340. Telegram From the Embassy in Somalia to the Department of State1

218. Ref: Mogadiscio 203.2

The note from new Egal government transmitted in reftel is in refreshing contrast with strident, polemical tone of communications GSR in habit of sending to us in recent years. Its timing (well ahead of critical confidence vote), contents, and style suggest that Abdirascid and Egal are making serious effort to break out of impasse in which GSR finds itself and have decided to make initial moves without delay.
Egal himself has long held strong private convictions about what he considered to be suicidal policies that GSR has followed in recent years. These have in his view neither gained intranational support for GSR nor contributed to internal economic and social development of this country. A patriot, he believes that in the fullness of time there will be changes in Horn in favor of the Somali people, but these will not come about until Somalia achieves more respectable international status and greater internal (social and economic) strength. A critic of the GSR break with Britain in 1963, he now comes to power in a government at serious odds with another major power (France) and two relatively strong African neighbor states who enjoy particularly close relations with Britain and the US respectively. The latter while not completely unfriendly has recently shown its displeasure by conspicuously excluding Somalia from its roster of African states slated for US bilateral economic assistance in the years ahead: and US military ties with Ethiopia interject an additional element of insecurity into GSR outlook. In Africa as a whole GSR realistically sees OAU as weak vessel indeed, and its only African “friend,” Sudan, is riven with internal divisions and preoccupations. Whatever be the religious and other ties with countries in both wings of the Arab camp, significance of recent ME denouement has not been lost on new GSR leadership both with respect to the weakness of the Arab states and the prudence (weakness?) of the Soviet Union in this crisis. There had been even earlier a mute GSR disenchantment with the Sovs both in the economic and military spheres. As for China, its internal turmoil and fanatical extremism leave an unfavorable impression here.
Such considerations together with the grave financial crisis facing new GSR govt as result Suez Canal closure have no doubt contributed to decision Abdirascid and Egal to embark on new tactical course. They cannot, of course, repudiate Somali irridentist objectives as such, nor is there any assurance given popular sentiments and pressures here and the nature of Somali political institutions that they can succeed in suppressing those subversive and violent aspects of their “cause” that stand in the way of a real detente with their neighbors and elicit the displeasure of powerful and affluent US. Their room for maneuver is limited and whatever initial small steps they venture must be taken in the face of recent official GOK and IEG demands for categorical renunciation by GSR of its irridentist aspirations as sine qua non for normalization of relations (pp 64–65 GOK “White Paper,” April 1967 and IEG note of last March in reply Abdirazak letter).
Between present state of “cold war” tensions between states in this area and attainment of enduring regional peace and stability are more modest way-houses which, if reached, would have intrinsic value per se and could constitute springboards for further progress. My Ethiopian colleague with whom I recently went over some of this ground has been sufficiently encouraged by his contacts with Egal govt to recommend to IEG that harassment of Somali Emb in Addis Ababa cease. He contemplates working for early exchange of Ethiopian Airways DC–3 long parked without maintenance at Mogadiscio Airport for SNP Cessna in IEG hands and even goes as far as to talk about exchange of “good will missions” between his country and Somalia (would be helpful have Emb Addis comments on reaction there to new tone from GSR). Other cooperative steps short of definitive settlement would be resumption of trade and air communications with Kenya, establishment of diplomatic relations with GOK, arrangements for Somali “trade trucks” to ply between Mogadiscio and Hargeisa through direct Ogaden route, contacts between high police officials on both sides of frontier, efforts by IEG to control their military from unauthorized expropriations of livestock and other property by Somali tribesmen in Ogaden, GOK measure to relax inhumane “villagization” measures in NED and in due course joint economic projects in frontier areas. Somewhere along this spectrum declaratory and concrete evidences of GSR disengagement from present back-up programs for “Shifta” violence would be indispensable requirement.
Considered “bad boy” of the Horn, Somalia has shown in recent weeks a remarkable capacity in African terms to transfer power from one group of political leaders to another in democratic and orderly fashion and has while making moral gestures of support to its Arab friends in their travail over Israel remained carefully aloof from the emotional campaign of abuse and violence against the US unleashed in the Arab world [Page 583] during the ME crisis. Now its new govt has taken another step, modest and tentative, in the direction of reduction of international tensions in the Horn and has asked US Govt to make these glad tidings known in Nairobi and Addis Ababa. It has also requested US Govt “to endeavor to discourage any new attempts to rekindle the armaments race in the area.” While this exhortation is obviously aimed in the first instance at curbing any further arms build-up in Kenya and Ethiopia, it also opens the door for a meaningful dialogue about further buildup of Somali military forces from Soviet or any other conceivable sources.
My recent conversations with Abdirascid and Egal and the GSR note under reference, together with foregoing considerations and analysis, thus pose challenging and timely questions which I strongly suggest call for more than routine consideration in Washington. In last year or two we have probably been wise to refrain from formal replies to the several polemical GSR notes that have come our way on the problems in the Horn and from assuming undue risks as an intermediary in what Under Secretary Katzenbach told former Prime Minister Abdirazak last May were insoluble frontier problems. Now the hard-pressed and well-intentioned Egal has provided an opening, the possibilities of which I believe he should explore prudently and in full recognition of the risks and responsibilities involved. The regional frictions are old and perhaps insoluble in toto, a not unusual description of the human condition generally, but there are new circumstances, new motivations and new personalities on the local scene to be taken into account. It is time for a fresh but not too protected look at the situation in this area—and for action.
Accordingly I recommend that this Emb be instructed to deliver a response to the GSR note along the following lines:
An enduring solution to the problems raised must be worked out directly between Somalia and its neighbors.
However, in view of the constructive tone and intentions expressed in the GSR note and without engaging ourselves in any formal good offices role, we are passing on the substance of the communications, as requested, to the IEG and GOK.
It is our belief that in such disputes as this all parties concerned must contribute to a solution by concessions and modifications of the positions that have led to the disputes and related tensions.
Without, therefore, wishing to impute to the GSR unilateral responsibility for the unsatisfactory relations which now unhappily obtain between itself and its neighbors, it is the belief of the US Govt that direct talks with the GOK and IEG can lead to positive results only if the GSR is prepared to demonstrate by deed as well as word that it is prepared to live in peace and cooperation with its neighbors. The cessation of support of hostile activities within the borders of those states is in our view a prime requisite of the detente the GSR states it desires. Inflammatory [Page 584] exhortations in press and radio are also detrimental to the objectives set forth in the GSR note. It would be expected, of course, that should the GSR find it possible to reconsider its position in these respects, similar responses on the part of other govts would be forthcoming, and a stabilized situation would prevail. Under these circumstances US Govt would be prepared to consider how it might best help parties concerned to come together for fruitful consideration of their other mutual problems.
Re second point in GSR note USG shares GSR concern over arms race in Horn of Africa and has worked to effect an end to this costly and dangerous development whenever and wherever its influence could be brought to bear for this purpose. The establishment of friendly and cooperative relations between GSR and its neighbors would be a major contribution towards halting the arms race in the area and might hopefully lead to understanding among the states concerned that would limit acquisition of arms to levels strictly necessary for internal security and defensive purposes. Should the GSR and its neighbors find it possible to devote appreciably smaller financial resources to the military portions of their national budgets, the US Govt would be disposed in concert with other friendly states and international organizations to find means of matching those savings with equivalent amounts of external assistance for economic projects in the countries concerned.
Above recommendations are based on assumption that Egal govt will succeed in obtaining vote of confidence prior to August 15 and that formal reply to GSR should be delayed until that time. However, it would be helpful have in interim instructions ASAP for encouraging verbal reply to Egal.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 SOMALI. Confidential. Repeated to Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Rome, London, Bonn, the Department of Defense, and Hargeisa.
  2. Telegram 203 from Mogadiscio, July 25, transmitted the text of a note verbale from the new Somali Government which expressed its sincere desire to find a just solution to Somalia’s problems with Ethiopia, Kenya, and France. It asked the U.S. Government to use its good offices with the leaders of Ethiopia and Kenya and to discourage any attempts to rekindle the arms race in the area. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 18567 to Mogadiscio, August 10, instructed Thurston to inform Egal that the U.S. Government was greatly encouraged by his “statesmanlike note.” If Egal survived the initial vote of confidence in the Somali Parliament, the Ambassador could say that the U.S. Government believed an enduring solution to the problems raised must be worked out in direct talks with Kenya and Ethiopia, but that such talks could lead to positive results only if Somalia was in a position to demonstrate that it was prepared to live in peace and cooperation with its neighbors. Telegram 364 from Mogadiscio, August 12, reported that the Somali National Assembly confirmed the Egal government by a vote of 119 to 2 with 3 deputies absent. (Ibid.)