42. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 76–58

[Here follows a table of contents.]


The Problem

To assess current trends in the Horn of Africa and to estimate their effect on the stability and orientation of the region over the next few years.


The Horn of Africa, one of the most backward areas in the world, is divided by ancient antagonisms, the most significant of which is that between the Coptic Christians who constitute the essential national component of the Ethiopian state and the Moslem populations which surround them. Among the latter the most important are the Somali tribes inhabiting the Ogaden province of Ethiopia as well as the three Somalilands (see Maps 2 and 3). (Paras. 8–10)
Ethiopia is ruled by the Christian Amharas (less than 15 percent of the population). The old Emperor is authoritarian, but is endeavoring to modernize the state through programs of gradual economic and political development in spite of opposition from powerful ecclesiastical and feudal elements. He has the internal situation reasonably [Page 176]well in hand. However, his death or incapacitation is likely to precipitate a struggle for power at the center, possibly complicated by secession movements in Eritrea and in outlying provinces of the empire. (Paras. 13–30)
Somalia, the former Italian Somaliland, is scheduled to become an independent state in 1960. The outlook for such a state is extremely unpromising in view of the political inexperience of its people and the inadequacies of its economy. The tenure of the Western-oriented leaders of the Somali Youth League, who now control the government, is rendered precarious by their dependence on Western economic aid, the possibilities for intertribal conflict, and the challenge of the irredentist program of the Greater Somalia League. (Paras. 32–36)
The French are likely to be able to retain effective control in French Somaliland at least for the next few years, but the British position in British Somaliland will be difficult to maintain after Somalia attains its independence. The eventual union of that area with Somalia is likely. Such a union would tend to undermine the Ethiopian position in the Ogaden. (Paras. 37–40)
The inherent conflict between Ethiopia and growing Pan-Somali nationalism is intensified by virulent Egyptian propaganda directed toward subverting the non-Amhara subjects of Ethiopia and toward inciting the Somalis against the colonial powers and Ethiopia. Ethiopia, alarmed by the threat of hostile Moslem encirclement and subversion, calls on the US for political and military as well as economic support. Ethiopia is also making serious efforts to develop support elsewhere in Africa. The Western Powers will find it increasingly difficult to render aid to either Ethiopia or Somalia without offending the other. (Paras. 41–44)
The Soviet role in the area is flexible and subtle. There is no politically significant Communist party activity in the area. However, at the governmental level the USSR, already aiding the Yemen, has recently approached both Ethiopia and Somalia with ostensibly disinterested offers of aid, in accord with its general cultivation of Afro-Asian states. Its immediate objective is the promotion of neutralism. (Para. 43)
The British are deeply concerned regarding the political trends and prospects in the Horn of Africa because of their interest in the preservation of a strategic position in the region, including Aden and Kenya. They apparently consider that this interest can best be served by a coordinated Western policy of supporting and encouraging favorably disposed elements in the Sudan and Somalia, leaving it to the United States to prevent, through aid and reassurance, any Ethiopian reaction either toward neutralism or toward aggression against Somalia. (Para. 45)
[Page 177]

[Here follow the “Discussion” portion of the estimate (paragraphs 8–45), with sections headed “Introduction,” “The Situation in Ethiopia,” “The Situation in the Somalilands,” and “The Relation of Outside Powers to the Situation,” and three maps.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) were interdepartmental reports drafted by officers from agencies represented on the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC), coordinated by the Office of National Estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), approved by the IAC, and circulated to the President, the National Security Council, and other appropriate officers of cabinet level.

    A note on the cover sheet reads as follows:

    “Submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence. The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff.

    “Concurred in by the United States Intelligence Board on 12 November 1958. Concurring were The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Intelligence, Department of the Navy; the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF; the Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff; the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Special Operations; and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the USIB and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.”

  2. Ethiopia (including Eritrea), Somalia (formerly Italian Somaliland, now a UN trust territory under Italian trusteeship), British Somaliland, and French Somaliland. [Footnote in the source text.]