Ethiopia’s national airline gives in to military request

Written by Staff Writer

Running a national airline would seem like a luxury to be denied in wartime. That was until Ethiopia’s national airline, Ethiopian Airlines, was tapped to transport Ethiopian army weapons to Tigray in a blatant violation of international law.

A delegation from Tigray — an ethnically autonomous province in northern Ethiopia — paid a surprise visit to the foreign ministry of the country’s capital Addis Ababa in July 2016. As the delegation discussed bilateral ties with the country’s ambassador in Budapest, an unusual offer was made: For the Ethiopian federal government to let Tigray transport its own military equipment.

The delegation, led by Tigrayi intelligence chief Girma Adeguq Abera, was accompanied by several Ethiopian soldiers, according to a report on

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Emboldened by this concession, they rushed across the city, where they occupied the Ministry of Defense.

It is unclear how much — if any — military hardware they brought with them, but it is not in dispute that a nearly-half million-ton cargo plane had been used, as the country’s flag carrier boasted on its website.

This violates an international treaty that bans air transport of weaponry on the grounds that it exposes soldiers to undue risk and is a probable source of danger.

Ethiopia already flouts international laws

Ethiopia — whose entire fleet is jet aircraft — is at pains to refute claims that it has flouted international aviation laws. It categorically denies the allegations that it sent its cargo plane to transport military hardware via customs in other countries.

Its current fleet consists of six Boeing 787 Dreamliners and a single Boeing 737 Max 8. “Tigray and Ethiopia’s requests to our airline for a few aircraft to deliver military equipment to Tigray were initiated by different governmental agencies,” said a statement on the airline’s website.

It also denies that it is sending military equipment via its Chicago-based regional subsidiary, Oromia Airlines, saying it is acting on consignments made by a military unit inside the country.

“The group that organized and organized their trip did not contact Ethiopia before their trip,” the statement read.

Ethiopia has its own airline, Addis Ababa Airlines

“Any further meeting with Ethiopia to discuss this issue will go nowhere.”

Ethiopia emerged from its devastating famine in 1990 with a robust economy but a dearth of armed forces, so most of its military machinery is independently produced from weapons acquired from countries such as Russia, China and the United States.

However, the country’s military uses its land, air and sea communication networks to manage military operations.

This story was originally published by CNN’s sister network, CNN International.

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