29. Memorandum From Paul B. Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Horn of Africa Trip—Final Report

This memorandum completes the observations I sent to you in two cables from Addis Ababa and Khartoum2 during the course of my recent trip through the Horn (6–16 September 1977).

As we left Addis Ababa shortly before noon on 14 September, Berhane Deressa, head of the American section of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry (his brother, by the way, is a leading official of the EDU in London), who came to the airport to see us off, walked beside me out to the plane and whispered into my ear an appeal for release of the eight F–5E’s the U.S. had originally scheduled to supply to Ethiopia this year. “Our Air Force will consider these more valuable than a hundred MIG’s and they will not forget the United States if you supply them—I assure you,” he said; “there are people in our Air Force who understand the political factors here very well.” I did not have time to ask him what he was really trying to say, but I interpret it as a possible hint that the Ethiopian Air Force might take the lead in pushing Mengistu aside if they could be assured of subsequent American military support. During the early phase of the revolution the Air Force was opposed to Mengistu and his fellow extremists. We might have an option here that we could use in the future, but I should think we would want Mengistu pushed aside first and then we could supply the planes.

In Khartoum, we found the Sudan in an acute financial crisis. The outer world, under the influence of publicity about the Sudan’s rosy long-term economic development prospects, is largely unaware that the Sudanese government has used up all its working cash and is suffering an acute balance-of-payments problem which, if a solution is not found, could undermine the enormous development projects [Page 68] which Arab oil money and western entrepreneurs are underwriting. Our visit to Khartoum came on the Muslim holiday, Id al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) and we stayed only 12 hours; nevertheless, our ambassador arranged good meetings with officials of the finance and foreign ministries.

Acting Foreign Minister Deng (who had visited Washington this spring and is a former ambassador here)3 talked sensibly about the problems between Ethiopia and Somalia which pose dilemmas for the Sudan. The Sudan cannot support the Somali incursion into the Ogaden, because it is still concerned about its own territorial integrity and sympathizes with Kenya. They do not trust Mengistu, however, and find the Eritrean problem (which they feel Mengistu has exacerbated) awkward from every point of view. In the final analysis, Deng made clear, they would like to see the Eritrean question settled by negotiation which would reestablish some form of federation between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I told Deng that I hoped they might be able to encourage a negotiated settlement, drawing other Africans into the effort, even though the process would be slow. He indicated little hope of an Eritrean settlement while Mengistu remains in power.

I had a good talk with [less than 1 line not declassified] in Khartoum who are in touch with both Eritreans and EDU people [less than 1 line not declassified]. They are inclined to feel that factionalism among Eritreans will worsen and may even be exploited by the Ethiopians. They had heard that the EPLF was splitting (Marxists vs traditionalists) which would make four Eritrean factions! The EDU, they said, while beset by disagreements among its top leadership, is rather well organized at medium and lower levels and has people going in and out of Ethiopia, deep into the interior, all the time. If Mengistu begins to falter, the EDU will in all likelihood assert itself rapidly. But for the moment, the EDU has a problem: in view of the Somali attack, it does not want to appear to be stabbing Ethiopia (as opposed to Mengistu) in the back. It is wavering, therefore, on its plans for an early offensive.

I left the Sudan with the impression that it is going to remain an inward-looking country which wishes to concentrate on its own economic development and be involved in foreign affairs only with the purpose of defending its own territorial integrity and freedom of action. The Sudan will pay lip service to Arab causes only to the extent this is absolutely necessary to keep Arab money flowing in for economic development. The Sudanese are still preoccupied with reintegrating their South and are serious in trying to draw the Ansars back into the [Page 69] main stream of national development. This will not necessarily be an easy task. They want and deserve both economic and military support from us, but we must not overestimate the extent to which they can play an active role in the politics of the area. They are likely to remain strongly anti-Soviet.

In London we met with the Foreign Office official in charge of Horn and Kenyan affairs, Peter Rosling, and found that our perceptions of problems and prospects are very similar.4 The British plan to work hard to bolster Kenyan confidence and stability. They would like to see Kenyan relations with Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, broaden. There is a good basis for economic expansion. The British are not opposed to Israel’s presence in Kenya, but they do not want to see the Israelis drawing the Kenyans into an anti-Arab position.

I also had useful talks with Embassy political officers [less than 1 line not declassified] in London who are concerned with African and Middle Eastern affairs. [1½ lines not declassified] The British apparently see the EDU in much the same light [less than 1 line not declassified] divided and confused at the top, as exile movements always are, but commanding a considerable amount of support and following inside the country and capable of playing a role in northern Ethiopia and perhaps even in Addis if Mengistu falls or if there is further political deterioration in the country.

In conclusion, I would like to note a few things about the Horn I have not otherwise commented upon in my reports so far:

• The Chinese are unimportant as a factor in the area and have no capability for competing with the Soviets. To the extent that they have influence, it tends to be favorable to our (and to general western) interests.

• Djibouti, about which we were so concerned a few months ago, has been eclipsed as a problem by the larger spectacle of Somali-Ethiopian clash and the involvement of the Soviets with both protagonists.

• The Soviets could end up increasing their influence in the area, but they are winning neither love nor respect. Their aims are seen everywhere as self-serving and narrowly materialistic and contrasted unfavorably with our own approach. The large African diplomatic/UN community in Ethiopia, almost to a man, sees the Soviets as crass and opportunistic. Thus, in the longer run, their adventures in the [Page 70] Horn are not likely to increase their prestige or attractiveness elsewhere in Africa.

• With the flight of the ideologues from Mengistu’s government, the EPRP is not regarded as a very serious force in Ethiopia. Serious opposition to Mengistu is felt to be most likely to come from within the Dirg or from the Ethiopian military.

• The Horn is an area where everything that happens involves interactions between Africa and the Middle East. The more complex issues in the Horn become, however, the more the moderate states in both Africa and the Middle East are inclined to try to sit on the sidelines. This is not advantageous to our interests, for if the problems of this area are to be settled, there have to be compromises and careful negotiation encouraged by moderate governments with their own interests in stability in the area.

I will prepare a brief summary of conclusions from my entire trip for passing on to the President if you wish.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 1, Chron File: 8–9/77. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. In telegram 5433 from Addis Ababa, September 13, the Embassy reported on Henze’s meeting with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770331–0687) In telegram 3170 from Khartoum September 15, the Embassy reported on Henze’s meeting with Sudanese officials. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770334–1359)
  3. In telegram 43617 to Khartoum, February 26, the Department reported on Deng’s visit to Washington and meeting with Habib. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770068–0004)
  4. In telegram 15520 from London, September 16, the Embassy reported on Henze’s meetings with British officials. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770338–0309)