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France to help landlocked Ethiopia build a navy

March 14, 2019 at 10:00 am | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

March 14, 2019 at 10:00 am | News

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed. Pic credit: South China Morning Post

As part of moves to enhance its military and economic ties in Ethiopia, France has agreed in a new deal to help the landlocked country to build a navy.

The accord was signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

“This unprecedented defence cooperation agreement provides a framework… and notably opens the way for France to assist in establishing an Ethiopian naval component,” Macron, who was on a four-day visit to Ethiopia, told a news conference, Reuters reports.

Other deals agreed include a 100 million Euros boost to the economy and partnerships to preserve Ethiopian churches. Pic credit: CGTN Africa

The leaders of both countries also seized the opportunity to share their condolences over the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday that killed 157 people.

“Allow me to express my condolences to the victims and families of the victims of last Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines air crash. You know how much we stand by you and all the families of the victims,” Macron said.

“We will have to conduct a detailed investigation. The result of this survey will be useful not only for Ethiopia but for other countries around the world,” said the Ethiopian leader.

According to Reuters, the accord signed between the two leaders also provides for air cooperation, joint operations and opportunities for training and equipment purchases.

Ethiopia disbanded its navy force more than two decades ago following the separation of Eritrea, leaving Ethiopia without a coastline or access to a major ocean or sea that would host its naval force.

The Horn of African country uses a port in its neighbouring country Djibouti for its import and export demands. The Djibouti Port currently handles about 95 per cent of landlocked Ethiopia’s export-import trade, according to Xinhua news agency.

When voted in by parliament as the country’s new leader last April, Ahmed vowed to ensure good governance and deal with corruption that was having a toll on the country’s economy.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, last June, revealed his country’s ambitions to build a navy in the future, but his plan for how to achieve the goal was not made public.

“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 last 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.

Meanwhile, other deals signed between Macron and Ahmed include a 100 million Euros (over 112 million dollars) boost to the economy and partnerships to preserve Ethiopian churches and open up an archaeological dig at a 12th century village.

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