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Ethiopia Mulls Creating Space, Cyber Commands As Part of Defence Reforms

Image courtesy of NASA.

As part of significant defence reforms being proposed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia is considering the creation of a Cyber Security and Space Force, that if implemented, will operate under the command of the Ethiopian military.

The proposed reforms also call for the creation of an Ethiopian naval base, even though the Northeast African country has been landlocked since Eritrea became independent in 1993.

“Considering the context of modern warfare (land, air, seas, cyber and space), a defense force that can readily meet this context is in the process of being built,” Prime Minister Abiy’s office said in a statement emailed on 8 November 2018 to Chinese news agency Xinhua. Ethiopia’s defence forces law has been revised to include a navy and “will in future also include Cyber Security and Space Force considerations,” according to the statement.

These proposed reforms come as the Ethiopian government is believed to be conducting the country’s first grand strategic review since 2002, to include top-to-bottom reviews of Addis Ababa’ foreign policy and national security strategy.

Ethiopia’s grand strategy is being reviewed, “to make it effective based on the current situation of the world and the internal Ethiopian situation,” according to Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Meles Alem.

The decision to revive the Ethiopian navy and establish a naval base in a neighbouring country is being couched in purely strategic terms, according to Xinhua.

“It is a strategic decision that Ethiopia has to develop maritime power within its proximity,” according to General Berhanu Jula, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defence Force.

“With regard to the legal framework, the revisions made look at including the structure of the Navy within the Defence Force Proclamation, and will in the future include Cyber Security and Space Force considerations,” the statement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office says.

According to Prime Minister Ahmed, the defence review – as part of the wider review of Ethiopian grand strategy – is cognizant of developments in contemporary warfare, to include the normalization of operations in the cyberspace and space domains. Given Ethiopia’s strategic position as the largest country in the Horn of Africa where continuing great power competition takes place, the decision to include cyberspace and space as Ethiopian defence considerations seems prescient though implementation will be complex and expensive.

“A Defence Force that can readily meet this context is in the process of being built… Activities are being undertaken to ensure that the defence force is capable of effectively undertaking its duties and responsibilities through the utilization of modern military equipment,” Prime Minister Ahmed is quoted as saying in his statement quoted in Xinhua.

Only last week, SpaceWatch.Africa reported that Ethiopia is developing its first Earth observation satellite with financial, technical, and launch assistance from China. The satellite is expected to be operational sometime in 2019.

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