More than 40 members of the troubled Ethiopian Air Force have reportedly fled the country.
Sources close to the Washington based Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) today reports that a number of staff members from the Debre Zeyit Air force headquarters along with 14 aircraft technicians and unspecified number of pilots didn’t show up for work for the past one month.
The technicians were from the transport and tactical helicopter squadron unit, SU27 fighter jets units and Antonov 12 transporter units.
The search by the security organs to hunt them down so far was not successful. The sources believe the fugitives are already out of the country and more likely joined the opposition forces.
The Ethiopian Air Force in recent times had suffered with a series of high profile defections of its qualified manpower as well as inventory of its military aircraft.
At the beginning of this year, four Air force pilots, namely, MIG-23 fighter jet pilot Captain Gezakegn Derese; MI-35 Helicopter pilot Captain Daniel Girma; MI-35 Helicopter pilot Lieutenant Masresha Sette, and MI-35 Helicopter pilot Bruk Atnae, have defected to Kenya.
On October 2014, a group of Eight pilots crossed the Eritrean border flying unspecified number of aircrafts and claim for asylum.
A similar defection of three high ranking pilots also happened at the end of December 2014 flying a sophisticated MI-35 helicopter gunship to Eritrea.
In 2005, Seven air force pilots who were on training in Israel defected and claimed asylum at the Eritrean embassy in Israel.
These waves of defections are telling signs that the Ethiopian government’s reliance on ethnic based policies and coercive institutions to continue its grip on power are reaching their limits.
The now lame duck Air force was once a pride to the Ethiopian people.