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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Horn of Africa Crisis

This is a collection of primary source documents related to the conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia in the late 1970s (also known as the 1977-1978 Ogaden War or the Ethiopian-Somali Conflict). Somalia invaded Ethiopia in 1977 in an effort to capture the disputed Ogaden region. The resulting crisis is discussed in this collection, as well as the later Eritrean Liberation Movement. Later documents cover Soviet policy toward the region, Ethiopian relations with the Eritreans, the role of the US in Africa, and US Operation Torch. (Image: Cuban artillery crew during the Ogaden War. Department of Defense Photograph)

  • January 31, 1978

    Memorandum of a Conversation between East German leader Erich Honecker and Siassi Aforki, General Secretary of the Revolutionary Party of Eritrea, in Berlin

    Aforki briefs Honecker and SED leadership on the current situation in Ethiopia in relation to the Eritrean movement for independence.

  • February 10, 1978

    Memorandum of Conversation between East German official Paul Markovski and CPSU CC International Department head Boris N. Ponomarev in Moscow

    The two men discussed the current situation in Ethiopia and focused on the assistance the Soviet Union and Cuba was providing to the Ethiopians. They also talked about the role the United States was playing in the Horn of Africa

  • February 13, 1978

    SED CC, Department of International Relations, 16 February 1978, Report on Conversation with [Vice-president] Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, Member of the Politburo of the CP Cuba, in Havana

    Ambassador Langer discusses with Rodriguez the current situation in Ethiopia, focusing on the Eritrean liberation movement and the ongoing war with Somalia. They also discuss levels of assistance by various outside powers to the region

  • February 16, 1978

    Embassy of the GDR in the USSR, Political Department, 17 February 1978, Memorandum of Conversation with the Dep. Head of the MFA Third Department (Africa), Comrade S. J. Sinitsin

    Sinitsin briefs the East German embassy in Moscow on the current situation in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. The briefing focuses on the ongoing war with Somalia and the internal situation in Ethiopia

  • March 03, 1978

    Memorandum of Conversation of SED Comrade Lamberz with Cuban Ambassador to Ethiopia, Comrade Pepe, Addis Ababa

    The conversation focuses on outside support of the situation in the Horn of Africa. Specifically Soviet, Cuban, and US support for the various countries and groups

  • March 09, 1978

    Minutes of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, 9 March 1978 (excerpt)

    The minutes focus on a meeting at which the Politburo is discussing a request by Siad Barre (leader of Somalia) to mediate the ongoing war with Ethiopia

  • April 03, 1978

    Soviet Foreign Ministry Background Report on Soviet-Ethiopian Relations

    The report covers all aspect of relations between Ethiopia and the Soviet Union from 1974 onwards. It focuses on forms of cooperation and support for the country during its war with Somalia

  • April 03, 1978

    Soviet Foreign Ministry and CPSU CC International Department Background Report on the Somali-Ethiopian Conflict

    The report provides a general background regarding the war between Somalia and Ethiopia. It covers all aspects of the conflict including outside support for both countries from the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the United States.

  • April 04, 1978

    Memorandum on Soviet Reaction to Libyan Proposal on Somali-Ethiopian Conflict

    A memo prepared by the SED on a Libyan proposal for a political settlement of the Somali-Ethiopian war

  • April 19, 1978

    Draft Letter from Honecker to Brezhnev on Ethiopian-Eritrean Talks, 19 April 1978

    The letter is written by Honecker to inform Brezhnev about talks that were held between Aforki (Eritrea) and Mengistu (Ethiopia). The talks focused on the development of autonomy for the Eritreans.

  • May 11, 1978

    Memorandum of Conversation between [SED] Comrade Friedel Trappen and Soviet Comrade R. A. Ulyanovsky in the CC of the CPSU

    The conversation focused on the negotiations between Ethiopia and the Eritrean Liberation Movement. The talks were focusing on how the Eritreans could obtain a certain degree of regional autonomy

  • June 07, 1978

    Information on Talks of Ahmed Nasser (ELF-RC) in the USSR Solidarity Committee

    Ahmed Nasser, leader of ELF-RC (one of the Eritrean liberation movements), discusses the internal political situation of Eritrea.

  • June 09, 1978

    Winkelmann to Hermann Axen

    Winkelman is describing a recent speech by Mengistu, the leader of Ethiopia

  • June 19, 1978

    Memorandum of Conversation between Grabowski and Sinitsin in Moscow

    Describes a conversation that covers a speech Mengistu gave on June 14 and also a general discussion of the Horn of Africa. It focuses on international support to the different parties involved

  • July 14, 1978

    Minutes of Meeting of CPSU CC Politburo (excerpt)

    A general conversation amongst Politburo members regarding the current state of relations with the Ethiopian regime and how it could be improved. (excerpt)

  • July 14, 1978

    CPSU CC Politburo Decision

    A decision by the Central Committee regarding continued support of the Ethiopian regime under Mengistu

  • August 14, 1978

    Background report on Ethiopia’s Relations with Western Countries

    The report details the relations between Ethiopia and the Western countries, primarily how they have changed since the 1974 revolution. It focuses on relations between the United States and the common market countries specifically.

  • November 25, 1980

    Hungarian Embassy in Ethiopia, Telegram, 25 November 1980. Subject: DPRK-Ethiopian relations.

    The status of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and North Korea are discussed in this telegram. The then-recent Somali-Ethiopian conflict is brought up, and there is evident misgiving on Ethiopia's part regarding North Korean relations with Somalia.

  • August 18, 1981

    Telegram from Czechoslovak Embassy in Addis Ababa

    Prague’s representation to Addis Ababa offers an insight into the Soviet Union’s economic assistance toward Ethiopia in the early 1980s, while voicing, at the same time, the Soviet economic delegation’s nuanced and candid impression of Mengistu’s abilities to control the course of the revolutionary transformations.