Voice of Sport

Ethiopians call for state funeral as Richard Pankhurst, champion of Ethiopian culture, dies aged 89

Richard Pankhurst died on Thursday and the Foreign Ministry called him a “doyen of historians and scholars of Ethiopia,” also adding that his long and productive life, and his scholarship and understanding for Ethiopia will be sorely missed


RICHARD Pankhurst, the son of the British women’s rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst who became one of the world’s leading experts on Ethiopian history and culture, has died aged 89.

He first came into contact with Ethiopia through his mother, a “suffragette” who also campaigned against the invasion of the Horn of Africa nation by Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italian troops in 1935.

He moved to Addis Ababa with her after World War II and started teaching at Addis Ababa University, going on to write more than 20 books and thousands of articles. He also inherited an activist streak from his mother and his grandmother, Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the suffragette movement, which helped secure the right for British women to vote.

Ancient city

Richard campaigned with his wife Rita for the return of piles of plunder taken from Ethiopia by invading British troops in 1868, and of a giant obelisk taken from the ancient city of Axum by Mussolini’s forces. Both were there in Axum to watch as Italy returned the obelisk in 2005.

The British Embassy said Pankhurst had died on Thursday. Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry called him a “doyen of historians and scholars of Ethiopia”.

Stumbling

“Pankhurst was one of Ethiopia’s greatest friends during his long and productive life, and his scholarship and understanding for Ethiopia will be sorely missed,” it said in a statement. Author and photographer Maaza Mengiste told BBC Africa: “I’ve discovered things about my country; just sometimes stumbling upon something that he’s written … a whole other window opens for “me on how I understand my own history.”

One Ethiopian, Wondwosen Gelan, tweeted simply: “He was our history archive. We miss him so much.”

– Additional Reporting by Andrew Heavens in London and Aaron Maasho Addis Ababa; Editing by Kevin Liffey