The gold-colored statue on a black granite mount decorated with relief portraits of Menelik II, Haile Selassie, Zewditu and Ras Makonnen, stands in the square in front of Addis Ababa rail station. Erected just before Haile Selassie’s coronation in 1930, the monument was looted by the Italians five years later and taken to Rome, and was only returned after some negotiations in 1960.

In 1938, during the celebration of the proclamation of the Italian Empire, a young Eritrean, Zerai Deres marching in the parade as part of Italy’s African Empire was provoked at seeing the statue standing next to the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument. Defying the presence of Adolf Hitler, Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuelle III, Zerai was said to have knelt before the statue in obeisance, disrupting proceedings. Attempts to stop led to an assault which saw him kill about five Italians with the ceremonial sword he was carrying, before he was shot. He would later die seven years later in an Italian prison, but his name is lionized throughout Ethiopia.

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