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Ethiopia Table of Contents


Command and Force Structure

Political requirements largely determined the military's organizational structure in the first years after the 1974 revolution. Beginning in 1977, the military adopted Soviet command procedures, which reflected Moscow's influence. It should be pointed out, however, that Mengistu made all major military decisions in his capacity as commander in chief of the armed forces.

Military policy and all important decisions emanated from PMAC committees designated to deal with political and military affairs, defense, militia affairs, and security. The Council of Ministers, through the ministries of defense, interior, and public and national security, administered national security policy. The armed forces chain of command ran from the PMAC through the Ministry of Defense to the chiefs of staff of the army, air force, and navy and through the Ministry of Interior to the chief of the People's Militia. Service commanders, who operated from individual headquarters without an intermediate chairman, reported directly to Mengistu. Four regional commanders coordinated joint operations.

In August 1977, the PMAC established the National Revolutionary Operations Command (NROC) in response to unrest in the armed forces, political resistance from leftist opponents of the regime, and the deteriorating situation in Eritrea and the Ogaden. The NROC replaced the revolution and development committees founded earlier in 1977 to mobilize militia units on a regional basis and to direct regional security operations against "reactionaries." Although the new command initially coordinated the recruiting, training, and equipping of the People's Militia, it eventually emerged as the central command structure and assumed sweeping civilian and military powers. Headed by a twenty-eight-member council--consisting of representatives from the PMAC, the Council of Ministers, the Provisional Office for Mass Organization Affairs (POMOA), and the official All-Ethiopia Trade Union, as well as the services' chiefs of staff--the NROC assumed command of the armed forces and responsibility for commandeering resources, public utilities, and manpower for the war effort. Mengistu served as its chairman.

In December 1977, the PMAC also created the Supreme Military Strategic Committee (SMSC) to formulate counterinsurgency strategy for Eritrea and the Ogaden and to direct military operations elsewhere in the country. Subsequently, the SMSC assumed responsibility for improving the armed forces' technical efficiency. The SMSC included eight Soviet, three Cuban, and seven Ethiopian representatives.

In April 1983, the government established the National Defense and Security Council, which was empowered to devise the country's military and civilian defense policies. This council included the head of state, the secretary general of the PMAC, and the ministers of defense, interior, and public and national security. The council's goal was to improve defense strategies and coordination among the army, the People's Militia, and the civilian population in times of war or natural disaster.

Data as of 1991