290. Circular Airgram From the Department of State to Certain African Posts 1

CA-9629

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Policy in the Horn of Africa

REF

  • Addis Ababa’s 859 and 904; Mogadiscio’s 633 and 634; Nairobi’s 1450.2

The following text of a memorandum reviewed by the Secretary is provided as a guide to current Department thinking on the problems of the Horn of Africa, but should not be treated as an action document. Actions required to implement policy decisions will be specifically requested in action communications.

I. The Problem

A.
The basic problem for the US is to maintain our strategic interests in Ethiopia while preventing a substantial Soviet foothold in Somalia. [Page 505]Full support of Ethiopia in a conflict with a Soviet-armed Somalia would only aggravate the basic ethnic and tribal tensions in the area without solving them. The best hope lies in finding, preferably within an African context, a modus vivendi between the two countries which will create an atmosphere permitting an approach to the basic social and economic problems of the region.
B.
The problem in the Horn arises primarily from pressures for a Greater Somalia, stemming from the secessionist aims of Somalis in Ethiopia’s Ogaden Province and Kenya’s North East Region (NER) and actively supported by the Somali Republic. The problem is aggravated by the recent outbreak of violence and evidence of mounting Soviet interest in the area. Despite general African opposition to boundary changes, Somalia is not without some growing African sympathy for its position.
C.
The pressures on the US are particularly heavy in Ethiopia, host to a US military communications facility, Kagnew Station, and the recipient of over $80 million of US military aid since 1954:
(1)
Inadequate US support for Ethiopia in the current crisis could tempt the Ethiopians to offer to remove Kagnew in exchange for reduced Soviet support of Somalia.
(2)
Substantially increased US support for Ethiopia at this juncture could stimulate accelerated Soviet efforts on behalf of Somalia, engender African resentment at great power intervention, polarize the conflict in a Cold War context, and increase US political and financial involvement in a most intractable problem. Even a full Ethiopian victory over Somalia, if it were possible, would not solve the problem of the Somalis and would further increase the pressures within the Empire.

II. Background

A.
Somalia Republic: Western failure to support Somalia unification aims and a concurrent increase in ChiCom and Soviet aid have resulted in the elimination of the UK presence and a steady decline in US and Italian influence. The Soviet Union, building on a $60 million economic aid program, has recently gained both through the offer of a $30 million military aid program (not yet delivered) and through active diplomatic efforts tending to favor Somalia. Elections scheduled for March 30 have intensified Somali Government militancy on the Greater Somalia issue; at the same time they represent a possible opportunity for more moderate elements.
B.
Ethiopia: Nine months of unsuccessful campaigning against Somali guerrillas in the Ogaden has sapped resources and the morale of the security forces. Military leaders are chafing at the Emperor’s refusal to unleash them for a punitive expedition intended to choke off aid to Ogaden insurgents (but which would further overextend Ethiopian capabilities). Somali propaganda incites Ethiopian masses to revolt. Ethiopian concern is intensified by Moslem dissident activity in Eritrea. [Page 506]While somewhat shaken by events, the Emperor nonetheless still has the situation under control.
C.
Kenya: While dissident activity in the NER continues, at the moment the focal point of the problem is in the Ogaden and along the Somali-Ethiopian border.
D.
Organization of African Unity: OAU aid was sought by both sides when the situation deteriorated into a border war. The OAU has called for direct talks between the Somali Republic and its neighbors. At the moment an uneasy cease-fire prevails and efforts are being made to find a basis for direct talks, possibly in Khartoum. OAU Chiefs of State will consider the problem at their July meeting in Cairo.
E.
Soviet Union: While its position in Somalia has been enhanced by the current crisis, the Soviet Union has not yet given the Somali cause its full support and appears to be uncomfortable over the possible serious damage to its position in Ethiopia, Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.

III. Current US Objectives and Policies (Directed particularly at period between now and OAU Chiefs of State conference in July)

A.
International: To support both OAU efforts and those of individual African nations to find a basis for a cessation of violence and a modus vivendi between Ethiopia and Somali by:
(1)
Lending good offices, if necessary, to facilitate direct talks within the context of the OAU resolution at Lagos;
(2)
Support efforts toward a modus vivendi, including, if necessary, logistic support and equipment for border observation teams;
(3)
Furthering, where possible, joint economic development efforts in the Horn of Africa area (e.g., the Webi-Shebelli River Basin).
B.
Ethiopia: To retain Kagnew Station, our major strategic interest in the area, maintain the stability and integrity of Ethiopia, foster a continued useful role for the Emperor in Africa, and prevent further influence for the communists at our expense by:
(1)
Continuing military aid, including prompt but unostentatious delivery of special supplementary help to meet problems of the Ogaden, while refraining from activities in Ethiopia which might provide substance to Somali charges of US intervention on Ethiopia’s side of the dispute;
(2)
Continuing economic assistance, now running in excess of $5 million per year, in an effort to assist Ethiopia’s modernization;
(3)
Being prepared to consider projects which might help stabilize the Ogaden population;
(4)
Maintaining close consultation with the Ethiopian Government, both on the question of the Horn and concerning internal reforms essential to the continued stability of Ethiopia and the effectiveness of its security forces.
C.
Somalia: Retain measure of western influence by:
(1)
Continuing economic assistance (now running in excess of $3 million annually), including significant help to the Somali Police Force;
(2)
Continuing diplomatic efforts to keep Somali interpretation of US objectives and actions in perspective;
(3)
Lending discreet support to moderate elements;
(4)
Encouraging continued Italian efforts in Somalia, especially Italian leadership in western economic assistance, utilizing DAC and local consultations for this purpose.
Rusk
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 ETH–US. Secret. Drafted by Post and Newsom on March 17; cleared by Fuller in CIA, Colonel Heffner in DOD, Deputy Director of AID’s Office of Eastern/Southern African Affairs David E. Alter, Warren, Charles R. Stout of EUR/WE, Coote, Sol Polansky of EUR/SOV, and Herbert V. Olds of AFI; and approved by Tasca. Sent to Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Khartoum, Lagos, Asmara, Mogadiscio, Dar-es-Salaam, Cairo, Accra, Aden, London, Rome, and POLAD/CINCMEAFSA.
  2. Telegram 859 from Addis Ababa, March 2; telegram 904 from Addis Ababa, March 11; telegram 633 from Mogadiscio, March 8; telegram 634 from Mogadiscio, March 9; telegram 1450 from Nairobi, March 9; none printed. (Ibid.)