34. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

[Omitted here is an item unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]

2. Consultations on the Horn. The quadripartite Africa group meeting in London November 10 agreed that the heavy Soviet arms support for Ethiopia, coupled with the increasing number of Cuban military advisers (now estimated at 400), seems likely to tip the scales against Somalia in coming months.2 The Soviets could then be in position to mediate the dispute and to gain substantial additional influence in the Horn.

Despite this situation, none of the four powers appeared prepared to respond to Somali appeals for arms (nor to Saudi requests on Somali behalf) as long as the Ogaden conflict continues. In addition, representatives at the London meeting agreed that the time is not ripe for a Western mediation effort or a Security Council resolution.

President Siad has again repeated his appeal for American arms and has asked for your “advice.”3 I suggest that we have our Ambassa[Page 78]dor return to Mogadiscio early next week with a letter from you along the lines of the attached draft.

[Omitted here are items unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]


Draft Letter From President Carter to Somali President Siad 4


Dear President Siad:

Ambassador Loughran has passed me your message and your request for my views about the difficult situation which you face.

I share your deep concern about the present large-scale supply of foreign arms to Ethiopia, and the implication for your country. In this respect, I urge you to take advantage of the good offices of the Organization of African Unity. General Obasanjo, during his recent visit to Washington, discussed with me his strong interest, as Chairman of the OAU Mediation Committee, in seeking a negotiated solution in the Ogaden. In the last few days, we have again been in contact with the Nigerians regarding their renewed efforts to this end, and I would recommend that you cooperate with their initiative. We will, when appropriate, give public support to this effort.5

In regard to your request for American military support, I must repeat my Government’s view that while the conflict in the Ogaden persists, the United States cannot supply arms to either side. I reaffirm our willingness to cooperate with others, and to discuss the sale of defensive weapons to Somalia when the conflict in Ogaden has been resolved.

I would also hope that it might be possible for you further to reassure your Kenyan neighbors of Somalia’s respect for their territorial integrity, as they are deeply concerned.

[Page 79]

I feel it is important that our two governments continue to communicate through our respective Ambassadors about developments in the very delicate situation in the Horn of Africa.6


Jimmy Carter7
  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 13, State Department Evening Reports, 11/77. Secret. Carter initialed in the upper right corner and wrote, “Cy.”
  2. In telegram 18627 from London, November 11, the Embassy reported on the quadripartite meeting. The group, which included U.S., U.K., French, and West German representatives, met to discuss a coordinated position on the Ogaden dispute. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840081–2454)
  3. In telegram 1901 from Mogadiscio, November 11, the Embassy transmitted a report of the Chargé’s meeting with Siad during which Siad requested a decision from Carter on U.S. assistance. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770418–0165)
  4. No classification marking. In the upper right corner, Carter initialed and wrote, “ok.” In telegram 277991 to Mogadiscio, November 19, the Department transmitted Carter’s approval of the message and his decision that it be delivered by Loughran orally, rather than in a letter. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840081–2305) In telegram 1987 from Mogadiscio, November 23, Loughran reported on his meeting with Siad when he delivered the message. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770436–0774)
  5. The President added this sentence by hand.
  6. In telegram 2021 from Mogadiscio, November 28, the Embassy reported on Siad’s response to President Carter’s message, in which he refused to consider relinquishing his goal of liberating the Ogaden. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840081–2308)
  7. The draft letter bears this typed signature.