As U.S. President Donald Trump stirs controversy after seeking to create a “space force” to establish American dominance outside the Earth’s atmosphere, Ethiopia is in the news for what also seems to be a similar eye-raising pursuit, building a fully operational navy as a landlocked country.
According to the country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, he plans to build a navy in the near future.
“Following the efforts made to build capacity of our national defense, we built one of the stronger ground and air forces in Africa. We should build our naval force capacity in the future,” Ahmed told the heads of country’s National Defense Force.
Although the country does not have a coastline, it has more than 20 lakes its navy could protect. The country currently trains more than 500 marine engineers and electro-technical officers each year at its civilian Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute on Lake Tana. According to its website, it plans to increase this to more than 1,000 officers annually.
Ethiopia also appears to have a vested interest in owning some coastlines of its neighboring countries.
According to Bloomberg, Abiy’s government agreed to develop Port Sudan on the Red Sea. It also agreed with Djibouti to swap shares in state-owned ports, airlines, and telecommunications in May and will acquire land at Lamu Port in Kenya for “logistical facilitation”, according to a statement issued by both parties after a meeting between Abiy and Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
The country also took a stake in a port in Somaliland, the self-declared independent state that borders Djibouti, earlier this year. All of these efforts point to the country’s seriousness in achieving its goal of a fully operational Navy.
Ethiopia would join Central African Republic (CAR), Rwanda, and Uganda, the three other African countries with fully operational navies, should it be successful. The navies of these countries protect its rivers. For CAR, its navy protects Ubangi River, in Rwanda, the Lake Kivu, and in Uganda, Lake Victoria.