23. Telegram From the Embassy in Ethiopia to the Department of State1

4511. Subject: Ethiopia Alleges Full-Scale War of Aggression.

Summary. FonMin convoked entire Addis dip corps seriatim including OAU, but probably less Somali’s COM, morning July 25 and handed each Chief of Mission note verbale informing that as of July 23, 1977, at 0300 hours GMT, Somalia’s armed forces supported by tanks and aircraft had crossed border and have started full-scale war of aggression against Ethiopia. For several months GSDR has been infiltrating regular troops into Ethiopia for purpose of committing aggression short of full-scale conventional war. Ethiopia had been successful in repelling these troops, therefore GSDR has now resorted to “direct armed aggression using its combined ground and air forces.” Chiefs of Mission urgently requested inform their governments. Replying to questions, FonMin said matter had been referred to OAU, that EPMG might bring matter to UN Security Council depending upon developments, and that EPMG did not now plan on breaking diplomatic relations with Somalia. No formal protest to Somalia has been made, nor is a declaration of war apparently intended—“we are (already) in a state of (undeclared) war.” End summary.

1. Foreign Minister Felleke Gedle-Ghiorgis summoned all Chiefs of Mission in geographic groups to MOFA morning July 25. To American group he opened meeting by noting that a grave situation had devel[Page 58]oped as result “unprovoked” Somali aggression. Diplomats had been following events connected with Somali armed incursions. Now he wanted us to know that on July 23, 1977, at 0300 GMT, combined armed forces of Somalia had launched attacks on Ethiopia at Deghabur, Kebredehar, Warder and Gode, and that there was “serious fighting going on at this moment.” He then handed each of us note verbale, text of which follows:

Quote. On 23 July 1977 at 0300 hours GMT Somalia’s armed forces, supported by tanks and aircraft, have crossed the common boundary into Ethiopian territory and have started full scale war of aggression against Ethiopia. These forces are now carrying out military operations at Deghabur, Kebredehar, Warder and Gode inside Ethiopia. The situation which is a serious threat to international peace and security, is a culmination of Somalia’s expansionist policy which has as its goal the annexation of Ethiopian territory.

Quote. Over the last several months the Government of the Democratic Republic of Somalia has been infiltrating its regular troops into Ethiopia for the deliberate purpose of committing aggression against Ethiopia short of launching a full scale conventional war. These troops which are heavily armed with sophisticated weapons such as missiles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons have thus far carried out systematic and extensive terror and sabotage in eastern and southern Ethiopia. Furthermore, these heavily armed Somali troops had attacked Ethiopian outposts in the vicinity of Dogob, Togochale, Elgersele, Alaibede, Eneguhan, Debeguriale, Ferfer, Elkoren and Dudub. Although such attacks by the Somali armed forces constitute flagrant violations of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, the Government of Ethiopia, exercising utmost self-restraint and having no desire to escalate the situation into direct military confrontation between the armed forces of the two countries, has taken every precaution to limit the defence of its territory within the confines of its international boundary and had been successful in repelling the infiltrating Somali troops.

Quote. As the aggressive actions it has taken so far by infiltrating troops have thus failed to achieve its expansionist objectives, the Government of Somalia has now resorted to direct armed aggression using its combined ground and air forces.

Quote. In view of the above, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PMG of socialist Ethiopia requests Their Excellencies the chiefs of diplomatic missions to inform urgently their respective government of these grave developments. Unquote.

2. In reply to questions, Felleke said OAU has been informed, that there are OAU procedures to be followed and “OAU will take necessary measures.” Ethiopia might bring matter to UN Security Council depending upon developments. For now, however, EPMG has [Page 59] approached first forum, i.e., OAU. Asked whether formal protest to Somalia had been made, re replied only that “we are in a state of war—fighting is going on in Ethiopian territory.” This is “undeclared, war, all elements are there.” Finally Ethiopia did not plan to break relations with Somalia “for now.”

3. American group compared notes with Western Europeans immediately afterwards. Presentation and replies to questions were same. Reportedly Somali Ambassador was not included in African group which met earlier.

4. Comment: Substance of note verbale closely paralleled PMAC statement carried over media evening July 24 (see FBIS London 241644Z Jul 77),2 full text of which we do not yet have. Immediate reaction of West European and American diplomats was to note seriousness with which Ethiopia is taking Ogaden situation. Convoking dip corps of course also opens up variety of diplomatic possibilities beginning with OAU, but we shall have to wait to see where Ethiopia wants to go in diplomatic terms.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770264–0773. Secret; Immediate. Sent for information Priority to Cairo, Djibouti, Jidda, Khartoum, Libreville, London, Mogadiscio, Nairobi, Moscow, Paris, USCINCEUR, USUN, and Sana.
  2. Not found.