291. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Brubeck) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Current Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Present Situation

The present situation in the Horn of Africa contains elements of serious concern which would be particularly aggravated by a break in British-Somali relations:

The USSR and Communist China, which have from time to time shown particular interest in Somalia would be presented with the most favorable opportunity since Somalia’s independence to establish a position of influence by encouraging the Somalis to press their claims in various ways including the provision of financial and military support. The Communist countries would have to weigh very carefully the effect on their position in Ethiopia and East Africa of supporting what may well be the miniority side of an intra-African quarrel. Their support of Somalia in this crisis might therefore be so conceived and so purveyed as to minimize damage to their interests elsewhere in the area.
The situation poses threats to the peace in three areas:
Within Kenya’s Northern Frontier District, where Somali tribesmen, possibly with Somali Government support, might clash with British-led African troops.
On the Ethiopian-Somali frontier, where Ethiopia might move military forces, enhancing the risk of incidents with Somali military or police units.
Within Somalia itself, where a breakdown in internal security could occur, fomented by anti-Western elements and directed indiscriminately against all Western nationals (there are 437 Americans in the country, including 40 Peace Corps Volunteers widely scattered in the interior).
The termination of British aid to Somalia would leave gaps of approximately $2 million in budgetary support, $700,000 in development aid and $700,000 in military aid. (The US in the FY63 program is providing $4.6 million in development grants, $4.4 million in loan funds, and $1.7 million in PL-480 aid.)
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Steps We Are Taking

To meet these possibilities we have taken the following steps:

Urgent consultations carried on with the British continuously over the past few weeks to ascertain what they might be able to do to mollify the Somalis at least temporarily for the purpose of postponing or averting the rupture in relations.
Presidential message delivered to the Somali Prime Minister on March 14 strongly urging that channels of communication and negotiation with the UK be kept open.
Strong demarches made to both Ethiopia and Somalia on March 16 urging that they avoid such actions as troop movements which might appear provocative to the other side.
Temporarily delaying the US military survey team for Somalia, earlier scheduled to depart Washington March 17 to arrive Mogadiscio March 25.1
Urging the Italians on March 17 (to be repeated March 18) to accede to the British request that Italy assume responsibility for UK interests in Somalia in the event relations are definitely broken (we are willing to assume this burden ourselves but would prefer not to have our maneuverability so circumscribed).

Recommended Steps

Additionally, we are recommending:

that Governor Stevenson, after consulting with the UKUN Representative, approach the UN Secretary General to alert him to the situation, acquaint him with our concern, and discuss possible influence he may be able to bring to bear, either through the dispatch of a special emissary or through the UN Resident Representative in Mogadiscio;
that we urge the UNSYG to prevail upon the Somalis and the Kenya leaders to accept a formula calling for retention of the status quo for a 90-day period, to be followed by talks between Kenyans and Somalis after the May 18-26 elections in Kenya;
that we request the UK to urge moderation on Kenya leaders, particularly in public pronouncements concerning the problem;
that we instruct our African posts to solicit the views of African leaders and to suggest the possibility of African discussion of the problem in the PAFMECSA context or at the Addis Ababa conference of African heads of state tentatively scheduled for May 23; and
that if hard information is received of Ethiopian troop movements into areas where their presence might provoke hostilities, (a) a demarche [Page 460] be made to the Ethiopians reminding them that our military assistance agreement with them prohibits the use of US-supplied arms for aggressive purposes, and (b) a Presidential message be sent to the Emperor expressing our concern over the course of events and asking the Emperor’s assistance in reducing tensions.

Additional Factors

Another measure we have considered is to slow down the return of two battalions of Ethiopian troops which we are committed to airlift from the Congo. However, this movement will not begin until early April at the earliest, and it is not wholly clear that these two battalions are or would be a crucial factor in the problem described above. In the circumstances, we are not now prepared to recommend that we set aside or compromise the important principle that a country providing troops to a UN force gets them back when it asks for them.
The Department is considering the conditions under which we should regard it as useful to bring this matter to the Security Council, or to see it brought there by the Secretary General or one of the parties involved.
Grant G. Hilliker2
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Somalia. Secret. A handwritten notation on the source text reads: “(Taken from Pres week-end reading dtd 3/23/63—Tab 1).”
  2. A handwritten notation in the margin of the source text at this point reads: “Addis and Nairobi strongly objected to our sending team just now. It would also encourage Somalia to think we’d back them. RWK.”
  3. Hilliker signed for Brubeck above Brubeck’s typed signature.