Ethiopia: UK Hands Over Emperor Tewodros' Hair Locks

England — Britain's National Army Museum yesterday handed over locks of hair belonging to Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia.

The museum officially handover the locks to Hirut Kassaw, Minister of Culture and Tourism, who is in London leading a delegation aimed to negotiate on ways of repatriating Ethiopia's heritages that are in possession of British museums.

Emperor Tewodros II, who ruled Ethiopia from 1855 to 1868, has been considered as Ethiopia's first modern ruler.

Not only did he reunify the various Ethiopian kingdoms into one empire, ending the Era of Princes, but he also attempted to focus loyalty around the government rather than the church, which he sought to bring under royal control.

He worked to abolish the feudal system and create a new nobility of merit, dependent on the ruler alone. Although he failed in these aims, his example was ultimately followed by his successors.

The Emperor committed suicide in April 1868, realizing the hopelessness of his position, committed suicide three days later.

The Napier expedition (1867-68) which Britain sent to rescue British missionaries and envoys whom the Emperor imprisoned, led to the death of the Emperor.

Aided by rebellious nobles along the way, the British force attacked Tewodros's forces at Magdela on April 10, 1868. Realizing the hopelessness of his position, the Emperor committed suicide three days later.

His death led to the looting of a number of royal and church treasures by the British soldiers. The Emperor's cloths and his hair locks were among the looted items.

Most of the looted items are believed to be preserved in British museums. Britain's National Army Museum is one of the museums that have a number of treasures stolen from Ethiopia.

The delegation head by the Minister arrived in London on March 18 to discuss ways of repatriating Ethiopia's heritages held discussion with Director of the Museum, Mr Hartwig Fischer.

During the visit, the delegation was given a tour of the Museum's Ethiopian collection, which includes replicas of the Ark of the Covenant and different manuscripts of the Orthodox Church.

During discussions, the Minister formally requested the Museum to return 11 replica Arks of the Covenant, which are currently in the possession of the Museum, explaining that the Arks are spiritual anchors for the Orthodox Church.

The Minister urged the Museum's Trustees to act on this request so the Arks of the Covenant as well as different manuscripts of the Orthodox Church could return to their rightful owners in Ethiopia.

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