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In memory of Hannah Yilma

21 August 2018

Escaping assassins while resisting the brutal dictatorship in her country Ethiopia, fleeing from an idyllic upbringing, Hannah Mariam Yilma (31 May 1943 – 13 August 2018) had to rebuild her life as a refugee.

Family, friends and colleagues gathered at a memorial service to remember this extra ordinary daughter of Africa and her remarkable life.

It’s incredible to think that Hannah would choose Pretoria in South Africa to spend her retirement, to spend the remaining days of her life here and as her final resting place.  She explained in an interview once how she did not plan anything, and that her life was like a quilt made up of different fabrics of places, people and experiences.   

Her father was Lij Yilma Deressa who served as Ethiopia’s ambassador to the USA and the UN. He also served as the Minister of Finance and was Crown Counsellor to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. It is no coincidence that Hannah, who studied at the Haile Selassie I University in Ethiopia and completed her education in London, would join the United Nations in1991 and serve in various positions including the Observer mission to South Africa from 1992 to 1994.

She made South Africa her home after retiring from her post as Director of the UN Information Centre Pretoria remaining active in various capacities including non-governmental work and activities of the diplomatic corps.

Hannah died on 13 August 2018 after a short illness.

She witnessed the changes in Ethiopia as it chose the path of peace with the region and itself.




February/March 2020








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