News and Events

Remembering a True Friend of Ethiopia – Dr. Richard Pankhurst

February 2017 -- Dr. Richard Pankhurst – the 2016 Bikila Award Lifetime Achievement Award winner and a true friend of Ethiopia passed away on February 16, 2017 at the age 89. We express our deep sympathy to the Pankhurst family and may God rest his soul in peace. Amen!

His legacy will always be remembered by all Ethiopians for his love of Ethiopia and his unparalleled literary/scholarly work and dedication to the preservation and protection of the rights, culture and history of Ethiopia.

His friendship and love of Ethiopia has deep roots in the person of his renowned mother, Mrs. Sylvia Pankhurst, who was a vocal anti-Fascist activist during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Her anti-Fascist activities led her to take interest in Ethiopia. Speaking about his mother Dr. Richard Pankhurst stated, "She saw the aggressive militaristic character of Fascism and was involved in anti-Fascist movements, regarding Italy as the first victim … then the Wal-Wal incident was being followed in 1934 by the shipment of Italian troops to Eritrea and Somalia. She saw that Ethiopia would be the second victim and she wrote to lots of newspapers in defense of Ethiopia urging that the League of Nations should be stronger, should have teeth to establish proper sanctions that really would stop the aggression. She wanted to see the Suez Canal closed and wanted the sanctions to include petrol. By 1936 she founded a newspaper called New Times and Ethiopia News to concentrate on the question of Ethiopia."

Dr. Richard Pankhurst is a renowned scholar whose longtime interest and career in Ethiopia is widely recognized in academic circles and Ethiopian society at large. Dr. Pankhurst loved Ethiopia where he mostly lived and worked. His son, Alula, is named after the renowned Ethiopian patriot, Ras Alula Aba Nega, who defeated and chased various invaders of Ethiopia and participated in the victorious Battle of Adwa which ended in 1896. Dr. Pankhurst advanced Ethiopian causes and international injustices committed against Ethiopia such as putting pressure on the Italian government to return the Axum Obelisk taken during the Fascist occupation which resulted in the return of the obelisk to Ethiopia in 2008. Similarly, Dr. Pankhurst was among a group of concerned professionals forming a national committee for the return of treasures looted by the British Expeditionary Force sent to free British Prisoners from Mekdella, Gonder in 1868.

Dr. Richard Pankhurst received his Ph.D. in Economic History and moved to Ethiopia in 1956 and began teaching at the University College of Addis Ababa. In 1962 he founded the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, located on the grounds of Addis Ababa University, and was the first Director of it. This is perhaps one of his more prominent contributions to Ethiopia as the Institute continues as the foremost center of research and learning on Ethiopia in the world today. Beginning in 1986 he has been conducting research at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and was an adviser and resource person for graduate students at the University of Addis Ababa. Dr. Pankhurst was in the process of updating his book on the "Social History of Ethiopia," which ends with Emperor Tewodros, to include more recent times.

Dr. Richard Pankhurst has authored or co-authored twentytwo books on Ethiopia. He has either edited or compiled an additional seventeen. Over the past four and a half decades Dr. Pankhurst has produced several hundred articles on Ethiopia that have appeared in numerous academic journals, magazines and newspapers throughout the world.

Although we shall miss Dr. Richard Pankhurst, we are encouraged by the continuous love and friendship of the Pankhurst family for Ethiopia. That Bikila Award had the good fortune of recognizing the Pankhurst family as recipients of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award during which Dr. Alula Pankhurst graced the ceremony by his presences is an unforgettable event.

The Board of Directors of Bikila Award.
Toronto, Canada
February 19, 2017

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