By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
February 11, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - Twenty South Sudanese police cadets have started scholarships at an Ethiopian military academy in an effort to improve the professionalism of the force which is regularly criticised by human rights organisations.
The South Sudanese police officers were welcomed warmly by government and military officials, as well as by south Sudanese diplomats upon their arrival on Sunday at Sendafa Police University College, located on the outskirts of the capital,
Government officials said the South Sudanese police officers will receive a two-year training course, with all expenses for training and accommodation covered by the Ethiopian government
“Ethiopia’s contribution to the peace and stability of South Sudan is immense,” said a South Sudanese diplomat who attended the welcoming ceremony.
The training offered by Ethiopia to the police officers is part of these efforts,” he added.
As a part of security and defence relationships with neighbouring countries, the Ethiopian government every year offers scholarships to cadets and military students from the East African region.
Students are trained in military engineering skills, armaments, civil and combat ethics and other police-related and military disciplines.
Ethiopia - a key security ally of the US - says it has built a modern and dependable defence force, which is loyal to the land’s constitution.
As Africa’s second most populous nation prepares to mark its first ever Defence Force Day on 14 February, defence Minister Siraj Fegesa said military institutions established in the country have played a significant role in bringing the defence force to its current standard.
He underscored the presence of a competent defence force, citing the different peace keeping missions Ethiopia has participated in across Africa.
Ethiopia, which is the 10th top peacekeeping contributor to the UN, currently has a brigade of over 4,000 troops in the Sudan-South Sudan contested flashpoint region of Abyei.
Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), in partnership with UNDP, has provided capacity building training for officers from South Sudan as part of initiatives towards peacebuilding in post-conflict settings.
According to the state-run Ethiopia Radio and Television Agency (ERTA), the five-day training course in Addis Ababa includes an overview of conflict and change, while providing tools for conflict analysis in a way that helps map post conflict management.
South Sudan is the latest and newest nation to join the East African regional body.
Trainees underscored the importance of the timely training offers.
They also stressed the need for more training opportunities as it will be a crucial input to South Sudan’s efforts in healing and rebuilding the youngest nation which was devastated by decades of civil war.