Thirty nine fighter jet pilots and 201 technicians graduated in Ethiopia, the biggest number ever to graduate in one go, as the country works on strengthening its air force.
Handing awards to the 39 pilots and 201 technicians at an air force base in Debre Zeit, 45 kilometres east of Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, vowed to strengthen the country’s air force.
Meles said building the capacity of the national defence forces was as a result of the country’s desire for peace.
“Activities aimed at building the capacity of our defence force will continue as the intention emanates from the nation’s firm desire for peace and development,” Meles said.
“To this end trainings will continue in a more strengthened manner to produce disciplined military personnel who would undertake their mission with courage.”
He said missions geared towards the defence of the nation from anti-peace forces have been successfully accomplished. He stopped short of giving details of the missions.
“Our air force uses state of the art fighter airplanes and needs to be strengthened to meet the ever growing standards in the sector,” added Meles.
Ethiopia’s defence budget has been on the rise in the past few years, reaching US$350 million from the country’s US$7 billion budget.
A few weeks ago Ethiopian defence forces attacked military bases in Eritrea, after accusing its neighbour of arming and training insurgents.
Last March, Ethiopia blamed Eritrea for the killing of five European tourists in the Afar region of Ethiopia, bordering Eritrea. Two Germans tourists were also abducted during the attack but were later released.
A rebel group, which claims to operate in the Eritrean territory, took responsibility for the abduction, saying that the five were killed in cross fire clashes between them and Ethiopian troops.
Eritrea denies any involvement in the attacks.
Since the incident, tensions have been high around the border areas of the two countries.