AF spends $50M to upgrade Ethiopian airport

Tigrai Online
Jan. 10 2011

C_17 GlobemasterThe Air Force is reportedly spending up to $50 million to upgrade an airport in southern Ethiopia, a crucial ally in an unstable region.

The Addis Fortune newspaper reports the U.S. is extending the runway and upgrading facilities at Arba Minch, a town of less than 75,000 that sits about 600 miles away from the Somali border. It is also less than 200 miles away from the border of Southern Sudan, which will become an independent nation in July.

Spokeswomen at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa did not return e-mails seeking confirmation of the report and more details.

The Fortune, an English-language independent weekly, said the airport renovations will include lengthening the runway and building modern facilities. The improved runway will be able to support C-17 Globemaster IIIs, the newspaper reported, citing diplomatic sources.

The Fortune reported “mobilization of construction materials and clearing the area of wild bushes” was already underway, and heavy equipment was clearing earth from the site.

“A mountain of wood, piled up after clearing from the construction site, has been visible on the opposite side of the airport’s gates, according to eye witnesses in the town Fortune spoke to,” the newspaper reported. “The project site is under heavy military guard, with U.S. troops seen patrolling the area, according to these eye witnesses.”

Ethiopia receives millions of dollars in military aid from the U.S. each year, and American troops help train Ethiopia’s 200,000-strong military. Many Africa observers believe Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion of Somalia to topple its nascent Islamist government was launched at the insistence of the Pentagon.