February 01, 2024 (GMN) - Almost nine decades after it was stolen by Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, the Italian government has officially returned Ethiopia’s first plane.

The official handover of the aircraft, named Tsehay in honor of the princess daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie, was celebrated by the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed.

“Today is a day of great pride for Ethiopians as we celebrate the official handover of ‘Tsehay’ by the Italian Government,” Abiy wrote on his social media account on X, alongside photographs of the red two-seater plane.

Built-in 1935 during the reign of Selassie, the aircraft was a collaborative effort between the German pilot Herr Ludwig Weber and Ethiopian engineers. In December 1935, Weber embarked on the plane’s maiden flight, covering a distance of about 30 miles (50km) from Addis Ababa. The flight lasted for about seven minutes.

By the time it was abandoned in Addis Ababa in May 1936, as Italian forces approached the Ethiopian capital, the aircraft had accumulated about 30 hours of flight time.

According to historians, the aircraft was requisitioned and taken to Italy after Mussolini occupied Ethiopia, known then as Abyssinia, in 1935. Addis Ababa fell to the fascists the following year.

The Italian defense ministry described the plane, which had been kept at the Italian Air Force Museum since 1941, as a “unique specimen”.

The minister of defense, Guido Crosetto, said: “This delivery represents a very strong message that, in the aftermath of the Italy-Africa summit, Italy wants to highlight the strong bond between our two countries and wants to emphasize the value of dialogue and the importance of international cooperation.’’


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