Our Defense Forces: Going Strong by the Years
By Girma Feyissa
Tigrai Onlne - May 22, 2014
What inspired me to write this article is the recent research put out by ‘Global Fire Power’, in which it put Ethiopia as one of the strongest military force in Sub-Saharan Africa. This esteemed international institution went on to state that, as in 2014, seven out of all African countries has the strongest military while Ethiopia kicks in the second position out of these countries.
The institution’s research states that 24 million of our people (is eligible for the military), while also affirming that the country boosts strong and capable standing army and Air force. The research also confirmed that our country has a highly organized military force, and it was impressed with our country’s effort to improve its military force.
I believe this research presented by ‘Global Fire Power’ is accurate and best describes FDRE defense force. Here I think it should be asked, “what is the secret behind our forces international accolade?’ In order to answer this question, we have to probe in to FDRE defense forces strong pro-people outlook, bravery (valor), commitment for cause and its inner workings.
This will enable my dear readers get a grasp on our force’s “personality/ character”. So, we will be looking into the secrets behind our forces rise to the second position in its military capabilities, before even it reached its 20 year anniversary since its reorganization.
As military experts repeatedly states, arms (military equipment) only does not bring victory. They state that the main and important thing is the manpower’s; that’s using the military arms (equipment), commitment to its cause, and its ability to mobilize the people; being fully aware of the importance the people have if it’s to carry out its mission successfully. Of course, if only the military arm (equipment) decides the outcome of a war, ‘Derg’ which had more than half a million a standing army (the largest in sub-Saharan Africa), wouldn’t have colossally lost the war.
It wouldn’t have withered away like it was nothing by a few very committed and pro-people sons of the people. I believe, as the criteria used in the research by the institution shows the secrets behind our forces’ success, like its sturdy commitment to a cause and its strong capabilities, it will afford my dear readers to take a look at our defense forces.
As its known, after the demise of ‘Derg’, the FDRE defense force; which was organized anew with the fair share of all Ethiopia’s nation, nationalities and people whilst wearing the core emblem of valor (bravery), commitment for a cause and pro-people outlook it inherited from the rebels, are continuing on with struggle that was passed through the sacrifice of children of the people.
And by continuing on with the momentum of these characteristics, that it’s built upon, it’s going from one victory on to another. Its core values: which are put yourself before your country and people, having the best personality all the time, unwavering democratic outlook, and gaining huge victory with minimal loss, have played the major role for its aforementioned international accolade. By exhibiting these characteristics of it has brought itself successful results on its constitutional missions.
In addition to carrying out its every mission with success and victory, our military forces have confirmed without any shred of doubt that it’s a force of peace and development on all its missions. On top of this, it has and still is doing many human development works by being a centre of capacity building and on technology transfer to other national institutions.
As our forces, aim to protect (guard) the constitution and constitutional order, seek to guarantee the country’s peace and stability, and as it have a fair (equitable) ethnical distribution, it has helped it to protect the country’s constitutional order from internal and foreign anti-peace forces and terrorists.
We can raise three instances of foreign aggression, where our forces capability to defend our country’s peace was demonstrated. The first is 1989 attacks plotted by the self-proclaimed “Al-Itahad Al-Islamia” terrorist group, and the second is the invasion of the hawkish Eritrean government in 1990 in order to impose its parasitic wishes upon us. The third is the clear and present danger posed by the self-proclaim terrorists group ‘Union of Islamic Court (UIC)’ and ‘Al-Shabaab.’
The terrorist group by the name of ‘Al-Itahad Al-Islamia’ was organizing and preparing itself within Somalia; which in those days the country has been a failed state for two decades. It started to carry out terror attacks by infiltrating to our country through Somalia.
It mainly used our country’s eastern part as a bridge for its sinister scheme. Nevertheless, as these acts of the group nullified the rights and benefits the local people enjoyed from the constitution, it was not acceptable by the people there.
As the people believe our forces are forces of peace, it gave its unwavering support for the defense force that was there to defend against this terror group. The local people on top of fighting ‘Al-Itahad’ it also played a major role in identifying the terrorists for our peace forces.
With this in sync procedure, where our forces were protecting the people’s peace while the people played the role of vanguard to our forces, in no time the eastern part of our country has been able to get a peace air.
The other instance in which our force’s capabilities were demonstrated was during the aggression and invasion of the adventurous and dictatorial Eritrean government. After Shabiya’s dream of growing on the back of Ethiopia’s natural resources was shattered, it went on to invade Badme and other close by lands with a terrible miscalculation of ‘Ethiopians are not ready (for the invasion)’.
The invasion did not only take place at a time where our forces’ were not ready for war. It also took place at a time where the hawkish Eritrean government has been building its capabilities for some time, whereby with regards to both manpower and arms there was a huge unbalance between the two sides.
Nevertheless, our defense forces, which were situated near the border that was violated by shabiya, have deterred this prepared and huge invading force, shrugging off the huge difference in the process.
Although the invading force tried its might to move beyond and seize other places, our forces which is armored with iron-clad commitment to guard its people and country’s peace have deterred many shabiya attacks together with the people by giving their lives.
At the time when the FDRE parliament called to deter the invading force; the whole nation, nationalities and people of Ethiopia gave a quick response to protect the sovereignty of their country even if it means sacrificing their lives.
Youths entered into military camps to strengthen the arm of our forces. And the public showed its support to our forces in an Ethiopian way by giving money and material, and by going as far as the frontlines.
This, as our forces’ capability was strengthened both in man-power and arms (equipment), it was ready for the decisive attacking campaign. Our forces carried out the challenging training which would help them deter the enemy and kick it out of our country, behind the frontlines.
Finally our defense forces took out the highly fortified trenches, that shabiya arrogantly said to be impossible to breach, with its thunderous strike. And the invading shabiya forces run away to where they came from, unable to sustain this attack of our pro-people army.
Our forces which in addition to freeing (previously) invaded land, they went as far as controlling many Eritrean lands – which of course our forces later left it as per the political decision of our government. And since then, it has created a suitable and peaceful environment which has enabled the rapid development and the democratic process to take root.
The other mission is the one, in which our defense forces showed their valor in dismantling ‘Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)’, a terrorist group which posed a clear and present danger; and in weakening Al-Shabaab.
As it’s known, the sheikh Dawir Aweyes led Islamic fundamentalist group by the name of Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)’ clearly declared war on our country at the behest (backing) of the Eritrean government. Nevertheless, not only our government should great patience (restraint), but it also tried to make them understand that it’s a wrong position to take. But, it didn’t get the ears of the other side.
Therefore, it became inevitable for our forces to enter into the failed state Somalia to combat and to try to put a stop to the direct threat that was posed on us.
Although the Eritrean government forces, OLF (who shamelessly betrayed its own country), the self-proclaimed ‘ONLF’ terror squad and other international terrorists sided with Dahir Aweyes’s team, our forces with the support of the Somali people dismantled it, along with its cohorts. It not only relieved the threat which was posed on our country, it has enabled our Somali brothers and sisters have a relative peace.
However, after the dismantle of ‘Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)’, a terror group by the name of Al-Shabaab, which is created in the spit image of UIC, and which is also Al-Qaeda’s East African terror faction, posed the same kind of threat on our country.
This terror group which (is based) on Somalia, at a time when the country itself was administered by a fragile (not strong) transitional government, declared jihad on our country, just like the union of Islamic court, and of course with the full backing of Eritrean government.
Understanding the threat the group poses on our national security and on the region as a whole, and also seeing the clear and present danger it poses, the FDRE government and people decided for our forces to weaken Al-Shabaab by working together with the brotherly people of Somalia and the transitional government.
Our forces in Somalia, being led by a sound strategies and tactics, have confirmed that they are a force of both peace and victory. It has enabled our Somali brothers get relative peace and freedom.
Although Al-Shabaab and other forces, that have their own angles, tried to create conflict between our defense forces and the Somali people by spewing bogus rumors, they weren’t able to convince the people; as they saw (under stood) our defenses to be a force of peace and pro-people.
As our forces demonstrated in Somalia that they are a force of peace and victory, and have a pro-people attitude, they were able to marginalize fundamentalist and terror forces from the people.
With this, it was able to strengthen the people’s desire for peace. Our forces in addition to averting the direct threat posed on our country by breaking the back of Al-Shabaab and weakening the group, it has played a major role in helping the Somali people establish their own federal government that is free of fundamentalists.
The FDRE constitution on Article 86 (sub-article 6) stipulates that “trying to resolve conflicts that arise between neighboring countries through peaceful means”. And these kind of peaceful means ranges from table negotiation to military peace keeping operations that are coordinated by international institutions and laws.
And our defense force have recently, with call from AU, have joined AMISOM and is carrying out its mission with flying colors. Of course this mission is the sixth for our forces; alongside its missions in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia and the current missions in Darfur and Abyei.
And when operating in the AMISOM, it will execute its directed main (institutional) missions. They are: securing the peace of the sectors in its control, flattening and destroying the terrorists that are based in Somalia by coordinating with AMISOM forces and creating stable administrative structures together with the public.
In addition to this, like it had done in its previous peace keeping missions, it will work to create a situation where Somali people will govern themselves and be owners of their own security. It will work to train, arm and organize Somali government’s security forces, and it will also carry out its own works that would help them build its own capabilities.
On top of these actions, it will work to create a suitable environment in its sector for aid agencies so that day–to–day social services and humanitarian activities would be accessible for the people.
It’s also working to create some social institution for the local people by pooling its own limited resource, labor and skill. Our forces, which joined the AMISOM mission along with the aforementioned characteristics, will surely carry out its peace keeping mission with flying colors.
In relation to this, it’s necessary to understand that the political order that has been and still is being built in our country is not only democratic, but it’s also developmental one; and our defense force is a reflection of this. As it’s known, a rapid and sustainable economic growth is an important tool for military building (organization).
With the growth of a certain country’s economics, it’s inevitable that the budget of the military increases also. However as military science analysts underlines, the budget allocated for the defense should not be more than 2% of that country’s GDP.
Developed countries like America cannot curb down their military spending to 2% even with all their effort to decrease their defense budget. Meanwhile, developing countries like our own cannot record rapid and sustainable economic growth if it doesn’t allocate its budget on building public infrastructures, education, health etc …., whilst going on a spending spree on its military force.
With this, the budget allocated to our country has been curbed down to 1%, doing even better to the internationally accepted number of 2%. This has been possible for two reasons. The first is, the wealth proceed the economy can bring in relation to its size is low, while the second reason has to do with the rise of our defense army’s ability (culture) of maximizing (making the most out) of the allocated budget.
Its obvious that an economically prosperous nation allocates a huge amount of budget for their military. In parallel, a developing country cannot allocate the same kind of numbers, as it has other projects that can change the lives of many. This is because, if we take the GDP per head into consideration, not many money will be left for the military to work with. So, building an army that the economy can sustain is a must.
The other main reason why our country’s military budget could not even reach 1% has to do with our defense forces growing culture of maximizing (making the most out) of the allocated budget. Out of the instances our military has demonstrated its growing ability to maximize the budget is the making of various cost-effective capacity build works and its import substitution projects.
In addition to this, it’s making huge involvement in the country’s development activities at times of peace. For instance, the military’s infrastructural sector in addition to carrying out the institution’s developmental works, it’s doing various key projects of the country like roads, bridges, irrigation development etc … that are situated in challenging areas, but are key to the public. In parallel with this, members of the army that works in ‘METEC’, are working to save huge amount of foreign currency by locally producing the mechanical works (equipments) of the GERD project.
Not only this in order to solve the shortages of transport, the corporation is locally assembling city buses and other vehicles; and in order to not have power shortages, the corporation is also producing electric transformers that can carry the flow of huge amounts of electricity etc … these instances show that our forces in addition to getting the most out of the budget allocated to it by the government, its putting its fingerprint on our economic growth by getting involved in national development, and by saving huge amounts of foreign currency.
Our army’s involvements in the development of our country doesnot stop with this. On top of the instances I have mentioned earlier, through it’s every level and through its labor and money, it’s getting involved in environment protection.
The army not only helps by pooling part of its monthly salary, but it’s heavily involved in works that can solve the society’s problems by sacrificing its time and labor. On every sector that it’s stationed, it has been and still is supporting the elderly.
By seeding, harvesting and collecting the grains on their farm lands, it’s confirming its reputation as ‘the peoples’’, and its support in development. And in order to help the farmer’s production reach the market quickly, it’s heavily involved together with public in constructing roads on places that don’t have transport roads.
Our forces on one hand carry out their constitutional duty (responsibility), and on the other they are heavily involved in the country’s developmental works. As our forces are well aware of our people’s problems (as it lives among them), it has worked on various projects like schools, health posts, roads … etc by squeezing its budget to the limit and by pooling from their own salaries.
With regards to environmental protection, it has done its own contribution, together with the public by planting trees, and taking care them ‘till they group up. In addition to this, members of our forces along with others from various sectors are trying to get involved in humanitarian works with their own resources, efforts and motivation.
Thus, members of the army stationed on the various military sectors, are taking care of children, whose parents are dead to HIV/AIDS, by sending them to school and supporting them.
Our defense forces have also played a huge role in averting manmade and natural disasters from inflicting heavy human and animal causalities. And by reaching first to the stricken areas with its commandoes and air support, it has demonstrated its supportive role in our country’s development by saving the public’s lives, and their materials from being destroyed.
In addition to the development, in times of drought disasters, the army on top of supporting its country men (affected by the disaster) by pooling its salary, it has moved aid through its vehicles to the stricken part of the society, so that they can reach in time. And members of our defense force, along with its civil members, have been and still are buying the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s bond, which is huge part of the country’s growth and transformation plan.
This shows that our forces are not only the guardian of our development, but also the perpetrator. Thus, the aforementioned facts confirm that our defense forces are forces of development especially considering its developmental activities of the last 14 years.
Our forces developmental works does not only stop with this. The institution is doing a fantastic job in human resource development through its higher education institutions, in order to provide the needed professionals for the economic development.
With this, the institution’s work that used to be done by foreign professionals has now completely taken by members of our own forces. This is an implication for the great feat our institution has reached, with regards to building the capacity of the labor force. I can name many instances for this.
The graduates from defense engineering college are bringing on results on their respective parts. In addition to expanding the technology transfer of our country, it has produced huge numbers of capable engineers.
Today, members of the military that graduated from engineering college are carrying out their responsibility in flying colors in sectors that are known to be problem-solver both in the context of institution’s and the country as a whole. Also in an effort to grow our force’s military technique and take it to the needed level, it has been able to gain many members that are trained with the profession.
This will help the army carry out their constitutional mission in an assured manner. The institution is also able to produce capable leaders that can lead the army (with its own resources). These leaders are not only well versed with military science and art, both in theory and practice, but they also have the needed capability that would take our defense force to victory.
The FDRE Air force in its part, in addition to producing many capable pilots, its implementing huge human resource development program.
The Air force has today reached great heights. Many works which previously used to be done through foreign professionals has now turned exclusively to the institution’s own people. In addition to producing its own technicians, it is now in a position to train and graduate airline technicians for Ethiopian Airlines.
These realities implies that not only involves is the institution involved in building the capacity of its own human resource, but it also working as a hub of capacity building for the country as a whole.
And the defense medical science college is supporting the army’s cause by producing many doctors and health officers. The medical professionals the medical college produces are not only giving service to the institution, but also to the nation as well.
And this will help in creating a healthy society and in helping citizens give their physical best on the Growth and transformation plan. The military by being a centre of capacity building, it’s producing the needed human resource the economy is demanding. As the research of the ‘Global Fire Power’ clearly implicates these hard characteristics of our defense force, I believe it has afforded my dear readers the chance to see the hard facts with regards to our defense forces.