347. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1


  • Your Meeting with Prime Minister Egal (A–Gal) of Somalia
  • Thursday, March 14—12 Noon


  • 11:30 AM: Arrival at diplomatic entrance (arrival statements and full military honors)
  • 12:00 Noon: Alone (Egal is fluent in English) advisors standing by in Cabinet Room
  • 8:00 PM: White House Dinner


  • At Tab A is Katzenbach’s briefing memo.2
  • At Tab B are State’s Talking Points.3
  • At Tab C is biographic information on Egal.4


Somalia is a poor dry country on the upper east coast of Africa between Kenya and Ethiopia—the “Horn” that juts out into the Indian Ocean just below the mouth of the Red Sea. It became independent in 1960. It is, despite its economic backwardness, a model democracy by African standards.

The major factor complicating U.S.-Somalia relations is the very serious tension and arms race between Somalia and Ethiopia, as well as a milder form of the same problem with Kenya. We are prime arms suppliers to Ethiopia. The Russians supply Somalia. Until Egal’s election last July, both sides rattled sabers with abandon. The basic problem is tribal irredentism; more than one million Somali tribesmen live in Ethiopia and Kenya. Somalia’s traditional policy has aimed at annexing all areas populated by ethnic Somalis—by force if necessary.

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How Egal handles the border problem will make or break his political future. He has put his chips on a turnaround from belligerence to detente with Ethiopia and Kenya. Over the past few months, with our quiet applause, Egal has begun peace talks with Haile Selassie and Jomo Kenyatta, pulled back the Somali guerrillas raiding the border areas, and cut his military spending. With each of these steps he is walking on eggs in his Parliament. Everybody in Somalia has some clan relative living on the other side of the border. If the detente doesn’t blossom, or if Egal stumbles, the dispute will slip back into the old bitterness—probably all the worse for the failure of this effort.

Talking Points


Border Problem—You might open by telling Egal how much we admire his courageous efforts to reduce tension with his neighbors, and ask for his views on the prospects for the detente.

He will probably give you a lengthy rundown on what he has done and how hard it has been to carry along his own people. He may ask us to work on the Ethiopians and Kenyans. And there is likely to be a strong hint that we make things tougher for him by continuing to supply arms to the Emperor.

You might reply that:

  • —We understand his problems. Vice President Humphrey put in a good word for Egal’s policy when he saw the Emperor and Kenyatta in January.
  • —We will continue to give discreet encouragement to all sides.
  • —But only the parties themselves can solve this dispute. Our influence as an outsider is very limited, and a push by us might even be counter-productive.
  • —We don’t think the Emperor has aggressive designs on anybody. We’d hope that the detente will eventually lead to an agreement to limit arms in the area. In the meantime, we are very pleased with the cuts in military spending that Egal has made.


Aid—Egal is concerned about our aid cut-back in Africa. Somalia is not one of our concentration countries. Bilateral U.S. aid is scheduled to phase out over the next four years in favor of multilateral and regional projects. This will not affect food or the Peace Corps.

Egal may make a strong pitch that he needs aid more than ever to hold the line against his hawks by presenting a credible development alternative.

You might say:

  • —We are not withdrawing from Africa in general or Somalia in particular. Congress willing, we hope to put more—not less—aid into Africa in the future than in the past.
  • —We have put more than $70 million in Somalia since 1960, almost $20 million last year alone.
  • —We hope Somalia will join with her neighbors to put together regional projects which will be eligible under our new policy. We know this is tough. But we think it is terribly important.
  • —In any event, the new policy will not affect food aid, the Ex-Im Bank, the Peace Corps, or projects done jointly with other donors.
  • —We are delighted to inform the Prime Minister that we are now ready to sign a $1.1 million PL–480 agreement. This is evidence of our concern.

Vietnam (Egal has been silent.)
W.W. Rostow 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 66. No classification marking. Drafted by Edward Hamilton and Roger Morris.
  2. Document 346.
  3. Not printed; briefing material for Egal’s visit is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Somali Republic, Visit of Prime Minister Egal, 3/14–15/68 and Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 SOMALI.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.