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Ethiopia promotes 65 military officers ahead of August polls

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - With just eight months to national polls, Ethiopia has on Saturday promoted 65 military officers, among them five women, state agency Fana reported.

The beneficiaries were accorded Lieutenant General, Major General and Brigadier General ranks in the shocking changes, Fana said.

Accordingly, six military officers were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Generals, 19 officers to Major General and 40 officers to Brigadier General.

The changes were the first under the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who will be defending his seat in August.

Military changes come months to polls

President Sahle-Work Zewde awarded the ranks to the officers nominated by Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Ethiopian Armed Forces Dr Abiy Ahmed.

It's the promotion of five female officers that perhaps got Abiy's recognition as part of his radical changes in the social-economic and political front.

The Prime Minister said, “more women were promoted today to maintain gender equality in the military.”

He added “the defence force is our national pride. We must jealously guard it and give it the honour and respect it deserves.”

ENDF critical in the Horn of Africa

Ethiopian military is fundamental in upgrading security at the Horn of Africa, US State Department had noted in a recent report released in November 2019.

For instance, the ENDF raided Mogadishu in 2010 and managed to flush out Al-Shabaab's militants, helping to create a transitional government.

Since then, the forces have been incorporated into AMISOM. A number of them are stationed in the Somalia capital and Jubaland, UN said.

While the country shares the longest border with Somalia, it's security has been steady compared to neighbouring Kenya which is often exposed to Al-Shabaab attacks, AMISOM noted.

Abiy hails the military

The Prime Minister added that members of the defense forces should remain loyal to the Constitution and be independent of politics.

Dr. Ahmed called on “political forces” to operate peacefully by respecting the Constitution, without necessarily politicizing every situation, Fana said.

Last year, a number of opposition leaders criticized the use of the military in quelling ethnic violence, especially at the PM's Oromia region.

Jawar Mohammed, a media entrepreneur, cautioned Dr Ahmed against "misusing our defense forces" contrary to the law.

Promotion of five women, historical

General Adem Mohammed, Chief of Staff of the National Defence Force, said the defence force is discharging its responsibility of safeguarding the sovereignty of the country and maintaining peace.

He said, "We shall continue to discharge over duties diligently and without any coercion. Our major role is national integration."

He added, "today’s appointment was given based on performances of the officers."

Promoting women to lucrative ranks could further boost Ahmed's quest to encourage gender parity in critical government departments, analysts say.

For instance in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta recently promoted Fatuma Ahmed to rank of Major General, the first woman to occupy the post in Kenya's history.

Ethiopian role in Somalia

But Ahmed's major puzzle would be the role of Ethiopian forces in neighboring Somalia, who have been dragged to controversy lately.

Last year, Somalia's opposition FNP accused the Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops of working with FGS to destabilize federal states.

Ahmed Madobe, the Jubaland leader, asked the UN "to intervene urgently and prevent Ethiopia from interfering with Somalia's sovereignty."

The Ethiopian PM is yet to respond to the allegations, despite UN's recent observation that the move could through state government's into a limbo.

A section of Somali leaders from Ethiopia also questioned the promotions, arguing that the region was not well represented in the honours.