Poet Lemn Sissay adds voice to campaign for repatriation of the boy’s remains with other loot taken after the Battle of Maqdala

By James Tapper (The Guardian) |

For 150 years, Ethiopians have been asking when Prince Alemayehu will come home. The orphan prince, a descendant of Solomon, was taken to England – some say “stolen” – after British soldiers looted his father’s imperial citadel following the Battle of Maqdala in 1868.

He died at the age of 18, after an unhappy childhood, and was buried at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at the request of Queen Victoria. Now, as discussions take place with the Victoria &Albert Museum about the return of royal treasures taken by British forces during the battle, the Ethiopian government told the Observer it is “redoubling” its efforts to finally bring back the prince’s remains. Last week there were celebrations in Addis Ababa to commemorate the life of the prince’s father, Tewodros II, on the 150th anniversary of his death in the battle. A selection of the objects in the V&A’s possession went on display last week (early April).

Lemn Sissay, the poet and author, has joined the campaign to repatriate the young prince’s remains. Lemn, whose birth mother was Ethiopian, has been invited to speak about Alemayehu by the Ethiopian government in June.

“It’s my goal, my sincere hope that in my lifetime [Alemayehu] will go back to Ethiopia,” Lemn told the Observer. “This isn’t going away because I’m not going away.”

Lemn, who was fostered then put into care in Lancashire despite the wishes of his mother, feels there is a resonance between Alemayehu’s life and the widespread international adoption of Ethiopian children, a practice which was banned by the Ethiopian government earlier this year.

“The first corrupt theft of an Ethiopian child was this one in 1868,” Lemn said. “He was taken from his family. He deserves, too, for his remains to go back to Ethiopia, back to where he was stolen from.”

Continue reading this story at The Guardian
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