The Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) may have been around since the establishment of the modern Ethiopian state,
but the in house activities of this venerated institution have remained largely unknown by the general public.
But now this seems to be changing as the EDF took a group of journalists on a tour of its facilities in and around Addis Ababa on January 10 and 11 and held a press conference to show how much it has come out of its shell. EDF also announced that it will celebrate the first ever Army day scheduled on February 17.
Brigadier General Gebrekidan Gebremariam representative for Indoctrination and Publication Centre at EDF said the occasion was to acquaint the public with one of the basic doctrines of EDF; what it means to be a patriotic citizen and sacrificing for your country, at least on equal par with being a dutiful tax paying citizen.
He further explained that February 17, was announced as the date of the first ever national army day because it was the date when the EDF came into formal existence through a proclamation, several months after the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution was formally enacted.
The event is expected to be celebrated on several weeks, with programs including the showing of various documentaries on national TV, various symposiums, posters and exhibitions to show its role as a development force, contributing its fair share to the country’s development endeavours and its role in peacekeeping missions abroad. Brig. Gen. Gebrekidan, during the tour, said that EDF’s budget only takes less than one percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Our main enemy is poverty and the army’s role is to create peaceful conditions to avoid it,” noted Brig. Gen. Gebrekidan adding that the base of the army is its popularity and discipline.
One point mentioned was EDF’s role in peacekeeping missions abroad in countries such as Rwanda, its neighbour Burundi which had a similar communal strife, and the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ethiopian Peacekeeping force is presently stationed with a 4,200 strong force as part of a joint African Union-United Nations Peacekeeping force in the unrest hit far western Sudanese region of Darfur and exclusively in the contested region of Abyei, which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.
Ethiopian forces have also participated in combat missions in neighbouring Somalia, to drive out Islamist militants and to support the peacekeeping mission in Somalia headed by Ugandan and Burundian forces.
Gebrekidan said these peacekeeping missions have made Ethiopia the number one peacekeeping army in the United Nations missions in Africa and fourth globally.
The EDF also showed some of its maintenance and engineering capabilities including the Janmeda heavy vehicles maintenance centre with a strong focus on logistics; a crucial science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces.
Another part of its strategic aim is the enforcement of knowledge based military science training for its officer core. The military has more than 10 defence colleges around Ethiopia.
One of those colleges established in January 2006, has so far trained over 400 army officers and is currently training officers from Burundi and Africa’s newest nation South Sudan. It had also trained previously officers from the breakaway self declared republic of Somaliland.
These officers were trained on five military curriculums such as security and strategy studies, warfare studies, leadership studies and operation and tactical studies.
The defence college has started post-graduate studies in September 2012 phasing out its undergraduate program. It plans to make it a war college in the near future, the highest rank a college of this kind can attain.