After almost 90 years, the Italian government has given back Ethiopia’s initial aircraft, which was taken by Benito Mussolini’s fascist government.
On Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed celebrated the official transfer of the aircraft, which was named Tsehay in honor of Princess Tsehay, daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie.
“Ethiopians are filled with pride today as we commemorate the official transfer of ‘Tsehay’ from the Italian Government,” Abiy shared on his social media account on X, accompanied by images of the red two-seater aircraft.
In 1935, during Selassie’s rule, an airplane was constructed through the partnership of German pilot Herr Ludwig Weber and Ethiopian engineers. In December of that year, Weber took the aircraft on its first flight, traveling approximately 30 miles (50km) from Addis Ababa. The flight lasted approximately seven minutes.
Before it was left behind in Addis Ababa in May 1936, due to the arrival of Italian forces in the Ethiopian capital, the airplane had flown for approximately 30 hours.
Historians state that the plane was confiscated and transported to Italy when Mussolini took control of Ethiopia, which was referred to as Abyssinia at the time, in 1935. The capital city of Addis Ababa was captured by the fascists the following year.
The Italian Ministry of Defense referred to the aircraft, which had been housed at the Italian Air Force Museum since 1941, as an “exceptional specimen.”
The defense minister, Guido Crosetto, stated that this shipment serves as a powerful reminder, following the Italy-Africa summit, of the close relationship between our two nations. He also emphasized the significance of dialogue and international cooperation.
Representatives and leaders from 45 countries in Africa, such as the presidents of Tunisia, Senegal, Kenya, the Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Somalia, gathered in Rome on Monday to learn about the specifics of the “Mattei plan”. This policy was influenced by Enrico Mattei, the founder of Eni oil company, who advocated for Italy to assist African nations in utilizing their natural resources and boosting their economies during the 1950s.