183. Memorandum From Jerry Funk of the National Security Council Staff to Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff1


  • Strategy for the Horn

This is in response to Zbig’s request for ideas on strengthening our position on the Horn.

Our first problem is to get State to agree in unequivocal terms that the Horn is vital to our national interests, and therefore worth the price of an active positive program to reassert our interest. This may require a PRC, and a good bit more to gain acceptance of the notion that passivity is not the way to peace and stability.

Flowing from this basic premise, we must gain a clear understanding that if the Horn is key to our interests in both the NE and Africa, then Ethiopia is the key to the Horn. Therefore, we must either try to regain our influence in Ethiopia, or retreat into a more difficult, dangerous and costly position of trying to “contain” an Ethiopia which serves as a base for Soviet/Cuban expansion.

Once this major (and minor) premise is understood and accepted, we can turn our attention to the individual countries. Again, we have to gain acceptance of our active program to reassert our strength with each nation.

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Sudan. I have the sense that we are headed in the right direction with Sudan—a combination of military and economic assistance. But the vital importance of the success of this program must be reemphasized, and we should be more attentive to helping Nimieri with his growing Ethiopia refugee problem, and his increasing requirements for security along his lengthy border with Ethiopia.

Kenya. I feel that State in general, and our Embassy in particular, does not fully appreciate the present vital (to us) role being played by Kenya, as our one solid, reliable friend in old East Africa. Nor is there a real understanding of the pressures on Kenya—the Somali threat, the problem of the probable installation of a government in Uganda which will be greatly influenced by Nyrere, the worry of the Soviet/Cuban force on their northern border.

We should: (1) continue to be more responsive to Kenya’s need for both economic and military assistance; (2) reassure Kenya of our determination to restrain the Somalis; (3) actively assist GOK in its internal security function, with special attention to possible Soviet/Cuban activity; (4) encourage Kenya to exert some influence on the Ugandan war, so as to gain an IOU from Nyrere; and (5) encourage Nyrere to cooperate with GOK in establishing a new order in Uganda acceptable to both Kenya and Tanzania.

Somalia. We must gain clear acceptance of the notion that Somalia is a threat to regional stability for so long as Siad (or successor) continues active support of Ogaden expansion, and that to support him in the name of Soviet containment is counter productive.

We must continue to make it unmistakably clear to Siad that we will not arm him until he renounces Somali claims on Kenya and Ethiopia.

Yemen. Our stand with North Yemen is right on, certainly as far as sending some badly needed signals to the Horn and indeed to the rest of Africa.

Ethiopia. I am firmly convinced that we can and will regain a large measure of influence in Ethiopia at the expense of the Soviets, and I feel we can and should actively hasten the day.

As a basis for such a program, we need to do all we can to main-tain as large and as active a mission as possible, including an AID component.

There remains in all walks of Ethiopian life significant and important friendship, and proclivity for things American and Western. The Soviets (and to a lesser extent) the Cubans have certainly not won the hearts and minds of the people, and the veneer of Marxism-Socialism is very thin. (This does not mean that the reforms of the revolution would or could be rescinded.)

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Mengistu was confirmed in power by the Soviets, and the Soviets must realize that they will be asked to stay only for so long as Mengistu needs them to keep him in power. Therefore, if the Soviets want to use Ethiopia as a base for exporting their influence around Africa, it is in their interest to maintain a low-level, static instability in and around the Horn—along the Sudan/Ethiopian border, low-level Eritrean and Somali threats, and economic difficulties.

Thus, the Horn can look forward to instability for so long as the Mengistu/Soviet alliance remains.

Mengistu (or more properly, the Mengistu clique which must rely on Soviet support), is vulnerable on two grounds—the emotional “ferenji”2 issue, and the economic issue. [2 lines not declassified]

[3 paragraphs (21 lines) not declassified]

Conclusion. I am fully aware that these ideas are not presently popular, in many quarters, and specifically at State, and in parts of the Hill. But I sense that they may be becoming less unacceptable, and that we should try to float them once again—as the most reasonable way to try to regain our influence in the Horn, and to strengthen our position in Africa as a whole.

Note. I have discussed these ideas on Ethiopia in general with [2 names not declassified] The capability is there, as is the will. What is needed is a directive to start planning, and then to move.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 2, Chron File: 3/79. Secret.
  2. Foreigner.