279. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Ethiopia-Somalia Border Clash

During the period February 6–8 Ethiopian and Somali forces clashed at the border town of Tug Wajale. Although there was a lull in fighting on February 9, reports now indicate that it has been renewed, is continuing and may have spread to two other border localities. Tug Wajale is in the Northern District of Somalia; it straddles the frontier between Hargeisa in Somalia and Jigjiga in Ethiopia.

The border clash has caused the GSR to proclaim a national emergency and reportedly to request urgently a meeting of the Security Council to consider a Somali charge of Ethiopian aggression. However, U Thant has appealed to the Emperor and to GSR Prime Minister Scermarche to end the hostilities immediately. The Ethiopians have proclaimed an emergency in the border area and have requested the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to consider their charge of aggression by Somalia at the Ministers’ meeting on February 12 at Dar-es-Salaam.

We have instructed our Embassies to urge both sides to exercise maximum control over their forces and restraint in their public statements in order to ease the tension.2 We have informed the Somalis that we believe countries which are parties to a dispute in a region should first use regional institutions to find solutions to the dispute. The Somalis, despite their announced intention to see UN action, have indicated to our Ambassador a receptiveness to OAU consideration of their complaint. We are therefore hopeful that the OAU ministers will agree to consider the Ethiopian and Somali complaints and that this will lead to a disengagement of IEG-GSR forces and commencement of a cooling off period.

The clash at Tug Wajale is the second between the GSR and the IEG in less than a month. It reflects the tension caused by Somali nationalism [Page 491] and the Emperor’s suspicion that the GSR in pursuit of a “greater Somalia” is encouraging dissidence among the Ethiopian Somalis in the Ogaden by arms and propaganda. This tension will be substantially increased if Ethiopia carries through its announced intention to close the border to Somali herdsmen who have traditional grazing and water rights on the Ethiopian side of the line

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–1 ETH–SOMALI. Secret. Drafted by Blake.
  2. Telegram 655 to Addis Ababa (also sent as telegram 400 to Mogadiscio), February 11, instructed Korry and Torbert to see the Emperor and President Aden respectively in order to express the deep U.S. concern over the renewal of fighting in the region and to urge prompt action by both Heads of State to provide the basis for a genuine cease-fire and atmosphere for easing tensions. (Ibid.)