Ethiopia marked the start of a major drive against secessionist and insurgent forces on Saturday (25 June) by parading its new 80,000-strong People's Militia.
Ethiopia marked the start of a major drive against secessionist and insurgent forces on Saturday (25 June) by parading its new 80,000-strong People's Militia. The militia is the third largest armed force in Africa.
SYNOPSIS: Earlier in the week, the troops began preparations for the parade. They had been trained for several months in their villages before undergoing advanced training in a vast camp outside the capital, Addis Ababa.
Many of the militiamen didn't take part in the parade. In all, there are 100,000 members, making it the biggest armed force in Africa after the Egyptian and Nigerian armies.
The Ethiopian leader, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, says the force has been organised to completely crush elements like the Ethiopian Democratic Union, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party and Eritrean secessionist groups. Diplomatic observers say they expect the new militia to relieve the regular army of defence duties in the towns of Eritrea, in northeast Ethiopia, and other regions hit by secessionists and insurgents.
Colonel Mengistu spoke to the troops on Saturday and he said the nation was surrounded by enemies who are "anti-people" and "anti-revolutionary." Ethiopia has charged that neighbouring Somalia and Sudan are co-ordinating efforts to isolate the country by blowing up a major rail link and banning Ethiopian flights over Sudan.
Ethiopia also alleges that Somalia is trying to annex Ethiopian territory. That claim was made in a statement read by Ethiopia's Chief Information Official, Petty Officer Tamrat Ferede. He spoke to journalists invited to Addis Ababa to watch the parade.
He said Somali President Siad Barre is sending infiltrators to eastern and southern Ethiopia and "committing economic sabotage with the aim of annexing parts of the country to realise his dream of a greater Somalia." But Petty Officer Tamrat said the people of the region were defending the Ethiopian revolution and their interests. He said the infiltrators were "having a lot of trouble and soon they will be wiped out."