Two Eritrean jet fighter pilots defected with their fighter jets to Ethiopia on Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM local time. The Eritrean pilots contacted the Ethiopian air defense authorities before crossing in to Ethiopian air spaces. The Eritrean pilots clearly explained to Ethiopian forces their intention was to surrender themselves peacefully. After they made it abundantly clear they didn’t have any hostile intent, and asked not get shot down, they were escorted by Ethiopian air force planes to land at the Mekelle international airport in Tigrai northern Ethiopia.
This is the first time Eritrean pilots have defected to Ethiopia with their jet fighters. A few years ago Eritrean pilots defected to Saudi Arabia some with civilian and other with their military aircraft. The Eritrean jet-fighter pilots defection was confirmed by Eritrean opposition group on Thursday said a Fox news report. Fox news called Eritrea “one of the world’s most closed-off states” in its news report. The rest of the world refers to Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa, but recently the North Korean government expressed its displeasure on the association with the tiny poor African country if you can see the irony on that.
The pilots who defected to Ethiopia with the the Mig-29 jet fighter as identified as Fisehaye and Mebrahtu Tesfamariam.
Nasredin Ahmed Ali, Eritrean Opposition spokesman identified the pilots and described them as being very experienced with Eritrea’s air force.
Ethiopian news reports indicated the pilots are two by the came with one jet fighter, but western news media including Fox News and VOA said two pilots with two jets. We will find out about the number jet fighters as more information comes out.
The Average price for the Mig-29 is about 29 million US dollars estimated in 2009. Imagine what 29 million US dollars could do for a poor country. The number of hospitals, schools, roads and other public work projects a country can do with that kind of money. If you are wondering 29 million USD is about 464 million Nakfa in a bank, but it is much higher in a black market.
The Ethiopian government should treat those brave pilots with at most care for opening the taboo door for other Eritrean military personnel and other pilots. The jet fighter also should be kept in a safe and secure place because it or they belong to the Eritrean people not to the dictator in power. At the right time it should be returned to the rightful owners in exchange for the Ethiopian properties.