By Bulcha Demeksa
April 8, 2007 — This is good news. Ethiopians are good fighters and the training will be valuable. Obviously, there is the risk that the U.S. might train only certain ethnic groups and not the others. There are as many as 70 ethnic groups. But there are at least five ethnic nationalities whose guerillas are now armed albeit illegally. These are the Oromo (40 % of the Ethiopian population), the Amhara (26-28 %), the Tigre (7-8%), the Ethiopian Somale (3% ?), the Sidama (2% ?). These statistics are based on the latest Census which is ten years old and was incomplete at best.
(There is going to be a National Census in May this year. I hope that UNFPA [The United Nations Population Fund] will be allowed to play its mandated role, although some governments refuse to allow it to do so.)
It is of overriding importance that the U.S. and Ethiopian Governments make sure that the training by the U.S. army is fairly distributed and not concentrated on one or two ethnic groups. The U.S., which pays the bill, must ensure that all ethnic groups benefit from the training proportionally to their population sizes.
The author is a member of the Ethiopian Federal Parliament and leader of an opposition party known as the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM). The Party is two years old and has eleven (11) seats in a 547-seat House.