Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, addressed that “Ethiopians in general, the new generation in particular, should promise today to work on the renaissance of the ceased Axumite civilization with the re-erection of the Obelisk.”The 150-ton granite obelisk was first erected when
Axum was the capital of the Axumite kingdom that flourished as a major trading center from the fifth century BC to the 10th century AD. The kingdom extended across areas in what are today Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.
During Benito Mussolini’s failed attempt to colonize Ethiopia, Italian soldiers carted away the 24-meter, third-century AD granite obelisk in 1937.Despite a 1947 agreement to return the obelisk, it remained in Italy until 2005, standing outside the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.Work was begun on June 5 to resurrect the obelisk which was returned to Ethiopia broken into three pieces in 2005.
Françoise Riviere, Assistant Director for the General for Culture of The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, said “UNESCO will actively pursue its cooperation with the people of Ethiopia to preserve their rich cultural heritage in a sustainable manner. With the tone of the new Ethiopian Millenniumapproaching, the great monument we are inaugurating today rises as a powerful symbol of the international community’s commitment to help build bright future for Ethiopia. Congratulations!”
Katerina Pisackova, a 19-year-old woman from the Czech Republic, told VOA, “It is nice that the Italians gave it back because it was not right to steal it as it happens during the wars. So, it is nice that this happened and I like the atmosphere of the connection between Europe and Africa, between Ethiopia and the rest of the world, UNESCO; I like how people are aware of the world heritage. The monuments should be in their particular place where they have their meanings.”
Residents of Axum presented gifts to those who contributed to the return and re-erection of the obelisk.