press.

The religious crown was said to have gone missing in 1993 and was discovered in Rotterdam in October. “I still don’t know how this crown and the other items were looted and taken out of Ethiopia,” the culture minister said, adding that several other items were stolen including a cross.

On Thursday, the Dutch government in a statement said that the crown was the property of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It said the crown went missing from the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Cheleqot.

For years the crown was in the hands of Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch national of Ethiopian origin, the statement said. He reached out to the foreign ministry last year “through the mediation of art detective Arthur Brand, to discuss how to return this important cultural artifact.”

“He told us someone gave him to look after it. But after realizing it was of Ethiopian origin, he refused to return it back to the owner and kept it for 21 years,” the culture minister said.

The crown is on display at Ethiopia’s national museum in the capital, Addis Ababa, for a few days and then will be returned to its original place in the church in Cheleqot, the minister said.

The Dutch minister for foreign trade, Sigrid Kaag, attended the handover ceremony.

“We’re honored and delighted to have been able to facilitate the rightful return,” Kaag said.

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