Ethiopia regains historic Christ Church complex

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The Nine Kingdoms Museum in the Ethiopian church complex, the site has been the site of many ethnic festivals

The Ethiopian government says it has recaptured the historic Christ Church complex near the city of Lalibela, which was the site of years of ethnic tension.

The Nine Kingdoms Museum is the last building inside the complex still in rebel hands.

Last year the BBC learned that the museum’s walls had been partially destroyed by rebels as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) seized power in 1991.

Photo: AFP Image caption Thousands of people gathered at the Nine Kingdoms Museum

The rebels allegedly destroyed the remaining Catholic church as they retreated.

The complex has now been “cleansed of the illegal elements” who fled, said the government’s information ministry in a statement.

‘Crossbows for tourism’

Among those who fled were fighters of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an Islamist group which controls a border region with Somalia and opposes the government in Addis Ababa.

The museum is in the hills of Moyale near Ethiopia’s northeastern border with Somalia.

The OLF in 2009 launched a rebellion to overthrow the government in Addis Ababa and local media said a faction of the group had also taken over part of the complex.

Last year, the OLF’s leader, Abdullahi Oromia told the BBC that he was not as radical as his critics believe.

But the Ethiopian government is trying to persuade the OLF to surrender, under its peace deal.

The government is now hoping to use the historical site to boost tourism.

The BBC’s Rosa Alleruy (also @lifestylerotah)

One of the factors that have contributed to low standards of bed and breakfast accommodation in Ethiopia, in particular in the countryside, is a lack of sophisticated chains of hotels catering for foreigners.

As a result, many tourists have stayed in unfinished buildings, rather than choose less traditional accommodation.

Some resort to traditional nomadic hotels in villages, while others have tried to buy wooden houses in the countryside.

The first cultural and historic churches built in the region were built by Emperor Menelik II in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Nine Kingdoms Museum is the last building remaining within the complex that was seized by rebels in 1991.

Ethiopia has had decades of civil war which has left tens of thousands dead in the past two decades.

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