281. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Ethiopia 1

693. Department has noted with concern growing number verified reports of penetration by IEG forces, particularly Air Force, into Somali territory during recent fighting. Ethiopian sources for these reports seem feel such incursions fully justified as legitimate acts of self defense. Department does not share this view and feels that apparent IEG adoption this tactic as policy poses grave dangers for future of area and likely prove detrimental both to US and IEG interests. While recognizing approach already made this matter (Embtel 772)2 we feel that matter should be taken up by Ambassador preferably with Emperor or with Prime Minister at earliest opportunity and suggest approach contain following elements:

US conscious grave problems and pressures under which HIM laboring in current crisis. We continue our interest in security and international position Ethiopia. In this spirit we wish raise concern over aspects recent fighting, particularly as friend of Ethiopia involved in strengthening IEG armed forces.
US has followed with concern and dismay recent border fighting and its continuance beyond February 16 ceasefire deadline. In discussing fighting we not seeking assess responsibility in absence any such determination by African states although we acknowledge that problem would not exist in present serious form if ethnic Somalis abandoned their goal of Greater Somalia.
We have also shared HIM’s distress over vicious propaganda emanating from Mogadiscio and have brought our concern to GSR attention. We hopeful OAU cognizance of importance this element in current crisis will shortly result in cessation such attacks.
We were gratified by MinInfo statement of February 10 quoting HIM as having “ordered IEG forces not to counterattack into Somali territory despite attacks against them.” We welcomed this policy as one contributory to containment conflict and to swift attainment disengagement forces.
We also felt scrupulous adherence to this policy demonstrably in interests IEG, which has most to lose from having any doubts cast on inviolability of borders. Furthermore, departures from that policy could provide justification for similar GSR incursions in future. We are not unmindful probability acquisition by Somali of more sophisticated ground and air weapons.
We therefore disturbed by qualification placed on policy by MinInfo to effect that if “necessities of military action” forced Ethiopians to cross border, they would soon return afterwards and that if Somali forces persisted in aggressive policy situation would become quite different. We now further disturbed by confirmed reports of IEG penetrations well into Somali territory particularly by aircraft during recent fighting. We wanted to ensure that HIM aware of such penetrations and of our views concerning them.
We acknowledge extent IEG provoked in current crisis. We also recognize military desirability and consequent temptation presented military commanders to hit supply lines of opposing forces. Nonetheless past experience indicates world opinion favors side able restrain its military commanders in similar instances. Furthermore, it is questionable whether US equipment involved is being appropriately used for “legitimate self-defense” within terms Article I paragraph 2 of US–IEG military aid agreement of May 22, 1953. Further, US Congress wrote into last foreign aid bill provision requiring grant US military aid to Africa be limited to internal security requirements.
We therefore confident HIM will wish ensure strict compliance by IEG military with HIM’s order requiring scrupulous respect for borders. Such compliance would be consistent with Ethiopia’s stance re inviolability of frontiers and support international law.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–1 ETH–SOMALI. Secret. Drafted by Officer in Charge of Ethiopian Affairs Richard St. F. Post on February 19; cleared by Stephen Christmas of AID’s Office of Eastern/Southern African Affairs, Colonel Junkermann in DOD/ISA, and Newsom; and approved by Tasca. Repeated to Mogadiscio.
  2. Dated February 14. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 811 from Addis Ababa, February 21, Korry reported that he had made all of the points in telegram 693 to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on February 19, and that he would continue to try to see the Emperor. The Ambassador also conveyed his own impression that the Emperor was no longer in absolute control of events with his military commanders apprising him after the fact. (Ibid.)