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


  • State’s 5-Power Horn Meeting

Attached is State’s outgoing cable summarizing its much publicized 5-power Horn Meeting this past weekend.2 It is a remarkable testimonial to the poverty of real thinking in State on this key problem. You will notice that the U.S. side never raised the key issue: how to get the Soviets out of the Horn and keep Ethiopia from locking itself into a relationship of dependence upon the USSR (I did raise it, but I get no credit in this cable) and there is no discussion of the Cubans at all! Everything centers on circular discussion of negotiations (how diplomats love to negotiate!) and there is no realism about how one can establish any preconditions for negotiation. There was also no discussion about Eritrea (again I raised it but get no credit in this cable) and its important relationship to the Ogaden conflict and the problem of Soviet and Cuban presence. —I am extremely skeptical about the socalled “Dobrynin initiative”. State seems lusting to draw the Soviets into discussion of the Horn, just as they earlier rushed to invite the Soviets into the Egyptian-Israeli talks. —I have underlined other noteworthy sections of the report and made a few marginal comments which I believe are worth your noting because I suspect Vance will be setting forth this plan at Thursday’s SCC meeting as a basis for action of some sort.3

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Telegram From the Department of State to Selected Diplomatic Posts4

18370. Subject: Five Power Meeting on the Horn of Africa.

1. Begin summary: Representatives of five Western states met in Washington on January 21, 1978 to discuss the conflict in the Horn of Africa. The senior participants were Assistant Secretary Richard Moose for the United States, Assistant Under Secretary Philip Mansfield for the United Kingdom, Director of African and Malagasy Affairs Guy Georgy for France, Deputy Assistant Secretary Helmut Mueller for the Federal Republic of Germany, and Counselor of Embassy Giancarlo Carrara-Cagni for Italy. Group concluded that time had come to press for a negotiated solution based on an autonomous Ogaden to reflect interests of inhabitants, combined with Somali Government withdrawal from Ethiopian territory. Group noted recent Soviet approach to French along these lines, and participants agreed to explore this possibility with concerned states. British expressed interest in pursuing UNSC resolution. Consensus was that peaceful resolution of crisis depended on departure of GSDR forces from Ogaden. End summary.

2. Present military situation: It was agreed that during the present relative battlefield lull the Somalis were preparing for at least one more attack on Harar and perhaps Dire Dawa. The Somalis were credited with high morale, but their air defense capability was weak. They had probably less than a fifty percent chance of success. While it was believed that Government of the Somali Democratic Republic (GSDR) had had some success in arranging for light arms, no participant believed GSDR had been able to obtain quantities of heavy or sophisticated weapons needed to counterbalance longer term Soviet supplies to Ethiopian Provisional Military Government (EPMG).

3. EPMG has established general air superiority and succeeded in carrying out air raids on Hargeisa and Berbera, but troop morale remains low and discipline and command/control structures are weak. According to US analysis, Ethiopian Air Force, with Cuban and Soviet support and possibly some degree of participation, will be able to [Page 99] launch an expanded air offensive by early February, and launch counterattacks of less than full scale between now and May. It is unlikely EPMG can launch a successful general counterattack before June. (Mueller pointed out that air attacks against Somali population centers might have a serious effect on President Siad’s position. Germans have been told that a number of young Somali military officers had opposed Siad’s anti-Soviet moves.)

4. Probable objectives of an Ethiopian counter-offensive: US representatives have been assured by Mengistu that EPMG does not consider Somali territory to be a military objective and Soviets have said that EPMG has pledged not to use Soviet equipment outside of Ethiopia. Although these assurances might be worth little in the heat of battle, EPMG might be deterred from crossing into Somalia by knowledge that such a move would cost them the diplomatic advantage gained as defenders of OAU principle of territorial integrity, and might, in addition, bring other countries (such as Iran) to reverse their present position of holding back moral and material support from GSDR. However, it was also noted that difficulty of retaking Ogaden might bring EPMG nonetheless to strike into northern Somalia in order to bargain for Somali withdrawal from Ogaden. Concern was also expressed over possibility that EPMG might carry out grave reprisals against Ogaden population during reconquest.

5. Status of current mediation efforts: Somalis are publicly pledged to negotiate in any suitable place (i.e. anywhere but Addis Ababa or Moscow), and without preconditions, but we have no indication that they have begun seriously to think about the outlines of a negotiated solution. It was agreed that the Ethiopian position remains that negotiations must be preceded by withdrawal of all GSDR forces from Ethiopian territory. However, EPMG representative has said his government was studying ways to implement the policy of autonomy for the various “nationalities”.

6. While Nigerian/OAU effort has made no progress, Nigerians are now canvassing the eight nation OAU commission to see if there is agreement on inviting Somalia and Ethiopia to meet in Lagos in February. The Madagascar negotiation initiative seems to have foundered, although Ethiopian and Somali delegations have both (separately) visited Antananarivo. The French representative said that Ratsiraka had reportedly succeeded in arranging a meeting between Siad and Mengistu, but that the meeting had failed because of Soviet opposition to Mengistu’s participation.

7. Elements of a possible negotiated solution: While admitting that the prospects for a negotiated solution were not good, it was agreed that a basis for compromise might be found between the Ethiopian stated policy promising the various Ethiopian “nationalities” the right [Page 100] to self-determination and self-government in autonomous regions, and the Somali Government’s assertion that all it seeks is self-determination of the Ogadeni-Somali people. The establishment of a largely autonomous government of the region of the Ogaden which maintained a continuing link with the Addis regime might satisfy the Ethiopian desire to preserve its sovereignty over the area while providing the Ogadenis sufficient control over their affairs to induce Somalia to abandon its goal of incorporating the Ogaden. The arrangement would presumably require some form of guarantee, whether by the UN, the OAU or a joint OAU/Arab League undertaking. Before any negotiation of the form of government could take place, the fighting would have to be stopped, by ceasefire or perhaps by recognition of a stalemate. Ethiopia would not agree to a simple ceasefire in place, but insists that Somalia’s forces be withdrawn. Somalia would not agree to withdrawal of its forces, at least until it was confident that the members of the Western Somali Liberation Front and, indeed, the non-combatant Somali inhabitants of the Ogaden would be protected from Ethiopian reprisals. It would therefore appear necessary for a neutral peacekeeping force supplemented by a neutral administrative body to monitor the withdrawal of Somali Government forces and to administer the Ogaden until a negotiated settlement had been reached.5

8. French rep reported on January 20 luncheon conversation between French Ambassador and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin during which Dobrynin outlined his “personal ideas” on how a peaceful settlement might be achieved. Dobrynin proposed 4-point approach:

(A) Somali Government to announce its willingness to withdraw troops from Ogaden in two weeks;

(B) Ethiopia and Somalia undertake thereafter to sit down to work out a settlement;

(C) Settlement would affirm respect for existing borders;

(D) Settlement would provide for an autonomous state for the population of the Ogaden in “confederation” with Ethiopia. In response to question, Dobrynin did not rule out possibility that a neutral peacekeeping force such as UN could be inserted between contending sides to ensure against Ethiopian reprisal attacks on Ogadeni population. Meeting noted that Dobrynin intervention obviously planned with quinquepartite meeting next day in mind and might be a ruse to keep West off balance, but was nonetheless worth probing, since under Dobrynin formulation Somali troop withdrawal would take place only following an Ethiopian undertaking to negotiate a settlement that [Page 101] would include an autonomous Ogaden, meeting agreed that Dobrynin proposals, if genuine, represented an advance of Soviet position.6

9. Soviet (and Cuban) presence: French representative Georgy noted that the problem of the Horn was primarily a geopolitical one—Soviet penetration of an area of importance to the West and to the Arab world from which the Soviets have been almost entirely excluded. Soviet military supplies are being furnished Ethiopia in amounts in excess of what would be needed for the Ogaden war, and will serve Soviet strategic advantage in consolidating a position first in an Ethiopia where the old elites—the Westernized intellectuals, the clergy, and the bourgeoisie—have been dispossessed, later in destabilizing Kenya following the death of Kenyatta, and even regaining a position in Somalia where many Soviet-formed cadre in the military must be assumed to be ready to take power if the opportunity arises.7

The solution to the Ogaden conflict, if one could indeed be found, would not solve the problem of the Horn from the Western and moderate Arab point of view. However, it was generally agreed that a solution to the Ogaden conflict would at least remove the principal pretext for the expanding Soviet military presence.

10. British representative Mansfield said Foreign Secretary Owen believed that the time was ripe for further efforts to promote negotiation.8 Mansfield circulated a draft Security Council resolution which might be submitted to express the support of the international community for a negotiated solution. The suggested text was as follows:

The Security Council, expressing its concern over the present hostilities in the Ogaden region of Africa, concerned at the loss of life and human suffering, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter of the United Nations open square brackets concerning the peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as close square brackets particularly the various provisions of Chapter VI concerning procedures and methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes, commending the efforts made by the Good Offices Committee of the Organization of African Unity to seek a settlement of the conflict,

1. Calls upon the parties concerned to cease hostilities and to end the conflict in the Ogaden.

2. Calls on the Governments of Ethiopia and Somalia to enter into early discussions aimed at securing a negotiated settlement.

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3. Requests the Secretary General of the United Nations to appoint a special representative to visit the area and enter into contact with the parties concerned in order to promote a negotiated settlement.

4. Calls on the Governments of Ethiopia and Somalia to cooperate with the special representative in the execution of his task and requests the Secretary General to report to the Security Council as appropriate.9

Mansfield believed this might be acceptable to both the GSDR and the EPMG.10 If the Nigerians and President Bongo favored a UNSC resolution, Western powers could support the effort. Meeting stressed necessity to avoid actions which gave appearance of upstaging OAU efforts. (The US and other participants had doubts that British proposal as drafted would attract sufficient support to be passed.)

11. All parties further agreed that it would be in Western interest to maintain pressure for negotiations and explore possibility of a settlement as discussed above. The Italian representatives felt their government, when they had one, might agree to approach the Ethiopians to test their reaction to the outlines of a negotiated solution. The UK representatives agreed to speak to Nigerian Foreign Minister Garba during his January 22 London stopover to discuss the outline of a suggested negotiated solution and to raise the possibility of a Security Council resolution as a means of support for the OAU mediation effort. The UK representative also agreed that they might be a logical choice to approach the Cubans. The German representative agreed to discuss negotiations with OAU President Bongo during his visit to Bonn January 23. French representative Georgy agreed to encourage the Madagascar initiative in conversations with Ratsiraka.

12. The US side agreed to raise the Horn question with the Soviet Union in the context of the bilateral relationship,11 although the US side was not in a position to say what weight would be given the Soviet role in the Horn in the over-all US/Soviet context. The US would also consider raising matter in context Indian Ocean talks as suggested by Mr. Georgy. The US would also consider discussing the matter with the Yugoslavs, a state with some hope of influence in Addis Ababa, and to continue discussion with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran.

13. Reply to Siad’s request: The British, Germans, Italians and the US representatives all said their governments would not give military supplies to either side so long as the conflict continued. The French [Page 103] were willing to consider providing some light arms, but the GSDR had rejected a previous offer and presumably remained uninterested in anything but heavy or sophisticated military equipment. It was agreed by all that the replies to Siad’s most recent request for troops would be that the Western states could not provide the military assistance desired because of the GSDR presence in Ethiopian territory. Siad should be encouraged to negotiate a solution and reflect on conditions under which he would withdraw Somali forces from the Ogaden, a move which would facilitate Western aid. It was further agreed that the replies would be given individually (the US and the UK having already conveyed a public refusal to send troops). Some of the Western powers would perhaps be more willing to consider military assistance after a GSDR withdrawal. Georgy made it clear that because of Djibouti, France would not give more than light defensive arms, even in the event of a Somali withdrawal.

14. Italian representatives stated that they could not commit GOI to a joint Western approach to Garba, Bongo or others. It was therefore agreed that all approaches discussed would be made in a bilateral context.

15. A press statement was issued at the close of the meeting affirming support for a negotiated solution and the efforts of the Nigerian-chaired OAU mediation committee (State 17279).12

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 1, Chron File: 1/78. Confidential.
  2. In Document 34, Vance reported on an earlier meeting on the Horn of Africa of the quadripartite Africa group; Italy had since joined the discussions.
  3. See Document 46.
  4. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent to Addis Ababa, Bonn, London, Lagos, Mogadiscio, Paris, and Rome. Repeated for information Priority to Antananarivo, Cairo, Damascus, Djibouti, USINT Havana, Islamabad, Jidda, Khartoum, Moscow, Nairobi, Sana, Tehran, USUN, Amman, and USNATO. Another copy of the telegram is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780035–0227.
  5. Henze wrote “Unacceptable to Ethiopians” in the margin.
  6. Henze wrote “Soviets pressing the Ethiopians to do this?” beneath this sentence.
  7. Henze wrote “At least the French have a concept! Not bad” in the margin next to this paragraph.
  8. Henze wrote “total misconception!” in the margin next to this sentence.
  9. Henze wrote “will lead nowhere” in the margin next to the numbered paragraphs of the proposed resolution.
  10. Henze wrote an exclamation point in the margin next to this sentence.
  11. Carter pointed out the “worrisome concern” of the Horn of Africa in U.S.-Soviet relations in a January 25 letter to Brezhnev, and Vance discussed it with Dobrynin on January 31. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 77 and 79.
  12. Telegram 17279, January 22, circularized the text of the press statement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780033–0318)