283. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy 0

Somali Prime Minister Abdirascid’s visit may prove a delicate one. He’s after more US aid and our support against Ethiopia; on neither account are we in a position to satisfy him fully, though we’re trying to be as forthcoming as we can.

[Page 447]

Somalia’s whole outlook is dominated by its fear of Ethiopia (it has an undemarcated border with Ethiopia’s Somali-populated Ogaden province), and its ambitions for a greater Somalia—including Ogaden, part of Kenya and French Somaliland.

Though Somalia’s inclinations are pro-Western, it regards the US as so committed to Ethiopia that it has tended to reinsure with the UAR and the Bloc (this in turn feeds Ethiopian fears). The Soviets have been quite responsive, to the tune of $57 million in credits. Both the UAR and USSR are training Somali military and technicians.

Because of our Ethiopian ties, we’ve tried to get the UK and Italy, as the former landlords, to shoulder the main burden of supporting this desperately impoverished little country (see Tab V-B).1 But we’ve also invested quite a bit, especially in the Chisimaio port.

Abdirascid will no doubt complain about our military aid to Ethiopia (primarily as rent for the Kagnew communications facility we’ve given about $10 million MAP annually to build up the largest—and most useless—force in East Africa). Here again we’ve relied on the UK and Italy to help Somalia, but their aid, always small, is declining. If we don’t start a small MAP program ourselves Somalia will turn increasingly to the all too willing Soviets and UAR.

A few hundred thousand a year in preclusive MAP for Somalia (we already support the police) will be much cheaper than the Ethiopian bill if Somalia goes to the Bloc and UAR. So if Abdirascid presses, we urge you tell him we’ll examine his needs. Haile Selassie will holler, but we propose to make the same points to him.

Even more important, I hope you’ll impress on Abdirascid the dangers Somalia is running if it pursues an irredentist course. It faces two broad choices, either to compose its quarrel with Ethiopia and take the road of internal development or to engage in an arms race in which we’ll inevitably be on the other side. We don’t see how Somalia can win out over Ethiopia; on the other hand, it could well use the UN route to mediate its boundary dispute (we don’t want to mediate this one because the prospects for success are poor).

Abdirascid also wants more economic aid. We’ve already given more than to most comparable African states (average of $2.5 million FY 1957-61, $14.2 million in FY 1962 and $8.8 scheduled for FY 1963). The biggest item has been $7.3 in development grants for the Chisimaio port; we’re committed to a $3 million second phase but there’s an argument over whether it should be loan or grant. AID rightly insists that all other such African capital projects are going on a loan basis and that our DL terms are hardly onerous (3/4%, ten years grace, 40 years to pay). But [Page 448] Abdirascid contends that we promised a grant. The history is sufficiently fuzzy that you may want to concede if he presses the issue.

We’ve been more than forthcoming enough with Somalia to justify lecturing our visitor gently about the dangers of walking both sides of the street. Guinea’s experience alone suggests that the Bloc eventually demands payment for its aid in one form or another.

The visit will be a success if we can send this fellow away thinking that (1) we’ll help defend him against Ethiopia if he’ll only stop tweaking Selassie’s nose; and (2) the West will be reasonably helpful on aid if he doesn’t play too much to the Bloc.

R. W. Komer
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Countries Series, Somali Republic. Secret.
  2. Not attached to the source text.