48. Letter From President Carter to Nigerian Head of State Obasanjo1
Thank you very much for your letter of January 16 on the death of Senator Humphrey. I have conveyed your gracious sentiments to Mrs. Humphrey; we mourn his loss, but we will remain buoyed by his spirit and his example.
We are disturbed about the continuation of the conflict in the Horn and particularly about the implications of present Soviet and Cuban action in Ethiopia. Information has reached us that heavy shipments of weapons and military personnel are being sent to Ethiopia and that large numbers of additional Cuban troops are expected soon and may enter active fighting.
As you and I discussed in Washington,2 the United States supports the principle of territorial integrity, and I have so stated publicly. We do not question the right of Ethiopia to call for assistance in self-defense against an attack on its soil, but Soviet and Cuban support, which seems excessive, is not being provided in a way that encourages settlement of underlying issues; instead it exacerbates them. This is especially true in Eritrea, where the prospect of full Soviet backing discourages Mengistu from seeking a negotiated settlement that could preserve Ethiopian sovereignty and bring this long, bloody conflict to an end. Not only are we concerned that Soviet and Cuban involvement is encouraging Africans to go on killing Africans; we fear that the Soviets and Cubans are trying to establish themselves permanently in Ethiopia.
The United States is prepared to support a significant political initiative to find a just and peaceful solution to the problems of the Horn. I understand that you may soon be in direct contact with Ethiopia concerning a possible settlement, and that you also will make more [Page 110] forceful efforts through the OAU towards establishing a basis for mediation or negotiation. Your efforts have been and will be valuable in establishing a climate for peace. I have publicly urged negotiations under OAU auspices and will continue to do so.
We consider it highly desirable for this conflict in Africa to be resolved by African procedures and principles, and not by the actions of outside governments, particularly the superpowers. There are pressures on us from many quarters to be more active. We do not want to act in any way that is not in harmony with basic African interests and perceptions. We will exert ourselves to support your initiative.
I regard your initiative and leadership as crucial. I very much look forward to my forthcoming trip to Lagos when we can discuss these matters at length. In the meantime, please let me have your personal advice and counsel.
- Source: Carter Library, Staff Office, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 14, Nigeria: Obasanjo, 1/77–5/78. No classification marking. Similar letters were sent to Giscard on January 27 (Carter Library, Staff Office, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 6, France: President Giscard, 2/77–11/78); Tito on January 31 (Carter Library, Staff Office, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 21, Yugoslavia: Tito); Pérez on February 1 (Carter Library, Staff Office, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 21, Venezuela: Perez, 2/77–5/78); and Desai on January 31 (Carter Library, Staff Office, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 8, India: Desai, 1–7/78).↩
- Obasanjo visited Washington October 10–13, 1977. Documentation on the visit is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 2, Sub-Saharan Africa.↩