Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State 1



a. objectives

The objectives of United States policy toward Ethiopia are: (1) the maintenance and improvement of friendly, cooperative relations between the United States and Ethiopia; (2) the prevention of Soviet or Communist influence over Ethiopia, and the maintenance of Ethiopia’s orientation toward the United States and western Europe; (3) the effective establishment of stable administration in the areas under Ethiopian sovereignty; (4) continued support by Ethiopia of the principles of collective security and international cooperation with respect to the United Nations; (5) the settlement of differences and the establishment of cooperative working relations between Ethiopia and adjacent territories, especially with respect to tribal migrations, undemarcated boundaries and the development of natural resources; (6) the balanced and orderly development of the economy of Ethiopia; and (7) the progressive development on an entirely cooperative and voluntary basis of United States and other foreign economic enterprises and cultural, missionary and political influences of benefit to the long-term interests of the people of Ethiopia.

b. policies

The friendly relations which existed between the United States and Ethiopia prior to the Italian occupation were greatly strengthened as a result of our policy of nonrecognition of the Fascist conquest and have continued since the restoration of the Emperor in 1941. Relations between the United States and Ethiopia were improved also when, by mutual agreement in 1949, the two governments raised the status of their respective missions in Addis Ababa and Washington from Legation to Embassy.

Since the end of the war there has been a tendency on the part of certain Ethiopian officials to base much of their thinking on international questions on their claims to two former Italian colonies, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Since Ethiopia will have access to the sea as a [Page 1239]result of the decision by the General Assembly of the United Nations to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia, it may be considerably easier in the future to reach amicable understandings with Ethiopia in regard to other matters.

In Ethiopia today, the foremost political and economic problems include governmental inefficiency and corruption, an undercurrent of opposition to certain key members of the government, the practical implementation of the UN decision to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia,2 strong opposition to and fear of Italian trusteeship over Italian Somaliland,3 irredentist demands, and French control of the Djibouti–Addis Ababa Railroad.

Political. The most immediate problems confronting Ethiopia in the field of foreign relations concern the resumption of diplomatic relations and the settlement of outstanding problems with Italy, the resolution of certain frontier questions, and the improvement of Ethiopia’s production for international trade, which may involve some foreign assistance. Ethiopia’s claim to both Eritrea and Italian Somaliland was considered by the Deputies of the Council of Foreign Ministers and on September 15, 1948, the question, as part of the Italian Colonies problem, was referred to the UN General Assembly in accordance with the Treaty of Peace with Italy. When the General Assembly was unable to reach a decision in May 1949, the matter was postponed until the next session which, on November 21, 1949, decided to place Italian Somaliland under Italian trusteeship for ten years after which it is to become independent. At the same time the General Assembly postponed the final decision on Eritrea by establishing a UN Commission to investigate the territory and report to its 1950 session. On December 2, 1950, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution providing that “Eritrea shall constitute an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia under the sovereignty of the Ethiopian Crown.”

The UN Trusteeship Council unanimously approved a draft trusteeship agreement for former Italian Somaliland at its Geneva session in January 1950, and the Italians assumed provisional administration of the territory on April 1, 1950. The UN General Assembly finally approved the trusteeship agreement on December 2, 1950.

Ethiopia’s border and jurisdictional difficulties with British and French Somalilands are under negotiation among those governments. An important interest of the United States in these negotiations is to see that the rights of the Sinclair Petroleum Company to develop petroleum in Ethiopia are not infringed by territorial adjustments [Page 1240]among those powers.4 The British have assured us that if agreement is reached on a proposal to cede to Ethiopia a corridor to Zeila in British Somaliland in exchange for a considerable section of southeastern Ogaden, to be annexed to British Somaliland, the rights of Ethiopia and the Sinclair Company to the sub-soil resources in that part of the Ogaden transferred to British Somaliland will remain in effect. It is understood that the French have withdrawn their objection to this proposed exchange on condition that any proposal to build a railroad in the area ceded by the British will require the consent of the French. The three governments will probably reach no immediate decisions on the matter, which may await the conclusion of new treaties between the governments concerned. The most serious boundary problem is Ethiopia’s undemarcated frontier with Italian Somaliland. The Ethiopians had refused to recognize Italian trusteeship of Somaliland and to participate in the settlement of that boundary until their claims to Eritrea had been satisfied. However, both Ethiopia and Italy accepted a resolution adopted on December 15, 1950, by the UN General Assembly calling for the delimitation of this boundary by direct negotiations between Ethiopia and Italy or, at the request of either party, by mediation with a UN Mediator to be appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN.

When the British Army began the reconquest of Ethiopia in 1941 a modified form of military government, set up in agreement with the Emperor, was introduced in each Province as it was retaken. In 1942 this administration was brought to an end but a number of British troops remained in the country. Under a treaty arrangement of 1944 the British continued to occupy part of the Ogaden Province in southeastern Ethiopia. In September 1948, by agreement with the British, the Ethiopians reoccupied part of the Ogaden Province. This agreement was followed in October by a resumption of operations in the vicinity of Wardere by the Sinclair Petroleum Company, but to date their drillings have not struck oil and the company is not sure what the prospects for finding oil may be in that area. The reentry of Ethiopian troops into the Ogaden Province was successful. There have been no acts of hostility on the part of the Somalis against either the company or the Ethiopians. The United States will continue to take the position that the Emperor should make and carry out satisfactory arrangements for an adequate division with the Somali leaders and people of any royalties on petroleum which may be obtained from the Ogaden. Coupled with an increased supply of water provided from wells drilled by Sinclair, such an income is needed by the Somalis as well as the Ethiopians if that area is to make any appreciable progress.

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Military. For the past few years Ethiopia has been desirous of obtaining from United States military or surplus stocks a considerable quantity of arms and ammunition. This material is desired to strengthen internal order and to standardize the equipment of its armed forces. Also, the Ethiopians are apprehensive because an Italian administration has been reinstalled in Somaliland and because the Italian armed forces there are using considerable quantities of American equipment and have even paraded tanks and jet fighters along the border of Ethiopia. Thus far Ethiopian efforts to obtain United States equipment have not met with success.

One result of Ethiopia’s disappointment in this regard was that it turned to European sources to satisfy its military needs. In 1948 the Ethiopian Government contracted with Czechoslovakia for the purchase of a small arms factory and certain other equipment. Recent reports indicate that the factory is now under construction and that a number of Czechoslovak technicians are in Ethiopia supervising its construction and operation. Early in 1949 the Ethiopians also made an arrangement with the UK whereby the British supplied 10,000 rifles and 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition from their Middle East stocks. Munition supplies were also sought from Sweden, Canada and Belgium.

Early in 1950 the Ethiopian Government requested the Department’s assistance in procuring military aircraft for the use of its Air Force.5 Despite repeated efforts made to meet this request, it did not prove possible to do so. The Ethiopians are still interested in obtaining aircraft and we are continuing to keep them informed whenever planes of the type or types in which they are primarily interested become available through the Department of Defense.

The Ethiopian Government has strongly supported the United Nations in the war in Korea. In July it contributed 100,000 Ethiopian dollars (approximately US $40,000) to the United Nations for medical supplies and in November offered a contingent of 1,069 officers and men for use in Korea. This offer has been accepted by the Unified Command and discussions are being held regarding the supplies and equipment for these troops. The Department feels that the use of Ethiopian troops in Korea is highly desirable politically because: (1) this would help the Ethiopians obtain United States arms and military equipment which, by mitigating their previous disappointments, should assist the United States in negotiations with Ethiopia for the continued use of certain military facilities in Eritrea; (2) of the great propaganda value of including among the UN armed forces a contingent of troops from an independent, colored nation in Africa, which would help to offset the Soviet claim that the Korean war is [Page 1242]white imperialist aggression against the colored races of the world; as well as (3) for the contribution to international collective security which the use of troops of another Member of the UN would provide.

At the time the Ethiopians expressed the desire to send troops to Korea, they also requested the United States to furnish the necessary supplies to arm and equip two or three divisions. This equipment, they maintained, would enable them to participate actively in the defense of their area and in collective security measures. Since Ethiopia is eligible to obtain this equipment only under Section 408(e) of Public Law 329, as amended, the Department is endeavoring to ascertain whether Ethiopia can meet the political and strategic prerequisites.

Economic. United States economic policy toward Ethiopia is to encourage and assist Ethiopia to achieve a sound, balanced and orderly development of its economic potentialities through development of its natural resources, improvement of the methods and means of agricultural and industrial production, and expansion of multilateral trade.

The Fellows Mission (FEA) of 1944 drew up a ten-year economic development plan on the basis of which Ethiopia in 1948 requested financial assistance from the US Government, which referred the request to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Fellows development plan, totaling $153 million, is conceived from an engineering viewpoint without regard to what is economically possible in Ethiopia, and appears to be too ambitious for the Ethiopians to undertake in its entirety, even over a ten-year period. Selected projects in the plan, however, are worthy of consideration by this Government and international agencies for such financing and technical assistance as may be needed and available.

Recently the Ethiopian Government submitted a request for a loan to the IBRD. In the spring of 1950, the Bank sent a mission to Ethiopia to investigate the suitability of such a loan. On its return the mission indicated that lending to Ethiopia would be limited more by Ethiopia’s ability to absorb and use capital effectively than by its ability to service a loan. As a result of the mission’s findings, the IBRD in September made two loans to Ethiopia: one loan for five million dollars will be used for the rehabilitation and maintenance of the country’s road system; the other for two million dollars will provide foreign exchange for projects to be financed by a new Ethiopian development bank. A third loan of one million dollars for the improvement of communication facilities has been recommended and an agreement for it is expected to be concluded in the near future.

One of the basic obstacles to the industrial development of Ethiopia is its lack of educated and trained technicians. A similar lack is apparent in the Government, although before the war the country [Page 1243]had a good start in developing industrial technicians. Until Ethiopia can develop its own managerial skills we should support its efforts to secure competent American advisers and technicians. The Ethiopian Government has been informed that certain funds have been allocated to it under the Point IV Program, and discussions are proceeding toward the establishment of a technical assistance agreement between the two countries and the development of projects to be included in the program.

One important objective of encouraging and assisting Ethiopia in developing its natural resources and otherwise increasing its agricultural and industrial production is to increase the volume of its foreign trade, as a means of satisfying its foreign exchange requirements. In line with that objective we should encourage Ethiopia to follow liberal and non-discriminatory trade policies.

Specific policies to promote Ethiopia’s economic development within the framework of our traditional economic foreign policy include: (1) encouragement of private foreign investments and commercial enterprises and the expansion of trade without encroachment on the sovereignty of Ethiopia; (2) support of efforts on the part of the UN specialized agencies to decrease illiteracy and improve educational facilities, improve agricultural and industrial productivity, to improve public health, and to develop aviation facilities; (3) support for the extension of additional loans by the IBRD for development projects.

We should continue to encourage the Ethiopian Government to utilize whatever technical assistance may be available from the United Nations and related international organizations that will be instrumental in contributing to the development of the country’s economy. We should emphasize the necessity of extending fullest cooperation to such organizations, and indicate our interest in seeing the successful conclusion of projects undertaken. Thus far, the projects conducted by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization have been helpful to the over-all economy. For example, the FAO has been inoculating cattle against rinderpest at the rate of 10,000 cattle per month. Thus for a cost of a few cents per head of cattle, it is possible to save Ethiopian farmers thousands of dollars and greatly improve the diet of the people.

We should continue to encourage exploration for petroleum and the development of such petroleum resources as may be discovered both as an alternative source of supply for the US and for the benefit of the local population. We will assist in any appropriate way the development of such resources by American concerns. The Sinclair Petroleum Company holds a concession to explore for and produce petroleum throughout all Ethiopia, and has begun drilling operations. There is some indication that other independent American companies may [Page 1244]desire to participate with the Sinclair Company in Ethiopian concessions, and, as far as possible, they should be encouraged and assisted in so doing.

Foreign private interests have thus far been extremely wary about investing capital in Ethiopia. With a view to creating a more favorable investment climate the Ethiopian Government in August 1950 embarked on a new policy designed to encourage the flow of foreign private capital into the country. The new policy containing the following inducements should serve as a stimulus to investment by foreign enterprises: (1) exemption from certain types of taxes; (2) exemption from customs duties on machinery imported for installation in factories; (3) relaxation of the requirement for the participation of Ethiopian capital investment in new enterprises; (4) permission to repatriate invested capital and a fixed percentage of profits earned.

The development of adequate transportation is a prime factor in the economic development of the country. Road, rail and air transport are all essential elements in the total transport system. In extending assistance and advice to Ethiopia the importance of the role which each mode of transport can best fulfill must be borne in mind.

The Franco-Ethiopian Railway has been the chief means of transporting Ethiopia’s foreign trade: sixty percent of the country’s exports and seventy-five percent of its imports are transported by the railway to and from the port of Djibouti in French Somaliland. The policy and operations of the company have long been a source of friction between France and Ethiopia which culminated in the Diredawa affair in August of 1949 and the subsequent strike of railway workers. The strike plus successful Ethiopan use of an alternative truck route to the port of Assab in Eritrea has forced the French to lower freight rates on the railway and grant other concessions in continuing negotiations with the Ethiopians. The US views with sympathy Ethiopia’s desire to have greater control over its only rail outlet to the sea.

The operation of Ethiopian Air Lines (EAL), under management contract with Trans-World Airlines, provides Ethiopia with a means of transport for commercial and government passengers, mail, and freight to points which are either inaccessible, or which cannot be speedily served by surface transport. These services are essential to the economy of the country, to the efficient administration of government, and to the east African air transport network. The success of EAL is an example of what can be accomplished in bringing the benefits of American managerial and technical ability to an underdeveloped area through a cooperative arrangement. The Export-Import Bank in June 1950 authorized an extension of credit to the Ethiopian Government of $1,000,000 to assist in financing the purchase of two modern aircraft (Convair) which have been obtained by the Ethiopian Air Lines.

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The 1914 commercial treaty between the United States and Ethiopia is inadequate. It lacks modern provisions covering rights to do business, import and export restrictions, exchange control, monopolies, and Government contracts. It also lacks the exactness and comprehensiveness of a present-day treaty. A draft of a modern treaty of amity and economic relations has been submitted to the Ethiopian Government which is shorter and more succinct than the standard Friendship, Commerce and Navigation treaties negotiated by the United States since the war. Realizing that special assurances are needed in Ethiopia regarding the administration of justice which it is not appropriate to include in a modern treaty, it is planned to retain the 1914 treaty in force with its provisions of most-favored-nation treatment on jurisdiction, and to reach further understandings in an exchange of notes at the time the treaty is signed.

c. relations with other states

Diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Ethiopia were reestablished in 1944, after a lapse of some 27 years. There has been active Soviet interest in the cultural and informational fields, which has taken the form of Soviet exhibitions in Addis Ababa, public showings of Soviet propaganda films, the exertion of pressure on the Ethiopian Government for the inclusion of favorable articles in government-controlled newspapers, and the establishment in Addis Ababa of a fully equipped hospital, staffed by Soviet nurses and doctors who have distributed pamphlets and newspapers in Armenian and English extolling Soviet medical progress. There has been evidence of Soviet pressure on the Armenian commercial community to adopt Soviet nationality, and some Armenians have emigrated to the Armenian SSR.

Soviet prestige in Ethiopia suffered a set-back when the USSR announced prior to the 1948 elections in Italy that it favored Italian trusteeship for the former Italian colonies. On September 14, 1948, in the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris, the Soviet representative reversed his position and advocated placing under direct United Nations administration all of the territories except for an outlet to the sea for Ethiopia through Eritrea. In the third and fourth sessions of the General Assembly the USSR and its satellites advocated the same proposal coupled with support for independence in the near future. These same states, however, in the fifth session of the General Assembly voted against the proposal sponsored by the United States and thirteen other nations that all of Eritrea be federated with Ethiopia.

The primary interest of the UK in Ethiopia is to assure peace and security in the Red Sea area and on the borders of the territories which it occupies or possesses. The British and Ethiopian Governments are [Page 1246]now negotiating a new treaty of establishment and a consular convention. Negotiations relating to the proposed cession to Ethiopia of the Zeila corridor in British Somaliland in return for part of the Ogaden Province have been pending since Ethiopia was primarily concerned with obtaining a favorable decision on Eritrea before proceeding on other territorial questions. The UK has been extremely active in the information and cultural field. The British Legation in Addis Ababa was the first diplomatic mission to be raised to an Embassy. The British exercise predominant influence in Ethiopia, a position to which we have no objection.

Although the Ethiopian Government continues to be interested in the possibility of developing the Lake Tana project as part of the overall development program for the Nile River, the discussions proposed for early 1950 with Great Britain and Egypt were not held due to the intervention of various political considerations which were linked to the Tana dam project. Recent reports indicate that Ethiopia and Egypt have reached an understanding on the Lake Tana project but the results are not yet evident.

France’s policy toward Ethiopia is part and parcel of its desire to reassert its position as a great power and to maintain intact its colonial empire throughout Africa and the world. Ethiopia’s attitude toward France, in the main, has been determined by French control of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway. Although France is disliked and distrusted in Ethiopia, the French language and culture continue to have considerable influence in the country. France’s policy toward Ethiopia at the present time may be said to include: (1) pursuit of those actions that will tend to secure France’s position on the Red Sea, along her lifeline to the Indo-China area; (2) strengthening, where possible, the position of the Compagnie de Chemin de Fer Franco-Ethiopien; (3) concluding a satisfactory treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with Ethiopia; (4) continuation of the highly successful cultural program, namely, the French Lyceum, the Cercle Francais, and the Alliance Francaise; (5) cooperation with Ethiopian officials with regard to the settlement of the French Somaliland-Ethiopian border delineation problem; (6) containment of the importance and growth of German influence in Ethiopia. In the summer of 1950 the respective missions in Addis Ababa and Paris were raised to the rank of Embassy.

Since the war Sweden has taken an active interest in Ethiopia, primarily on Ethiopian initiative. Sweden extended loans to Ethiopia totaling 7,000,000 kronor and assisted in obtaining several hundred doctors, nurses, engineers, geologists, teachers, police administrators, military advisers, and other personnel for the Ethiopian Government. Swedish prestige has been high. It is reported that the Adviser on Civil Air Matters in Ethiopia, a Swedish national, may become the [Page 1247]head of the Ethiopian Air Lines when the present management contract with TWA expires.

The interests of Italy and Ethiopia clash on the issues of the former Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Although Italy has professed a desire for the resumption of friendly relations, the Ethiopians cannot forget the repeated Italian attacks against them and the recent Fascist occupation of their country. Consequently, although individual Italians are not particularly disliked, Italy has no prestige in Ethiopia and the future pattern of relations between the two countries will be determined largely by the way the Italians administer their trusteeship of Italian Somaliland and whether the Ethiopians obtain a measure of satisfaction through having Eritrea politically connected with Ethiopia.

The Netherlands has shown renewed interest in Ethiopia. A goodwill mission was sent to Ethiopia in 1948, and a Legation was opened in Addis Ababa in October 1950. As a result of the goodwill mission, the Ethiopian Government engaged the services of several Dutch advisers. The Dutch apparently are not only interested in increasing trade between the two countries but also in making capital investments in Ethiopia.

With the possible exception of Czechoslovakia, no other states have shown an active interest in Ethiopia, apart from trade prospects. The interest shown by Czechoslovakia stems largely from its sale of a small arms factory to Ethiopia in 1948 and the resulting presence of a number of Czechoslovak technicians in Ethiopia.

d. policy evaluation

US policy with respect to Ethiopia must reflect the problem which Ethiopia itself presents. The progressive development of stable government and economy in Ethiopia, including Eritrea, would strengthen another weak area exposed to Communist penetration and subversion and thus contribute to the stability of the Near East and Red Sea area.

Our general policy of helping the Ethiopian Government whenever circumstances permit has been successful in many directions. The day-to-day relations between the United States and Ethiopia are amicable; the Ethiopian Government has shown a preference for American advisers as compared with those of other countries; and United States trade with Ethiopia has increased many fold. The active support which the United States gave to Ethiopia’s claim to Eritrea in the General Assembly is deeply appreciated by the Emperor and has gone a long way in assuring the Ethiopians of the sincerity of our intentions toward that country. The activities in Ethiopia of two American concerns, Trans-World Airlines and the Sinclair Petroleum Company, [Page 1248]are viewed with considerable satisfaction by the Ethiopian Government. The Point IV Program, if adequately administered, should increase the cordiality of US-Ethiopian friendship.

Our policy has not been completely successful, however, in breaking down the suspicions with which the Ethiopians tend to view most western countries. Having been subjected to “spheres of influence” and even to invasion from certain European countries, this suspicion is deep-seated and will take a long time to erase. It is hoped that this can be overcome by greatly expanded educational and informational programs, by assistance programs, and by increased contacts with the western world for a much greater proportion of the people.

  1. Department of State Policy (Information) Statements were concise documents summarizing the current U.S. policy toward, the relations of the principal powers with, and the issues and trends in a particular country or region. The statements were intended to provide information and guidance for officers in missions abroad. They were generally prepared by ad hoc working groups in the responsible geographic offices of the Department of State and were referred to appropriate diplomatic missions abroad, under cover of formal instructions from the Secretary of State, for comment and criticism. The Policy Statements were periodically revised.
  2. For documentation on the United Nations decision to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 1640 ff. For the text of the final decision of the General Assembly on Eritrea, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifth Session, Plenary Meetings, pp. 529 ff.
  3. For documentation on the United Nations decision on Italian Somaliland, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 1689 ff.
  4. Documentation on Sinclair Petroleum Company operations in Ethiopia is in Department of State file 875.2553.
  5. For documentation on the Ethiopian request for military aircraft, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 1691 ff.