Did you know that the current new headquarters of the African Union have been built on the site of Addis Ababa’s former notorious central prison called Alem Bekagn?

  Alem Bekagn had been the most notorious site of detentions and torture since the time of the Italian occupation of 1936. The name was even coined after its reputation of being the worst place on earth. More people have been tortured and executed there.

   The picture above was taken in 1975 and shows the inner courtyard of the prison, Alem Bekagn. On 28 January 2012 the African Union inaugurated its new headquarters on the same location. The conference hall, where Africa’s heads of state meet, is built where the old prison building stood for 70 years. The ring of seats at the centre of the chamber will echo the two tiers of cells that faced the prison’s central courtyard. The gleaming hallways, lined with meeting rooms and offices, curve around what was the exercise yard. A new hotel is rising on the site of the sprawling barns where prisoners slept, their damp and flea-infested mattresses squeezed together on wooden platforms.

   The AU summit has already decided to build Memorial Project in memories of the mass atrocities and torture committed in that place. How many more such placed do we still have in Africa? That is the question that the current leaders of African countries need to address in their Assembly!

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