309. National Policy Paper0

An introduction to the report, signed by Secretary Rusk on January 4, 1964, indicates, among other points, that Part I of the paper, covering objectives, strategy, and courses of action is “a comprehensive, authoritative and approved statement of United States Policy toward Ethiopia.” It also notes that “all agencies with major responsibilities affecting our relations with Ethiopia participated in drafting the paper and concur in the Strategy and Courses of Action which it sets forth.”


Part One

I. The Problem

The difficulties of formulating and attaining US policy objectives in Ethiopia derive not only from the complexities of Ethiopia’s problems but also from the nature of US governmental operations. Thus far the [Page 487] various US agencies with programs affecting Ethiopia have different and not always mutually consistent missions. Our immediate and short-term goals do not seem at first glance entirely consistent with our longer-term objectives. Some are essentially positive and progressive in character, looking forward to considerable change, while others appear negative, preclusive, or in support of the status quo. The risk is always present that the pursuit of longer-term policies relating to reform could unleash forces which could jeopardize immediate US interests. A balance of objectives is needed, therefore, in the interest of a continuing US influence in Ethiopia.

Our planning is complicated because we are uncertain how soon a change of regime will occur, in what manner, and with what group emerging in control. The Emperor, for example, could live another ten years or pass from the scene tomorrow. We must examine this and other contingencies as they relate to the power struggle and its implications for US policy.

II. Objectives

Principal objectives of the US with respect to Ethiopia are as follows:


To establish a relationship with any Ethiopian regime friendly to the US which will permit the continued, unhampered use of Kagnew Station and a continued exercise of effective US influence on Ethiopian policies.
To assure a stable, cohesive, and friendly government in Ethiopia, and to assist that government in making measurable economic and social progress, becoming more responsive to the desire of a broadening range of Ethiopians for political participation.
To bring about a reconciliation between Ethiopia and the Somali Republic involving, to the extent possible, recognition of borders, with agreement that force will not be employed in settling disputes.
To retard any further growth of Communist Bloc influence in Ethiopia.
To help preserve Haile Selassie’s moderating influence in All-African councils.


To maintain the unhampered use of our military communications facilities in Ethiopia (Kagnew Station).
To maintain correct and friendly relations with the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie while discreetly encouraging economic and social reforms and more rapid progress toward the development of Ethiopia as a modern state, especially by the introduction of political changes which will give the trained elements more participation in political processes.
To obtain the friendship and respect of elements likely to succeed the present regime in Ethiopia either by evolution or by revolution, e.g., young, educated Ethiopians, junior governmental officials, and liberal military officers.
To work toward minimizing friction between Ethiopia and the Somali Republic and the lessening of existing hostilities in the border area between the two countries.
To avoid or overcome to the extent feasible situations in which we might be obligated to support either Ethiopia or the Somali Republic against the other on a basic issue between them.
To maintain Ethiopian support of the UN and of concepts of collective security.
To encourage Ethiopia to use moderation in development of her military establishment and, as far as possible, to aid her in re-directing governmental expenditures from military to needs beyond that required for internal security.
To support the Emperor’s position of leadership in the Organization of African Unity as a means of tempering radical pressure within that body which are inimical to the West.

[Here follow Sections III-IX (pages 3-113).]

X. Conclusion

Political power relationships in Ethiopia still operate within a feudal-type framework. Loyalty to person, family, and clan are far more significant than are institutional ties to the State. The vast majority of Ethiopia’s people, an aggregate of disparate ethnic groups, of several different faiths, is still treated by the dominant Christian Amhara minority like conquered subjects. In this fragmented society, respect for military power is a major cohesive ingredient.

The present political structure, with the Emperor at its apex, is supported by four main groups. These include two traditional—the aristocracy and the clergy—and two more modern (in both of which the aristocracy is prominent), the armed forces and the government bureaucracy. A discontented younger educated elite is seeking greater power and influence, but within the present system rather than through its abolition.

It appears that this system still has a good deal of resilience, political and economic, and should continue at least for the next few years with no great change if Haile Selassie remains in control. It will probably continue, with certain adjustments primarily within the Amhara oligarchy, if his death occurs within the same short time-span. While there has been incipient plotting against the Government (and there may be new attempts to overthrow the Emperor), thus far these efforts have been disorganized and the dissidents are mindful of the need to retain the present [Page 489] system. Barring the unpredictable “sergeant’s revolt” or assassin’s bullet, we do not anticipate a radical and thoroughly revolutionary movement emerging unless the Emperor (1) remains on the throne beyond the next five or six years, (2) makes further reforms which are only window-dressing, and (3) leaves behind him the threat of a prolonged struggle over the succession. The longer this period lasts, however, the more important it will be that the system show valid evidence of constructive development which is uncertain without US pressure.

If this estimate is correct, we have more flexibility than would otherwise be apparent both in US policy formulation and timing. Thus we do not face the bald choices of supporting either those in power or those who will probably succeed them. Since those young modernists desiring change are still seeking it through enlarging and modernizing the present system, we should be able to work for the enhancement of their position without necessarily jeopardizing our relations with the governing authorities or upsetting the system. Furthermore, the crucial period in which we have to operate against a major threat to the internal political structure is not just the next few weeks or months but a range of several years. Within this longer interim we see the possibility of dynamic forces in the military and educated elite coming forward. Under the conditions posited above, they would either take over control or support a system which is more progressive but which still rests basically on the ethnic supremacy of the Amhara minority. Our own progress in this interim period could influence the direction in which these forces move and reinforce the social cement needed to build a stronger Ethiopia.

During this breathing spell, we must make every effort to maintain and improve the climate for Kagnew and to find some means of dampening or extinguishing the unfriendly fires on both sides of the Ethiopian-Somalian border. If we meet these objectives with straightforward and timely action, the strategic influence of the US in the Horn of Africa should be assured for the predictable future.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, AFRICA 1963. Secret; Noforn. Prepared in the Department of State. A handwritten notation on the cover sheet of the 114-page paper reads: “Secretary approved 1/6/64” and “Part I revised by AF 3/5/65.”