501.BB/9–749: Telegram

The Ambassador in Ethiopia (Merrell) to the Secretary of State

confidential

189. Stafford1 sent telegram on August 31 from Asmara to Clutton FonOff re political situation Italian Somaliland of which substance follows: “situation is at present quiet but political feeling will flare up as soon Assembly begins. Activity will be wholly anti-Italian in direction and will be possibly serious disorder should Assembly decide on return of Italy. Opposition to Italian return in any shape or form is strong. Almost any other trusteeship solution would be accepted with comparative equanimity. About 60% of [garble] population are disinterested and politically unaware of situation. Remainder including all intelligentsia and semi-literates except minority or less than 10 percent is opposed to Italian return. Little propaganda being carried on by Italians themselves who number only 2500 in entire territory. Conference pro-Italian clubs are apt be still receiving financial help from Italian sources”. Stafford expressed opinion that reputed success of Tripoli demonstrations and continued exhortations of [Page 583]Abdulla Hiiss from New York will undoubtedly cause Somali Youth League to stage big anti-Italian demonstrations throughout country at beginning or during a meeting. This he states has already been organized and there are possibilities of disorder when this occurs. Extent of disorder if any will be conditioned by (1) degree of provocation they receive from pro-Italian faction and (2) determination of SYL to obtain as much world publicity as possible for their anti-Italian stand. Use of strike weapon to hamper administration is likely at some stage. General belief is that at this point attacks on individual Italians are unlikely and that such incidents as result will be within administration’s ability to control, but once tempers are roused in Mogadishu lawlessness runs like wildfire out of control of every well intentioned leader.

Stafford believes there is substantially greater possibility of trouble now than there was last year or in April. Feeling among SYL is that they won first round at last GA and if they make good fight this time they can win next round and possibly the battle. Their strength and following is certainly as strong as it was at time of visit of Four Power Commission. He mentioned possibility of “inspired inclusions from over the Ogaden border” and “general feeling that although administration and military forces might be stretched to utmost it will be possible to control situation.”

Telegram added that “further postponement of question would be accepted with sigh of relief in political circles” but has many unsatisfactory aspects. Message stated it had been completed after consultation with chief administrator and his offices at headquarters and in the provinces.

Coded text to Nairobi.

Sent Department, repeated London 6 for Palmer.

Merrell
  1. Frank E. Stafford, Special Adviser to the British Chief Administrator in Eritrea.