292. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy0

Attached is a fuller rundown on how we’re trying to damp down Somali-Kenya-Ethiopia tension.1 We’ve already invested considerable effort, but must be careful because of our larger interests in Ethiopia and [Page 461]Kenya. Also, the Somalis have painted themselves into a corner by breaking relations with the UK, despite our best efforts. This will cost them $3.4 million in UK aid. Kenyan leaders have hardened against ceding any of their Somali-inhabited territory.

UK ineptness has added to this mess. The British have long encouraged the Somalis to think the UK would give them Somali Kenya before granting Kenyan independence. But Sandys, in negotiating the Kenyan constitution and paving the way for self-government there in May, reversed field and triggered off the Somalis.

We’re in the middle. The Somalis will ask us to fill the aid gap, but we’re already hard-pressed to justify the $10.7 million we’re giving this year. We don’t want to oppose Kenya, and most other Africans back Kenyans. But Kenyan refusal to cede Somali region will provoke further Somali agitation and invite Bloc meddling.

Moscow may go slow to avoid alienating Ethiopia and Bantu Africa. However, the Soviets have increased their effort in Somalia in the past year and may be willing to pay the price for a toehold on the Gulf of Aden. As for the Somalis, Abdirascid wants to avoid Bloc aid, but his opposition is pressing for it.

Immediate job is to keep the Somalis from further violence. We’ll use our MAP survey team (held up until current flurry ends) to maintain our influence. State recommends we get U Thant to propose 90-day cooling-off period leading to Somali-Kenyan talks.

What happens in Kenya in the next year will be the key to ultimate solution. If Kenyan leaders foresee so much trouble controlling the Somalis that they decide to allow increasing autonomy, there might be a way (cession, purchase, UN plebiscite) to transfer Somali region to the Somali Republic. But this sets a bad precedent in rest of Africa, and Ethiops would violently oppose. So best line may be to dampen Somali irredentist hopes and convince Somalis their best bet is cooperation in some sort of East African federation.

Bob Komer
  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. Document 291.