19 February 2017

Ethiopia: Son of Ethiopia, Son of Ethiopia's Friend in Need - Pankhurst


One of his famous books

The infamous League of Nations proved its injustice in broad daylight remaining tight lipped and inefficient when the Italian colonial forces occupied the east African country, Ethiopia, back in 1935.

With the glittering Adwa victory back in 1896, the country's independence became a metaphor and a rallying factor for the black people oppressed in the New World, particularly in the West Indies and USA that pioneered pan-African movements to dismantle the shackles of all forms of oppression.

The aggressor headed to Ethiopia, therefore, to expand its colonial territory and to erase this metaphor from the minds and hearts of all who cast eyes on Ethiopians heroic deeds.

During the five dark years, Ethiopian patriots ceased their domicile and went to the wilderness to unshackle themselves from any form of opperassion and retake their independent country.

Their gallant deeds, at home, were not veiled from the face of the international community. Tributes to Silvia Pankhurst, who published series of articles regarding Ethiopians' patriotic struggles in a newspaper she founded and edited, New Times and Ethiopia News. She also wrote letters to the League exposing Italian forces' ill-treatments on Ethiopians.

Born in December 4, 1927 in northwestern London, little Pankhurst used to observe his mother's spirited activities and also read her articles about Ethiopia, as Fitsum Woldemariam put it in his book published in 2013.

Pankhurst's affection to Ethiopia would, however, mature more and more at school of economics in London where he was acquinted with Ethiopian first generation scholars.

Lij Endalkachew Mekonnen, Lij Michael Emeru, Afework Tekle [who would later become Maitre Artist World Laureate Afewerk Tekle] Mengistu Lemma were among his Ethiopian friends he met at the school, the same source stated.

He visited Ethiopia first in 1943 E.C. (1951 G.C.) to make researches on Ethiopian literature, heritage and history. And in 1947 E.C. (1955G.C.) he again set foot on the Ethiopian soil to serve as lecturer and researcher, Fantahun Engda,(2000).

His contributions

Dr. Getachew Kassa served Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES) in different capacities since the 1970s. He was also director of the institute. For him, late Pankhurst was a true son of Ethiopia whose stance never changed due to challenges of any kind.

His contributions to Ethiopia's social and economic history are of immense value. "His works are detailed and holistic. His knack for documenting unbiased facts about Ethiopia made him unique among his contemporaries."

Speaking of his contribution, Getachew says: "His unreserved supports for the establishment and expansion of IES stands out."

Getachew explains: "In terms of collecting and archiving invaluable manuscripts, he was unparalleled, indeed his wife Rita should also be credited for that."

One of the acute challenges of the institute is collecting manuscripts of special importance and funding. To tackle this challenge, Pankhurst co-founded Society of Friends of Ethiopian Studies.

His other contribution was for the research wing. The journal of Ethiopian Studies took firm roots during his tenure and with his laudable research works.

Pankhurst envisioned and succeeded in creating a generation of scholars that could take over the scholarship regarding Ethiopian Studies. "Together with his contemporaries, he groomed ethnographers from history and anthropology, language and pastoralist studies... and helped all to undertake their educations up to tertiary levels."

His efforts for human capital building for museum personnel would also be remembered, according to Getachew.

Concerning his campaigns for the return of Ethiopia's looted heritages, he championed in the return of the Obelisk of Aksum , together with other Ethiopians. The man also devoted much to identify and locate other plundered artifacts. "The return of some of Emperor Tewdros' manuscripts can be cited here, " according to Getachew.

Fitsum, for his part, indicated that Pankhurst established the Association for the Return of the Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures (AFROMET) in 2000 with membership of former Addis Ababa University President Prof. Andreas Eshete, Maitre Artist World Laureate Afework Tekle, 'Laureate' Tsegaye Gebremedhin and Rita Pankhurst. This initiative became successful as the emperor's handbook was returned in 2003.

In view of commemorating the emperor's model both to Ethiopia, and Africa, Pankhurst together with AFROMET saw to the erection of Sebastopol statue in Atse Tewdros Square in Addis Ababa.

In his research undertakings, he did not put Ethiopia in a narrower context. Pankhurst placed the country in the wider global context as his works touched upon Ethiopia's relations with the Horn, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Countries. He was the main engine of IES. His death is compared only to loss of a great encyclopedia on Ethiopian affairs.

Pankhurst published his prominent book, Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia in 1961. Between the years 1961-1971 he published around eight books on Ethiopia. His contributions to Ethiopia Observer, Addis Reporter, The Ethiopian Herald newspapers were also huge.

In recognition to his contributions, Prof. Richard Pankhurst was awarded by FDRE President Mulatu Teshome. He also won Gold Medal from Haile Selassie I Prize Trust in 1973.

To show his love to the country and commemorate the Ethiopia's hero Ras Alula Abanega, he named his son Alula.

This writer has got his works in IES library cataloged in five boxes while numerous others are kept as miscellaneous.

The professor is survived by his wife Rita Pankhurst, his son Dr. Alula, and daughter Dr. Helen as well as his works.

Ed.'s note: The writer would like to thank the entire IES staff for their collaboration to access documents about Richard Pankhurst.


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