Date: Monday, 18 November 2019
Two months before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize , the Prime Minister of Ethiopia split a letter to "His Excellency" President Emmanuel Macron . On July 22, 2019, Abiy Ahmed asked France to help "strengthen the Ethiopian Air Force" by providing, on credit, a sophisticated arsenal detailed on three pages. This list includes: 12 fighter jets (including Rafale and Mirage 2000), 18 helicopters and 2 military transport aircraft manufactured by Airbus, 10 Dassault drones, electronic jamming systems and, even more surprisingly, thirty M51 missiles with a range of more than 6,000 kilometers ... and nuclear warheads! A request for the least extravagant (and illegal) knowing that France like Ethiopia have signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
Visiting Addis Ababa last spring, Emmanuel Macron's objective was to develop the trade cornered today by China and develop naval forces (which disappeared after the split and independence of Eritrea ), writes the journalist of Point Patrick Forestier. "This cooperation with France is not short-term, it is strategic, it is old and it can go well beyond the naval forces," then announced Abiy Ahmed. Everything is in the "beyond". If the former military prime minister dreams of the same missiles as those of French nuclear submarines, his country has no access to the Red Sea since 1993. As his shopping list suggests, his priority is first to restore the coat of arms of his air force, out of breath and "old of 90 years".
Internationally, the leadership of "Abiy" impresses. One year after the peace agreement with the 60-year-old Eritrean foe, the prime minister has emerged as a mediator in Sudan to facilitate the ongoing democratic transition. But in the region, everyone does not look favorably on this geopolitical renaissance.
Egypt, in particular, is worried about the Ethiopian stubbornness to want to fill its future dam ("Renaissance") as soon as possible, without worrying about the dramatic consequences on the flow of the Nile irrigating 90% of the Egyptian fields. In the midst of a diplomatic crisis, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia declared last October: "If we are to go to war, we can mobilize millions of people to defend the dam. " Since the intervention of US mediation in early November, tensions dropped back a notch, but the dispute is far from resolved.
In modernizing its aviation, "Ethiopia wants to reaffirm its status as a regional power, vis-à-vis its neighbors a little more skeptical, like Kenya and Egypt, or Somalia," says Sabine Planel Research Institute for Development (IRD). According to the country's expert, these military ambitions are not contradictory to her image as a regional stabilizer, since "by equipping itself with a military arsenal, Ethiopia is strengthening its credibility in the region as a local guardian of peace. and stands as a bulwark against the jihadist movements present in the Horn of Africa ".
Ethiopian soldiers are already involved in several peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. In areas where international organizations increasingly tend to delegate their interventions to local actors, Ethiopia intends to "adapt its army to future operations and a regional driving force of deterrence for joint interventions within the framework of the United Nations. "UN," says a defense analyst from the region who wishes to remain anonymous and ensures that Ethiopia has also turned to the United States, Russia and Italy to strengthen its arsenal.
This role of regional gendarme contrasts with his inability to manage his own internal tensions. Last November, 86 people were killed in demonstrations at the call of a political opponent. "Ethiopia is on the brink of internal implosion. A more comprehensive restructuring of the military sector (assuming that men would follow arms, and even that would be financed from other budgets) would no doubt favor an authoritarian and violent resolution of the current crisis. Any strengthening of this sector in a crisis situation must be watched with great attention "warns Sabine Planel.
Beyond political considerations, could Ethiopia repay the French State? In the letter sent to Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister himself recognizes his "glaring lack of foreign currency" and seeks a loan to "be delivered in a short period of time." The Elysée's communication department assured Le Point that "the agreement signed last March opens the way for sectoral cooperation in the field of the navy and the air force", but that France "does not is not at this level of discussion.
With a public debt of 61%, according to the World Bank, this country of 110 million people is already accumulating foreign loans. Between 2006 and 2015, China lent $ 13 billion in exchange for licensing investment projects . In June 2018, the Ethiopian central bank received a billion dollars from the United Arab Emirates, allegedly playing a role in the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, where their rear base is located in their war in Yemen. Another two billion Emirati dollars will also finance investments in Ethiopia, seen by Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed Ben Zayed, as a pivot of his policy of expansion and influence in Africa.