17 March 2017
The centre, which is now used to train police officers, provided intensive military training for Mandela when he went underground during 1961.
During a visit at the centre, Ethiopian government officials told reporters that it was experiencing challenges in getting funding to make the centre a museum in order to preserve Madiba’s legacy.
The centre’s commander, Alemu Gabreyes, said Mandela spent about three months training and holding “highly secretive” meetings with generals in the military.
“Even when he relaxed, he would do so only with the generals. Everything was restricted as he did not even have interaction with other military officials. Very special care was provided to Nelson Mandela when he received training here,” he said.
Gabreyes said Mandela would sometimes box, shoot and exercise.
Ethiopian government communications officer Daniel Mikre said the government felt it was not too late to honour Mandela.
“As you know there is a lot of secret information that the Ethiopian government and freedom fighters shared during those years. Making this site a museum or tourist attraction will enhance the relationship between the two countries,” he said.
According to the Ethiopian embassy’s head of political and public diplomacy, Yohanes Altamo, the Ethiopian government had already agreed on a proposal to make the area a museum under Mandela’s name.
“We want international visitors and locals to come here and get to know about what happened in relation to Nelson Mandela. The discussions are quite recent. In fact there is an agreement already to make this a museum.
“Specific times and further information will be communicated. At the moment no tourist or locals are allowed to come here. The centre is only for military training purposes,” said Altamo.
During the visit, journalists were shown a room where Mandela held discussions and where he exercised. His bedroom has now been turned into an office.
Ethiopia’s ambassador to South Africa, Mulugeta Kelil, said, there must be a speedy resolution between the two countries.
“When he trained here, this place was not like this. It has changed over the years.
“ From our side we are ready to share the costs and we are expecting the South African government to play a part during this process.”
Ethiopian communications minister Negere Lencho said: “You have come to a place where the great freedom fighter Nelson Mandela got his training. You might have read about it in the history books, but these are the stories that we should not forget. These are the stories that we need to share.”