159. Telegram From the Embassy in Tanzania to the Department of State1

478. Subject: (C) Tanzania/Uganda Conflict at the UN. Ref: State 24513.2

1. (C–Entire text.)

2. Embassy appreciates dilemma described reftel regarding our bilateral Tanzania interests on one hand and our interest in upholding principles of international law and UN Charter on the other. Our general preference is to duck on this issue as much as we can. Since Embassy is not clear about process of inscribing an item on UNSC agenda, we do not know what is involved in trying to take such evasive action. We would think, however, that it would be as procedurally possible as it is substantively desirable to take our cue from Africans on this matter and let them take the lead. If they go along with inscription, so can we. If they oppose inscription, presumably they will pro[Page 417]pose another way of dealing with the issue—e.g., via OAU—to which we can respectfully defer.

3. If Africans oppose without leaving us a way out, our first choice is to abstain. If other considerations of international organization principle are overriding, we can support inscription without unacceptable damage, as long as we are not out in front of others. We should cast our vote but lie low in any debate. In our public remarks, we should follow guidelines suggested para 4A reftel, but we would hope for a more effective dissociation from Amin’s regime than we were able to achieve (here at least) from Pol Pot.

4. In any UN consideration of this matter and consequent USG position, caution is required in dealing with notion of invasion in context of Uganda-Tanzania conflict. Facts are hard to come by in that distant battlezone, but we are not at all certain that TPDF action thus far on Uganda side of border can be characterized as invasion in normal sense of the term that means large scale attack to gain territory (as was case of Amin’s October invasion)3 or to defeat and occupy a country. TanGov officials to whom we have talked within past week claim their military action on the border is either in reaction to Uganda military probes or getting TPDF in better tactical position to defend against Amin’s promised “phase 2” attack on Tanzania. TPDF action doubtless is designed as well to help bring Amin down, and Tanzanian units have crossed the border, but it is not a very clean model of an invasion. We think that this peculiar aspect of fighting, rather than mitigating circumstances of prior Uganda invasion (para 4 reftel), should govern consideration of how international law and organization principles are applied.

5. On Tanzania intentions, we think it premature to go beyond saying that Nyerere intends to keep military pressure on Amin in the hope of bringing him down. Depending on events in Uganda, this could include either pushing Tanzanian military elements further into Uganda or promptly recalling them to their own territory. We still think the odds are against a full-blown march on Kampala but are reevaluating that judgment daily.

6. As for what and when we discuss matter with Tanzanians, we should do nothing unless and until the question of inscription at UNSC actually comes up. We will then be in a position to question, consult, and perhaps influence the TanGov. To go in now will not produce anything useful.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790045–0378. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to USUN.
  2. See Document 158.
  3. See Document 157.