Ethiopia unveiled its 100,000-man "peasant army" at a spectacular sunrise ceremony today as U. S. made jets screamed above the Cuban-trained soldiers clad in North Korean uniforms and armed with Soviet-made rifles.
The peasnat militiamen, who have undergone weeks of training by 30 Cuban advisers, stood at intention in groups of about 14,000 men each. They covered the runway of the old Addis Ababa airport.
They were mobilized by Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, head of the ruling Revolutionary Council, in an attempt to crush the burgeoning number of insurgents that threaten his control of the country.
After receiving blood-red flags from Mengistu, the militia marched through the capital streets to Revolution Square waving their bannes and chanting, "death, death."
Eight F-5 fighter-bombers streaked low over the city. Hundreds of thousands of onlookers cheered.
Portraits of Marx, Engels and Lenin gazed out form massive billboards. Posters praising communism and the "unity of oppressed workers and peasants" were splashed on street corners and shop windows.
"The broad masses of Ethiopia will, be struggling, sacrificing, wrestling and overcoming, destroy all their enemies," Mengistu told tha throng after arriving in a heavily guarded moter-cade.
"Just as revolutionary Russia was encirccled 60 years old, revolutionary Ethiopia too is encircled by forces that are anti-people and anti-revolutionary."
"This is a force organized to completely crush once and for all those elements like the Ethiopian Democratic Unmion, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party and the reactionary Eritrean seccessionist groups who are making a frantic attempt to throw the Ethiopian broad masses back into that repugnant system."
Mengistu also accused Somalia of an expansionist policy with regasrd to Djibouti, the French territory that will become independent Sunday.
Mengistu also accused Somalia of an expansionist policy with regard to Djibouti, the French territory that will become independent Sunday.
"We strongly oppose any kind of interference against the independence and territorial integrity of the people of Djibnouti," he said. "We will also line up alongside the free people of Djibouti."
Officials said the peasant army numbers 300,000 and is the largest such force ever gathered in Africa. However, observers said only some 100,000 peasants took part in the demonstration, backed by regular army units.
Diplomats were surprised professional appearance of the peasant army. During most of their doining they used wooden rifles and wooden grenades. Their huge camp on the outskirts of the capital was swept with dysentery and cholera.
But watching the parade, one Western diplomat said: "This peasant army, isn't a joke any more. These guys look like a real fighting force."
The peasant military was expected see its first action against tow groups of insurgents.
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] is the Mourkrchist Ethiopia Democratic union in the Northwest. And another in the adutheastern [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Desert region, consists of ethnic [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Guerrillas who have black stagging enortac-addocks, ambushing conyoy and harrasing the vital Addis Ababa-Ejibouti rail line that carries 60 per cent of Ethiopia's imports and exports.
Only after those battles are the peasants expected to be thrown against the 200,000 secessionists who have been fighting for 16-years for independence in the Eritrea-Ethiopia's Northmost province.