Nearly nine decades after being stolen by Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, Ethiopia’s historic aircraft, Tsehay, has been officially returned by the Italian government. The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, marked the occasion with pride as he celebrated the symbolic handover of the vintage plane, named in honor of Princess Tsehay, the daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Journey Through Time
Built in 1935 during Emperor Selassie’s reign, Tsehay was a testament to collaboration between German pilot Herr Ludwig Weber and Ethiopian engineers. The maiden flight in December 1935 covered about 30 miles from Addis Ababa, lasting a mere seven minutes. As Italian forces approached in May 1936, the plane was abandoned in the Ethiopian capital, having accumulated 30 hours of flight time.
Theft and Occupation
The dark chapter in Tsehay’s history unfolded when Mussolini’s forces occupied Ethiopia, then known as Abyssinia, in 1935. Historians recount how the aircraft was requisitioned and taken to Italy after the fall of Addis Ababa to the fascists in 1936. The plane found its place at the Italian Air Force Museum, where it remained since 1941, described by the Italian defense ministry as a “unique specimen.”
The official return of Tsehay was marked by a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The red two-seater plane, now back on Ethiopian soil, serves as a symbol of resilience and the enduring ties between nations. The Italian defense ministry acknowledged the significance of the moment, describing the delivery as a “very strong message” emphasizing the value of dialogue and international cooperation.
Italy-Africa Summit and the Mattei Plan
The return of Tsehay coincided with the Italy-Africa Summit, where leaders and representatives from 45 African nations gathered in Rome. A key highlight was the unveiling of the “Mattei Plan,” inspired by Enrico Mattei, founder of the oil company Eni. This policy aims to support African countries in developing their natural resources and improving their economies. The presence of leaders from Tunisia, Senegal, Kenya, the Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Somalia highlighted the collaborative efforts for shared prosperity.
The return of Tsehay represents more than the restoration of a vintage aircraft; it is a symbolic gesture of reconciliation and collaboration between Ethiopia and Italy. As the aircraft takes its place on Ethiopian soil once again, it stands as a tangible reminder of the enduring spirit of nations and the shared history that binds them. The Italy-Africa Summit, with its focus on the Mattei Plan, further emphasizes the commitment to fostering international cooperation for the development and prosperity of African nations.