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    Pictured: ‘Vandals’ wanted by police after London statue of Haile Salassie was smashed up

    Pictured: ‘Vandals’ wanted by police after London statue of Haile Salassie was smashed up in protest against Ethiopian government

    • Police have released images of 10 men wanted in connection with vandalism
    • Statue of Haile Selassie was smashed by group in Wimbledon on June 30 
    • Attack took place after singer Hachalu Hundessa was shot dead in Addis Ababa

    Images of men who were involved in an attack on a statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor have been issued as police step up their hunt for the gang.

    Pictures have been released of 10 men wanted in connection with the destruction of the bust of Haile Selassie, the authoritarian ruler of the African nation. 

    Video footage showing a group of men smashing the statue to pieces at around 5:10pm on June 30 in Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon, south-west London, was posted on the Merton Metropolitan Police Facebook page. 

    The attack on the statue took place a week after Ethiopian singer, Hachalu Hundessa, 34, was shot dead in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.  

    His death sparked a wave of protests across the country during which a statue of Ethiopia’s last emperor in the city of Harar was destroyed.

    A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: ‘Police are investigating criminal damage to a statue and to street furniture which occurred on the 30th June 2020 in Wimbledon Village, Merton.

    Video footage showed a group of men smashing the statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor to pieces at around 5:10pm on June 30 in Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon, south-west London

    Video footage showed a group of men smashing the statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor to pieces at around 5:10pm on June 30 in Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon, south-west London

    Video footage showed a group of men smashing the statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor to pieces at around 5:10pm on June 30 in Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon, south-west London 

    Images of men who were involved in an attack on a statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor have been issued as police step up their hunt for the gang

    Images of men who were involved in an attack on a statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor have been issued as police step up their hunt for the gang

    Images of men who were involved in an attack on a statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor have been issued as police step up their hunt for the gang

    Images of men who were involved in an attack on a statue of the last Ethiopian Emperor have been issued as police step up their hunt for the gang 

    The attack on the statue took place a week after Ethiopian singer, Hachalu Hundessa, 34, was shot dead in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa

    The attack on the statue took place a week after Ethiopian singer, Hachalu Hundessa, 34, was shot dead in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa

    The attack on the statue took place a week after Ethiopian singer, Hachalu Hundessa, 34, was shot dead in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa

    The attack on the statue took place a week after Ethiopian singer, Hachalu Hundessa, 34, was shot dead in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa 

    ‘Ten males are wanted in connection with this incident after being identified on video. After a thorough investigation, detectives are now appealing to the public to help police find these males.’

    Salassie, who ruled Ethiopia between 1930 and 1974, has been a polarising figure, with some describing him as a reformist and others as a dictator.

    The 225th emperor’s critics point to his repression of several segments of Ethiopian society, including the largely Muslim Oromo. However, he continues to be revered by Rastafarians today as ‘God incarnate’. 

    The statue was made by British sculptor Hilda Seligman in 1936, whose family hosted the emperor after he was forced into exile when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935.

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing a group of between 50 and 100 people in the park on June 30. A piece of paper which read Oromo lives matter was also discovered by a park visitor on the day.

    Wimbledon resident Andrew Morris, 53, said at the time that he saw the mostly male group while out for a walk with his dog Archie in Cannizaro Park.

    ‘As soon as I got out of the car I heard all this noise and thought there must be some festival going on or an unauthorised rave or something,’ he said. 

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing a group of between 50 and 100 people in the park on June 30. A piece of paper which read Oromo lives matter was also discovered by a park visitor on the day

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing a group of between 50 and 100 people in the park on June 30. A piece of paper which read Oromo lives matter was also discovered by a park visitor on the day

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing a group of between 50 and 100 people in the park on June 30. A piece of paper which read Oromo lives matter was also discovered by a park visitor on the day

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing a group of between 50 and 100 people in the park on June 30. A piece of paper which read Oromo lives matter was also discovered by a park visitor on the day

    ‘I heard the statue being smashed up, but didn’t actually see it happen.

    ‘They weren’t some rabid mob, they looked pretty calm… I didn’t think they were in danger of attacking anyone.

    ‘These other guys ripped a sign out of the ground and started smashing that to pieces – it didn’t even say anything but obviously they were just in the mood.’ 

    Mr Morris said the group were carrying fliers that had Oromo slogans on.

    Police have described the death of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa as a targeted killing

    Police have described the death of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa as a targeted killing

    Police have launched an investigation and released images of 10 men whose identities are yet to be confirmed.

    A police spokesperson said: ‘If you see these individuals or recognize them and have information which could assist police in finding their whereabouts.

    ‘ If you don’t want to speak to police, you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers.

    ‘Similarly, if you see your photo here hand yourself into a local police station.’ 

    Hundessa was famous for singing about the rights of the Oromo people and had been a prominent voice in anti-government protests that led to a change in leadership in 2018, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking office.

    Abiy’s rule ushered in greater political and economic freedoms in what had long been one of the continent’s most repressive states, and the PM won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for ending conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

    But the rise in political activism led to an increase in unrest in a country made up of more than 80 ethnic groups.

    Abiy’s rule has been challenged by local powerbrokers demanding more access to land, power and resources. 

    His determination to forge a pan-Ethiopian politics have sparked a backlash from elements of his own Oromo powerbase. 

    Youths enraged by the singer’s killing burned tires in Ethiopia’s capital and took to the streets of other cities as unrest spread.   

    Elections due this year were postponed until next year due to Covid-19 in a deal agreed with the major opposition parties.

    ‘God incarnate’: Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia 

    Haile Selassie was Ethiopia's final emperor, serving from 1930 until his overthrow by Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974 (pictured, in the Throne Room of the Jubilee Palace)

    Haile Selassie was Ethiopia’s final emperor, serving from 1930 until his overthrow by Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974 (pictured, in the Throne Room of the Jubilee Palace)

    Haile Selassie was Ethiopia’s 225th and final emperor, serving from 1930 until his overthrow by the Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974. 

    The longtime ruler traced his line back to Menelik I, who was credited with being the child of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. 

    Haile Selassie was born Lij Tafari Makonnen in a mudhut in Ethiopia in 1892. 

    For a country trying to curry favour with the West, the progressive Tarafi led Ethiopia into the League of Nations in 1923. The following year, he became the first Ethiopian ruler to go abroad on his travels to Europe.

    In 1928 he appointed himself king. Two years later, he was made emperor and assumed the name Haile Selassie (‘Might of the Trinity’).  

    He was exiled during World War II after leading the resistance to the Italian invasion. He condemned Italy’s use of chemical weapons against Ethiopia’s people during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War at the League in 1936. 

    He was reinstated in 1941 and sought to modernise the country over the next few decades through social, economic and educational reforms. 

    He has been criticised by some historians for his suppression of rebellions among the landed aristocracy, which consistently opposed his reforms; some critics have also criticised Ethiopia’s failure to modernise rapidly enough.

    During his rule the Harari people were persecuted and many left the Harari Region. His regime was also criticised by Human Rights Watch as autocratic.

    Among the Rastafari movement, whose followers are estimated to number between 700,000 and one million, Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate. 

    Beginning in Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafari movement perceives Haile Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity. 

    He was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life.

    Selassie lived in Wimbledon in 1936 during his exile following the Italian invasion of his country. The statue was sculpted by Hilda Seligman, while he stayed with her family, and later erected in Cannizaro Park. 

    The 1973 famine led to Selassie’s removal from the throne. 

    He died in 1975, aged 83, following a coup.

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