The first Defence Forces’ Day was held on Thursday (February 14th) at the end of a week of celebration (February 8th – 14th) under the theme “Our constitutional loyalty and multi-national nature will be preserved.” The week was marked with a series of events across the country with parades, military maneuvers and exhibitions in various regional state capitals and Addis Ababa. The exhibition in Addis Ababa, opened by Prime Minister Hailemariam, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, comprehensively demonstrated the army’s mission to defend the nation’s sovereignty and its additional contributions to the various development efforts of the country including infrastructural development, technology transfer and electronic security.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Defense Minister Siraj Fergessa said enormous activities have been carried out, focusing on capacity building, with the effect of establishing a modern and effective army. The armed forces were now able to undertake a wide range of different activities ranging from overhauling its equipment and machinery to manufacturing the materials it needed on a limited budget. As a result the Minister emphasized in addition to its major mission of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation, the Army was contributing immensely to such development activities as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and to the construction of the new sugar and fertilizer factories which are being built. The exhibition, the Minister noted, had the purpose of publicizing the capacity of the Army in accomplishing a mission, the success of its capacity building, its ability to provide technology transfer and other areas.
General Samora Yenus, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, noted that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force had also contributed greatly in realizing peace, development, good governance and democracy through their protection of the country from anti-peace forces and external acts to destabilise the nation. The Defence Forces’ week, marked for the first time, has provided an opportunity to renew the commitment of the Army to reinforce the results gained over the past 20 years and to continue to defend the country from local and foreign anti-peace elements, General Samora added.
The Speaker of the House of Federation, Ato Kassa Tekleberhan also noted that the importance of Ethiopia having managed to build a dependable defense force, loyal to the constitution and the people. He emphasized that the National Defense Force had contributed its own share to realizing the renaissance of the country by significantly participating in the ongoing efforts to speed up development and build the necessary democracy to ensure sustainable peace and economic development in the country.
At the conclusion of the celebrations in the National Stadium in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, reminded the forces that they had their own particular mission bestowed upon them by the constitution. The Ethiopian Defence Forces, he said, were responsible for protecting the constitution and the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and therefore ultimately for ensuring the peace, security and continuity of Ethiopia’s renaissance. Beyond this, he said, they are committed to ensure the peace and security of Ethiopia’s neighbors since that is of paramount importance for Ethiopia’s own peace and development endeavors. So the Defence Forces have successfully participated in various peace-keeping missions across the continent, and their achievements in discharging this huge responsibility, he added, have meant they have become a reliable peace force for Africa. The Ethiopian Defence Forces are now respected around the world for their battle-hardened professionalism and their skills in application of counter-insurgency doctrines. In places like Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sudan and South Sudan, they have played an exemplary role in peace keeping and in building harmony among the indigenous communities.
The Prime Minister also noted that under the Growth and Transformation Plan, the Defence Forces were expected to be an engine for the establishment of institutions that would help bring about a transformation towards industrialization. They were achieving this through military and technology training institutions, the steel and engineering corporations, information and communication technology and cyber-security sectors. All these areas being run by the Ethiopian Defence Forces had already become vital elements in the country’s socio-economic transformation,
The Ethiopian National Defense Forces are structured on the basis of the principles of Article 87 of the Constitution that stipulates that composition of the national armed forces should reflect equal representation of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. In addition, the Constitution states that the armed forces should protect the sovereignty of the country and carry out such responsibilities as may be assigned to them under any state of emergency declared in accordance with the Constitution. The Constitution also clearly lays down the duty of the Armed Forces to carry out its functions free of any partisanship for any political organization, and that they should obey and respect the Constitution.
The Defense Forces were established according to Proclamation Number 27/88 and since then they have strengthened their unity through extensive training in different areas, including measures taken to familiarize members of the Defense Forces with the Constitution. Various military training institutions have been established to enhance the military capacity, skills and technical ability of the Defense Forces. At the same time, the Defense University, as a higher educational institute, has been instrumental in producing professionals and experts in the fields of civil and military engineering, in health, resource management and other fields. Currently, the Defence University has four colleges, of Engineering, Health, Resource Management and Technology. These have helped to provide a level of expertise in the Defense Forces, enabling them to play a very constructive role in ensuring the peace and security of the country and in strengthening the democracy and good governance initiatives
During the week-long celebrations in Addis Ababa, various aspects of the Defense Training Institutes and Colleges, of the Defence Forces ICT work and products were among material presented to the public. These included unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), light commercial-version helicopters designed by the Metals and Engineering Corporation, agriculture and construction machinery and transformers and spare parts for sugar and fertilizer factory production. Light and heavy military equipment, ammunition and heavy and light vehicles from Bishoftu Automotive Industry were also among the products on show.
* Originally published on A Week in the Horn – February 15, 20
13 issue, titled “Celebrating Ethiopia’s first Defence Forces’ Day”. Items from A Week in the Horn are re-published here with a permission to do so. You may republish it with attribution and no modification to its contents.
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