MPs suggest custom officials be granted power to inspect military import
The Ethiopian Army composed mainly of Ground and Air Forces is receiving an upgrade in the form the re-establishment of a Naval Force along with Cyber and Space Forces, according to a new draft bill tabled before the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) proposing significant amendment to the existing Proclamation of the National Defense Forces of Ethiopia.
It is to be recalled that earlier this year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) announced his administration’s plan to considering re-establishing the now defunct Ethiopian Naval Forces despite the nation being landlocked.
Hence, the latest draft bill, which was tabled before the House on Tuesday, gives the National Defense Force more military units in its composition. The new addition will not be only in Naval Forces but will also embrace a Cyber as well as a Space Force.
The draft bill includes amendment to the military recruitment procedure, the hierarchy of military courts and health insurance scheme for the army.
In an unusual turn of events, the bill proposes the recruitment of higher military officers from the civilian population as opposed to promoting from the members of the military. This is important, according to the explanatory document, to access the knowledge and experience of citizens towards building a modern and efficient national defense force.
“Cadets shall be recruited from members of the defense force and directly from the civilian population,” article 5(3) of the draft proclamation reads.
Pursuant to the new restructuring efforts underway in the Force, the latest draft bill also introduces additional provisions to boost the decision making power of the Council of Defense Commanders.
Furthermore, the bill excludes some articles that were part of the existing law [Proclamation No 809/2014]. Among which is the provision designated under Article 36 listing out criminal activities under the purview of the military court. Therefore, a long list of criminal activities will henceforth not fall under the jurisdiction of a military court.
The overall contents of the draft bill was largely welcomed by members of parliament before referring it to the newly restructured Foreign Relations and Peace Affairs Standing Committee for further discussion.
However, MPs raised concerns over duty-free privileges granted to the National Defense Force on imports of military equipment.
Consequently, in light of the recent scandal in connection to the state-owned company Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC), which was managed by many former military officers, MPs further suggested the standing committee – to whom the draft bill was referred to – to reconsider the insertion of additional “strong” provisions to allow custom officers to inspect imported military equipment.
“I realize that we have a very disciplined and responsible Defense Force that has been undertaking heroic victories and commitments to safeguard the country and its constitution. However, there are incidents that tarnish the legacy of our military force like the case of the recent corruption witnessed in MetEC. Hence, we need to consider additional binding articles that will allows our custom officials to inspect imported goods,” a woman MP suggested before the House.
“I understand why military equipment and devices are not inspected by custom officers; it is due to their significance to the national security. It is no secret that we have been witnessing some corrupt military officers and officials smuggling illegal goods to the country under the pretext of military privilege,” she added.
Other members also raised several questions and suggestions to be considered by the standing committee.