A bizarre mix of arms merchants, advisers, pilots and other assorted unexplained foreigners is making this beleaguered capital one of the world's most unusual meeting places.
Chartered Flying Tiger jets with American flags on their tails land at the airport carrying South Korean made uniforms, as small arms arrive from such Soviet-bloc countries as Romania, Czechoslovakia and East Germany.
There are large numbers of East Germans in the streets.
Israeli pilots reportedly fly in spare parts and ammunition for Ethiopia's U.S.-made equipment while Vietnamese delegations arrive, apparently to sell the Ethiopians captured U.S. equipment from the vast stockpile left behind by the Americans as they hurriedly evacuated South Vietnam.
There are even reports of Israeli advisers still operating with Ethiopian forces, made even more incongruous by similar suggestions that Libya's anti-Israeli Muammar Qaddafi is bankrolling some arms purchases by Ethiopia's Marxist military government.
The Ethiopian army, fighting a two-front war in the Ogaden region against Somali-supported secessionists and in northern Eritrea against Eritrean nationalists, is in the difficult phase of switching from U.S. equipment to Soviet arms. Until it has a reliable Soviet stockpile, they will need spare parts and ammunition for the American weapons.
The Ethiopians have been shopping the world for U.S.-made arms, according to diplomatic sources.Ethiopia apparently has cash for the arms thanks to increased revenues because of higher world prices for Ethiopian coffee exports.
U.S. sources say that when Washington cut off its military assistance to Ethiopia in April, the Ethiopians had a six-month stockpile of spare parts and ammunition for their American supplied F-5 and Phantom jets, D-60 tanks, armed personnel carriers and a variety of small arms.
Diplomats say that some replacements are being purchased on the open market and that Yugoslav ammunition is arriving that may be compatible with the American weapons.
According to numerous sources, including Ethiopian air force personnel, Israel is regularly flying in spares and ammunition for Ethiopia's U.S. equipment. Israeli ammunition for U.S. phantom jets was specifically mentioned.
Stories of Israeli military advisers in Ethiopia have circulated ofr sometime. One Ethiopian said, "If we had [WORD ILLEGIBLE] more Israelis, we wouldn't need anyone else."
A thorough American officials profess total ignorance of any Israeli presence, other Western sources say that last year a small group of Israeli counterinsurgency instructors were training tribesmen in Tigre Province for action in Erithrea.
Israeli's long-standing interest in Ethiopia is a result of its concern that the Red Sea, the only access to the port of Elat, not become an "Arab lake." Arab-backed Eritrean indepence could lead to that.
Somalia has also charged that Israeli pilots are flying American F-5 fighters ofor Ethiopia in the Ogaden war, a charge that drew the Ethiopian retort that "There are no Israelis in Ethiopia" and countercharges that Somalia is recruiting pilots from "reactionary Arab countried."
The Ethiopian news agency charged Thursday that Syrian pilots have arrived in Mogadishu to fly Somali fighters, Reuter reported.
An employee at one Addis Ababa hotel said that 23 young Israeli aircraft personnell arrived here last month. Other employees of the same hotel said, however, that they did not know of the group.
It is also unclear whether Soviet military advisers are arriving, although Soviet arms shipments are confirmed. Thirty rickety T-34 tanks arrived here some time ago, and were followed by 80 T-54 tanks said to be in better condition.
There is also a large flow of South Yemenis in and out of Addis Ababa. One diplomatic theory is that they are accompanying Soviet-made arms being lent to Ethiopia by the Aden government.
The East German presence appears to be larger than that of any other Soviet-bloc country. Diplomats here say the Germans are helping with internal security and probably are not soldiers, although a West German agricultural expert said they are soldiers.
The United States has put the number of Cuban military advisers at 50; observers say the number is growing. There is no clear evidence that the Cubans have military duties. Many are apparently in a 140-man medical unit.
Many Ethiopians believe the shift from an American to a Soviet orientation to be temporary. When one said, "You Americans will be back here in five years," he was interrupted by a friend who said, "No, five months."
Western diplomats say that their official Ethiopian contacts are now the best they have been in months, and the U.S. embassy reports that for the first time in two years Ethiopia has asked the U.S. Agency for International Development to intiate two new projects.