30. Memorandum from the Vice President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clift) to Vice President Mondale1

Memo No. 1526–77


  • Meeting with President of Djibouti—Additional Background

The State Department has forwarded a draft report on President Hassan Gouled’s meeting with Warren Christopher yesterday (Tab A) together with additional suggestions for talking points (Tab B).2

—If President Gouled brings up his request for additional aid, you should say it will receive the most careful attention, that you know we have experts at work on the problem and that you are aware that the subject was raised with Mr. Christopher. Dick Moose can expand on this during the meeting.

[Page 71]

Tab A

Memorandum of Conversation3


  • Djibouti: Views on Ogaden Conflict; Development Needs; Refugee Problem


  • Djibouti

    • Hassan Gouled, President
    • Foreign Minister Mr. Abdallah Kamil
    • Ambassador to Paris Ahmed Ibrahim
  • US

    • Acting Secretary Christopher
    • Mr. Moose
    • Mr. Post
    • Mr. Toumayan, Interpreter

Mr. Christopher welcomed President Gouled on behalf of Secretary Vance who was on the way back to Washington and wished Mr. Christopher to convey his welcome. Mr. Christopher was particularly happy to greet President Gouled since we were aware of the long struggle he had been involved in so intimately which culminated in Djibouti’s independence.4 This must be a source of pride and satisfaction to you. Mr. Christopher said that the United States would do all it could to help Djibouti. He expressed his pleasure that President Gouled would be visiting Vice President Mondale on whom the President relies heavily for a variety of matters, foreign and domestic. Mr. Christopher expressed the hope that President Carter will be able to say hello during President Gouled’s call on the Vice President, but Mr. Carter’s schedule is very full and Mr. Christopher wanted to emphasize the importance the US attaches to the meeting between President Gouled and Vice President Mondale. He expressed his concern over the fighting in the Ogaden which was causing instability in the area and difficulties for Djibouti at the outset of its independent life. He noted that the US has tried to follow a neutral role by not supplying either party, instead giving support to the OAU in its efforts to reach a solution.

President Gouled expressed his pleasure at being in Washington to greet the leaders and people of the city and looked forward to his meeting with Vice President Mondale, with whom he hoped to discuss a number of problems. He said that it would be an added pleasure to meet President Carter if only very briefly. With reference to the long [Page 72] period of struggle for Djibouti’s independence. He noted that it is certain that Djibouti will advocate peace in the region and in the world. While the Republic of Djibouti is small and young, it does not lack a certain importance potentially especially with regard to the Bab-e-Mandeb5 visit. Djibouti hoped to contribute to equilibrium in the area through neutrality.

However, the Republic of Djibouti is like a new child unable to walk. It needs the material means and support to progress. As for the conflict in the area, Djibouti is certainly concerned, having some 10,000 refugees from the conflict, with the railroad cut off for over three months, and with the port not having been functioning all that time—all of this gives Djibouti social and economic problems in great proportions. For humanitarian reasons, Djibouti cannot refuse access to its territory for the elderly and for children.

As for the Ogaden conflict, President Gouled said that the conflict is serious as Mr. Christopher is aware. It’s a problem which must be solved by the great powers. Djibouti did not have the means for solving it, being able to [have] only a moral influence towards equilibrium. On moral grounds, nobody likes war, but certain great powers are fueling the fires by supplying defensive and offensive arms. That he described as the popular opinion.

Mr. Christopher reiterated the US position of neutrality and restraint from supplying arms. He also underscored US support for the OAU in its mediation efforts. He expressed understanding that the most Djibouti could do is provide an example of peace. He asked where the refugees were coming from.

Turning first to the question of neutrality towards the conflict, President Gouled said that the arms involved come from the big powers. There is of course no neutrality among Djibouti’s neighbors, and all of Africa has been corrupted by supplies of arms. There is therefore no reason to seek mediation from Africans. He noted that many of the weapons used in Africa come from the West. He asserted that there [are] too many arms in Africa. Therefore there is a need for a high level decision to cut the flow of arms to Africa. He expressed his awareness that the United States is not supplying arms in the conflict in the Ogaden, but rather the Soviets are to both sides. He expressed a conviction that big power intervention to end the conflict was more likely to succeed than efforts by the OAU.

As to the refugees, most came by rail from the area between Djibouti and Dire Dawa. When he left Djibouti he understood the number to be 6,500. The day before yesterday he telephoned to Djibouti and [Page 73] learned that there were an additional 3,000. They all enter from Ethiopia. If there were any coming from the Somali side, President Gouled said that Djibouti would not have accepted them.

Mr. Christopher said the mention of the refugees called to mind Djibouti’s need for economic aid. He noted US awareness of Djibouti’s historic ties to France. He said that the US understands that a number of Arab states are interested in helping. He said that the US also wants to be of assistance. He said that the AID people in Washington are considering the matter and the Food for Peace people have recently visited Djibouti. Concerning refugees, the US will work through the UNHCR, being conscious of the burden the refugees place on Djibouti.

President Gouled expressed his thanks and added that the Djibouti delegation had several formulations to present on refugees, on the country’s agricultural potential and sub-soil potential, rather than being just a service-oriented country as in the past. President Gouled observed that the fact that Djibouti has French and Arab friends and has chosen neutrality and has signed agreements with France leaves no doubt as to Djibouti’s orientation. He thanked Mr. Christopher for US willingness to share in the friendship that Djibouti offers to all.

The Foreign Minister, Kamil, who is also Minister of Cooperation, produced some papers on the problem of refugees and development needs of Djibouti and said that Djibouti’s needs were urgent. Mr. Christopher noted that it would be most appropriate to discuss these matters in detail with Mr. Gilligan. Minister Kamil noted that their presentation did not go into any detail as to what mechanism should be used to meet their needs, that is PL–480, budgetary assistance or whatever, but was simply a presentation of their problems. He hoped it would be possible for them to have answers before they leave on Wednesday.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, Papers of Walter F. Mondale, Box 42, Foreign Countries—Africa, 7–12/77 [2]. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Tab B is attached but not printed. See Document 33 for Mondale’s meeting with President Gouled. In telegram 235953 to Djibouti, October 1, the Department reported on Gouled’s talks with other U.S. officials. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770357–1040)
  3. Limited Official Use. The memorandum of conversation is marked “Draft.”
  4. Djibouti gained its independence on July 27, 1977.
  5. The Bab-el-Mandeb Strait connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
  6. September 28.