Memorandum of a Conversation between East German leader Erich Honecker and Isaias Afwerki, General Secretary of the Revolutionary Party of Eritrea, in Berlin, 31 January 1978 (dated 3 February 1978)
Honecker: [Welcoming remarks]
Afwerki: We are very proud and very happy about this meeting. It is a historical meeting. The first visit of our comrades in the GDR already brought very positive results. […] We highly appreciate the good offices of your country and your party. What we have achieved so far is already a turning-point in our fight. The results of the meeting with the Ethiopians are still uncertain, but in any case it will be a historic meeting. In the past 17 years a fierce battle has been waged. Not one meeting took place between Eritreans and Ethiopians. If something developed from this first meeting, this will not only be good for our two countries but for the peoples of the entire world. The only pre-condition for it is goodwill on the Ethiopian and on our side.st
[Short review of the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict.]
Comrade Erich Honecker: For the first dialogue with the Ethiopians it will be decisive to consider in which direction one has to become active in the interest of the Revolution. We are deeply interested in the success of the Ethiopian Revolution and in the objectives of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Movement. Both sides have the goal to repel the imperialist intervention and build a new humane social order. It is very painful that comrades who are ideologically close are involved in such a conflict.
We welcome the fact that Comrade Afwerki has the determination and mandate to come to Berlin to find out together with the representatives of the DERG how the problems can be solved. We have used our influence as much as possible to make sure that you will be heard. Now much depends on the dialogue which – after 17 years – can lead to a turning-point. As I understand Comrade Afwerki, he is moving in this direction. In his conversation with Comrade Werner Lamberz, Comrade Mengistu indicated his readiness to grant the people of Eritrea full autonomy within the Ethiopian state. What form this should take is a matter to be dealt with by both sides.
The national question has immense importance for the whole Ethiopian Revolution. Its solution is also hindered by Somalia’s aggression. Somalia currently receives the support of all imperialist governments. Concerning the Eritrean question, one has to see the opportunity given by [the similarity of] the contents of the Eritrean Liberation Movement and the Ethiopian Revolution. I agree with Comrade Afwerki that a solution would be of great significance not only for the peoples of Ethiopia and Africa but also for all peoples.
We accord great significance to the currently arranged contact and the incipient dialogue. We hope it will lead to agreement. The revolutionary streams belong together. Comrade Afwerki has rightly stated that one can then proceed together against the imperialists. From my point of view, the full autonomy within the Ethiopian state is the correct solution in order to pursue together the common task of economic build-up and the creation of a progressive social order in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Your forthcoming meeting can be successful. It is a historic meeting. I am interested in the question if you, Comrade Afwerki, in the case one might come to an agreement, will have the strength to implement it. Besides you, there are two other movements in Eritrea. In case of an agreement one would have to carefully plan all steps.
Comrade I. Afwerki: The main problem is in how far Ethiopia is willing to meet our demands. It is clear from the start that if Ethiopia is not bringing along new proposals, a solution will not be possible. There is no point in discussing the possibility of unifying both revolutions. What we need are guarantees that the fight against imperialism and reaction will continue. Only one principal question is of importance.
Everything depends on the capabilities and tactics of our organization. We won’t be picky in minor questions. It is totally clear to us that in the case of an actual agreement its implementation is the important thing. Then we will check the details and implement them patiently. Eritrea has many enemies within and without. If they all find out about it, we will have many difficulties. But we are preparing for it. It is true that we are not the only organization. That, however, does not worry us. Because of our great influence and military strength we can succeed. The other two organizations in Eritrea have allied themselves with the imperialists and the reaction in the Arabic region.
We have to expect that the imperialists will take advantage of the situation in case of a solution of the Eritrean problem and escalate the situation and heighten the conflict. Therefore it is necessary that the Socialist countries will guarantee a peaceful solution.
In the case of an agreement prudent tactics are necessary not to allow the reactionaries to exert their influence. In Ethiopia as well there are forces which are powerfully fighting against a just solution. The current regime cannot proceed against these forces by itself. This is an important question.
Honecker: [Report on GDR domestic and foreign policy]
Russian & East German Documents on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, 1977-78
SED official Hermann Axen to E. Honecker, 18 April 1978, enclosing Draft Letter from Honecker to Brezhnev on Ethiopian-Eritrean Talks, 19 April 1978. Enclosure: Honecker to Brezhnev, 19 April 1978
Esteemed Comrade Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev!
On 23 March 1978, the second meeting between the representatives to the Provisional Military Administrative Council of Socialist Ethiopia and the Eritrean Liberation Front took place. Upon request by the Politburo of the CC of the SED, Comrade Hermann Axen, member of the Politburo and CC secretary, participated in the talks.
[Berhanu Bayeh and Afwerki declared again their desire to terminate the bloodshed and to do everything to solve the Eritrean problem by peaceful means.]
Despite this declaration made by both negotiators, the political negotiations showed that the positions on both sides had become stiffer.
The representative of the Provisional Military Administrative Council was inclined to favor a predominantly military solution of the Eritrean problem. They did not make any concrete or constructive proposals for a peaceful and political solution although Comrade Werner Lamberz had agreed with Mengistu Haile Mariam on working papers in December 1977.
The attitude of the representatives of the Eritrean Liberation Movement illustrated, on the other hand that, under the pressure by the leadership of the Sudan and the Arab reaction, there has been a strengthening of nationalist, openly separatist forces within the Eritrean movements, especially by means of the coordination between the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and the Eritrean Liberation Front (Revolutionary Council).
The leader of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, Afwerki, presented the demand for a separate Eritrean state in even harsher terms. Only after long sharp discussion was he willing to agree to this second meeting and to the further examination of the proposals made by the SED. Thus it was possible to hold the second meeting. In the course of the meeting, the representatives of the Ethiopian leadership and the EPLF reiterated their known positions. They accepted the SED proposal – this proposal was, as is well known, agreed to by the CC of the CPSU – to put the following four points before the Provisional Military Administrative Council and the Central Committee of the EPLF as recommendations for a settlement:
Both sides confirm their resolve to stop the bloodshed immediately and bring about a political solution.
The Provisional Military Administrative Council of Ethiopia will make a public declaration expressing its concrete proposals for the implementation of regional autonomy for Eritrea in the framework of the Ethiopian state and under inclusion of all willing positive forces in Eritrea.The Central Committee of the EPLF recognizes the achievements of the Ethiopian Revolution and declares itself ready for cooperation in the interest of implementation of regional autonomy.
Revolutionary Ethiopia’s secure access to the Red Sea must be guaranteed by its uninterrupted access lines and its control over Asmara and the ports of Massawa and Assab.
Both sides form a common commission for the purpose of implementing the above points and all other steps for the security of the Revolution in Ethiopia and regional autonomy in Eritrea.
It was agreed to inform the leadership organizations of Ethiopia and of the EPLF and have them communicate their positions on the results of the second meeting and the proposals of the SED at a third meeting in the GDR in mid-May.
Thus the second meeting undermined all attempts by the representatives of the EPLF to break off all political contacts and negotiations with the Provisional Military Administrative Council of Ethiopia [as they had previously intended to do].
But the situation involves the acute danger that the fighting over Eritrea will escalate and that the Arab reaction and the imperialists will intervene even further and attempt to internationalize the conflict. This would severely endanger the revolutionary developments in Ethiopia.
The Politburo of the CC of the SED is of the opinion that everything has to be done to achieve a political solution of the Eritrean question. The safeguarding of the revolutionary process in Ethiopia and its territorial as well as political integrity is a necessary precondition for this. The Provisional Military Administrative Council must doubtless have reliable control over its free access to the Red Sea. This, however, must be safeguarded by political and military means. It is our impression following the recent meeting that the Provisional Military Administrative Council is only oriented towards the military tasks in this matter and, despite repeated verbal assurances, has not made any concrete political steps in winning over the Eritrean population for the implementation of regional autonomy.
We therefore think that the Provisional Military Administrative Council should without further delay address an appeal to all willing forces in Eritrea for the peaceful political solution of the Eritrean problem. It would have to render more precisely the proposals it has made so far by concrete suggestions on the implementation of the right for self-determination of the different nations within Ethiopia in order to speed up the process of differentiation within the Eritrean population and to isolate the reactionary, separatist forces in Eritrea.
Based on the results of the last meeting, the Politburo of our Party proposes therefore that the Soviet comrades, in conjunction with representatives of our Party, work out internally possible solutions to the regional autonomy of Eritrea in the framework of the Ethiopian state in order to communicate them at the appropriate time to the Chairman of the Provisional Military Administrative Council, Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Russian & East German Documents on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, 1977-78
SED Department of International Relations, Information on talks of Ahmed Nasser (ELF-RC) in the USSR Solidarity Committee, 7- 8 June 1978
We received the following information from the CC of the CPSU:
The representatives of the Soviet Committee for Solidarity explained the USSR position which is based on the assumption that the solution of the Eritrean question has to be achieved within the framework of a unified Ethiopian state by means of negotiations.
In effect, the three talks which were held with Ahmed Nasser proved that the Eritrean friends are not yet willing to approach the question by giving up the slogan of independence for Eritrea. Their argumentation is that neither side should coerce the other one into negotiations and a solution could only be a result of unconditional negotiations.
In the first conversation on 7 June, A. Nasser indicated that the ELF-RC would possibly consent to a federation. In the following talks it was not mentioned again, and by the time the third talk took place on 8 June, the position of the Eritrean friends had even hardened.
Generally they were at pains to prove that the ELF was the best, the [most] Marxist-Leninist of the Eritrean movements. They pointed out their advantages as follows:
- The ELF recognizes the progressive character of the Ethiopian Revolution.
- It acknowledges the importance of the Soviet-Cuban support.
- It does not demand preconditions.
- It is willing to negotiate.
- It favors the unification on a common democratic basis.
The Soviet comrades estimate that the attitude of the ELF appears to be slightly more flexible as those of the other Eritrean movements but this is, however, only an appearance.
Russian & East German Documents on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, 1977-78
Memorandum of Conversation between [SED] Comrade Friedel Trappen and Soviet Comrade R. A. Ulyanovsky in the CC of the CPSU, 11 May 1978
As Comrade B.N. Ponomarev has already pointed out in the last conversation with the comrades of the SED, the CC of the CPSU considers the talks of the SED with the Eritrean movements and the Ethiopian side very useful and positive. We can still say this today. On this basis one should approach the next meeting in June as well as other meetings. We consider the four points agreed on at the last meeting as positive. If both sides really take the four points as a starting point, this would be positive for further development. We are of the opinion that the following main points should be emphasized:
a) The political solution of the problem and an end to the bloodshed.
b) The granting of regional autonomy for Eritrea, but, however, no separate national independence.
c) The unconditional use of Ethiopia’s communications with the ports on the Red Sea.
d) The increased unification of the progressive forces on both sides.
This would be a deeply satisfying platform which could be developed further.
The points agreed upon in the March meeting are contained in these proposals and hence could be developed further at the June meeting. This would create a real foundation for the rapprochement of both sides. The main question is, how honestly, how genuinely, and how deeply both sides will comply with these points. If one could say today that the four points are fulfilled by both sides or will soon be fulfilled, this would be a great relief for us.
The CPSU also works in this direction. It agreed to receive an ELF-RC delegation led by Ahmed Mohammed Nasser at the level of the USSR Solidarity Committee on a confidential internal basis around 20 May 1978. We will use these contacts in order to induce the representatives of the ELF-RC to have direct contact with the Provisional Military Administrative Council.
The objective is to find an appropriate solution for Eritrea within the framework of the Ethiopian state. We do not have the intention to hide from Ahmed Nasser our policy toward a unified Ethiopia. The policy of the CPSU is aimed at the unity of Ethiopia. We will try to convince Ahmed Nasser that the future development of the Eritrean people can only evolve in a unified Ethiopian state. In the discussions we will continue to pursue the line of emphasizing the unity between the Marxist-Leninist forces and national-democratic forces in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
We would like to stress that we have to be extremely tactful in our relations with Mengistu Haile Mariam and the PMAC, in particular with respect to the Eritrean question.
Mengistu Haile Mariam does not have an easy stand within the PMAC in this regard. In connection with the well-known Dr. Negede [Gobeze] affair tensions have heightened within the PMAC and this has not made Mengistu’s task any easier.
We would like to emphasize that all concrete initiatives on the Eritrean questions have to originate from Ethiopia. This does not mean that the Eritrean side is free of any initiatives. If we put the entire weight on the Mengistu Haile Mariam’s shoulders and free Ahmed Nasser or respectively Afwerki of any responsibility, this would be one-sided. The Ethiopian side is watching with great jealousy the actions of the CPSU and the SED.
Here as well one has to see the connection between Mengistu Haile Mariam’s position and the people around him. Mengistu Haile Mariam deserves to be regarded by us as a man who represents internationalist positions. By contrast to him, Berhanu Bayeh and Fikre Selassie as well as Legesse Asfaw and others, for example, are marked by nationalism although they are faithful to Mengistu Haile Mariam.
All steps and initiatives on the part of the CPSU, the CP Cuba, and the SED must be put forward extremely tactfully and carefully not to cause any protests. Frankly, the problem lies to a certain degree in the fact that we all attempt to square the circle.
The one side of the problem is – and we are both working on this – to solve the problem on an internationalist basis. On the other hand there are efforts to solve it on a nationalist basis. This is precisely why, I emphasize again, we have to apply maximum caution, circumspection, and tactfulness towards Mengistu Haile Mariam so that the nationalists will not grasp him by the throat.
In our contacts and talks with Ahmed Nasser we intend to make it unmistakably clear to him that it is necessary that all revolutionary forces join together and that the Eritrean problem is not only a national but above all a class problem which has to be solved by the common fight against the imperialists and the Arab reaction.
Efforts to split up Ethiopia and create a separate Eritrean state, to refuse to give Ethiopia access to the ports on the Red Sea, to drive the Soviet Union and the other Socialist countries out of this region, are not simply a national problem but a problem of international class warfare, not to speak of the fact that such a separate state would be manipulated by the Sudan and Saudi Arabia and their petrol dollars.
We will therefore point out to Ahmed Nasser, who claims to be a Marxist, the national and international dimension of the Eritrean problem.
Concerning the questions put forward by Comrade Trappen I would like to add the following consideration:
The basic difficulty is the fact that separatist ideas have been rooted in Eritrea for a long time. These ideas are very popular among the population, especially among the workers. This factor, the factor of the erring of the masses based on nationalism, is a given one. The main difficulty therefore is that the mass of the Eritrean population does not understand the difference between the imperial regime of Haile Selassi and the policy of the PMAC.
The fight continues as in earlier times under the imperial regime. This creates the great necessity for intensified political work by the PMAC and above all by Mengistu Haile Mariam towards the Eritrean population. It was particularly this point that Comrade Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev discussed with Mengistu Haile Mariam during his trip to Moscow.
The PMAC is confronting a decisive, great, and huge task to get the people of Eritrea on the side of the Ethiopian Revolution. Preparations have been made but no concrete steps and measures.
The Soviet comrades have told Mengistu Haile Mariam and Legesse that it was now important to show the Eritrean people that the PMAC is not identical with the regime of Emperor Haile Selassi and the interests of the Ethiopian Revolution are in harmony with the interests of the progressive forces in Eritrea. Unfortunately, forces in the PMAC and Mengistu Haile Mariam himself have caused a slow-down of this necessary political work towards the people of Eritrea. Mengistu Haile Mariam is passive.
We completely agree with the estimate that military actions for the solution of the Eritrean question alone are pointless and, moreover, dangerous. They would widen the gap between the Eritrean people and the Ethiopian Revolution and create new intensified hatred. This does not mean that the PMAC should completely abandon military activities.
We think that it is necessary to exert military pressure on the Eritrean separatists forces. This especially since in regard to military matters the current situation in Eritrea is not favorable for the PMAC. It is therefore necessary to talk but at the same time to act militarily on the part of the PMAC.
This applies in particular to the safeguarding of important military strategic positions and especially of the communications with the ports of Massawa and Assab well as the capital Asmara, the cities Akordat, Keren, and Barentu. These military actions have to serve political measures.
It was emphasized in the talk between Comrade L.I. Brezhnev and Mengistu Haile Mariam that it is necessary for the PMAC to address itself to the Eritrean people. This political initiative is extremely acute today as never before. We deem it necessary that both the CPSU and the SED together exert influence on Mengistu Haile Mariam in this respect. We have to take into consideration that the position of the Eritrean movements has not become any less obstinate, because they still demand the separation of Eritrea.
This shows that there are no honest efforts for a political solution on the part of the Eritrean representatives. Therefore it is correct to work for a change in the current position of the Eritrean movements. It is especially necessary to receive from them a declaration pledging that self-determination for the Eritrean people will be achieved within the framework of a Ethiopian state. We received an information [report] in early May according to which direct contacts had been established between the PMAC and the EPLF.
We do not know anything about the substance of these contacts. With respect to the concrete question whether it makes sense to continue the negotiations or to await military actions, Comrade Ulyanovsky stated that both sides had to be induced to [take part in] further negotiations and that at the same time a certain limited military pressure was quite useful, meaning that even with the continuation of the negotiation efforts certain military actions could not be precluded.
Concerning the question on the concrete coordination between the CPSU, the SED, and the Cuban CP, Comrade Ulyanovsky emphasized that all bilateral contacts with the Cuban CP are excellent and that the same applied to the SED. There has been no exchange of opinion with the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen on the part of the CPSU. They have, as is well known, pulled their troops out of Ethiopia. One has to take into consideration that the situation in the PDR Yemen is difficult. The PDR Yemen has to be protected.
Comrade Ulyanovsky agreed to put the proposal for the creation of a mechanism for consultation and coordination before the leadership of the CPSU. Concerning the question of a possible later public announcement of our parties on the Eritrean question (in some form), it is expedient to examine this in the light of the Moscow talks with Ahmed Nasser and the planned third meeting of the Ethiopian and Eritrean sides with the SED.
With respect to the question of expert consultations on variants of a solution, it is possible at any time for GDR scientists [specialists] to consult with Soviet comrades about concrete questions. Comrade Ulyanovsky thinks that at this point these contacts should be limited to the level of the International Relations Departments of the Central Committees.
With respect to the involvement of CPSU experts in the consultation and negotiations at the third meeting, Comrade Ulyanovsky stated that he would put this question before the party leadership for decision. Concerning the guarantees called for by the Eritrean side, one can only get more precise on this point after concrete results have been achieved on the question of what, who, and to whom in some matter guarantees might be given.
Finally, Comrade Ulyanovsky pointed out that the attempt to keep the Ethiopian leadership from its military advance through us was a very delicate matter. The PMAC was predominantly of the opinion that even a political solution of the Eritrean question was not possible without a strengthening of Ethiopia’s military positions in Eritrea and that the liberation of above-mentioned ports and cities can only be achieved by military means. The PMAC assumed that only then [would] actual and basic conditions exist for negotiations with the separatists.[…]
Russian & East German Documents on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, 1977-78
GDR Embassy in Moscow, 19 June 1978, Memorandum of a Conversation between [SED] Comrade Grabowski and the Head of the Third African Department of the [Soviet] MFA, [CPSU] Comrade Sinitsin
On Mengistu’s speech of 14 June
The speech contains statements which can hardly be read without concern. One still has to assume that the military actions of the separatists have to be energetically opposed, that full and effective control by the PMAC and the Ethiopian armed forces over the cities in the north of the country and their access lines has to be assured.
But obviously this was not everything that the speech meant to convey. Intentions for a complete military solution of the Eritrean problem shine through. One cannot recognize any new constructive or concrete suggestions on how to proceed politically. But this is exactly what would be necessary in the current situation and in the context of corresponding necessary military actions.
Obviously those forces within the Ethiopian leadership which have always favored a one-sided military solution have gained ground. It also seems important that there is heightened concern about the possibility of a new delay of a solution of the problem contributing to a renewed destabilization of the revolutionary regime.
On Ethiopia’s international situation
The predominant majority of Arab states is increasingly moving against Ethiopia. One should under no circumstances underestimate the danger involved in the clash between the positions of the reactionary and progressive Arab regimes in the Eritrean question which is heightened by the present policy of the Ethiopian leadership. Basically, only the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen is granting real support for the Ethiopian Revolution.
Algeria is acting in a very reserved way: while acknowledging the achievements of the Ethiopian Revolution, it does hardly anything concrete in support. Syria and Iraq have clearly expressed once more in recent days that they intend to give support to the [Eritrean] separatists, including military supplies. The Iraqi leadership is also interested in strengthening in every way the pro-Baathistic elements in Eritrea.
The Libyan position is quite unclear. Even though they rhetorically recognize the achievements of the Ethiopian Revolution, they, however, less and less explicitly oppose the separation of Eritrea. The impression that the Libyan leadership basically favors the Arabization of Eritrea is not far off. In no case does it want to see relations among the Arab states, especially among the countries of the rejection front, be burdened by the Eritrean question.
The pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and Egypt can definitely be felt. It is difficult to say whether Arab countries will be willing to deploy troop contingents in Eritrea against Ethiopia. They will undoubtedly take into consideration that the predominant majority of African countries would oppose such a move. In their view, Eritrea is a part of Ethiopia. A separation of Eritrea would run counter to their national interest as strong separatist movements exert de-stabilizing influence in many African countries.
It is remarkable that similar considerations make even [Sudanese President Jafaar Al-] Numeiri waver. His attitude toward Ethiopia has become more careful, despite pressure from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Besides the Southern problem, several other questions (refugees from Eritrea, interest in the use of the Nile) impel him to keep up somewhat normal relations with Ethiopia.
The African countries are in principle opposed to a change of borders. In this question the progressive [countries] and those countries which are largely dependent on the West coincide in their views, though the latter fear the revolutionary changes in Ethiopia. The common danger has even led to a rapprochement between Ethiopia and Kenya. Kenya appears more aggressive and positive [in this question] than some progressive African states. Tanzania’s attitude has a very positive effect as it consistently and convincingly opposes the separation of Eritrea.
Nigeria, which is under strong pressure by the USA and in which the OAU has, as is well known, much influence, already showed itself to be wavering during the aggression by Somalia. Guinea, which has recently repeatedly pointed out the war of national liberation by the Eritrean people, gives Ethiopia more headaches than support.
In sum it can be said that the OAU does not want to allow for a confrontation and is looking for ways to confirm the inviolability of borders and the territorial integrity. How little consistent and passive the OAU is, is proved by the fact that Ethiopia has received little support and that – due to the fear of a possible split – even Somalia’s aggression was not condemned.
Nevertheless, an intervention by the Arab countries in Eritrea should run into considerable opposition within the OAU. This is in part the effect of the still deeply rooted traditional fear and resistance of the African states against Arab expansionism. At the same time, none of the African countries seriously wants to endanger its relations with the Arab states.
This altogether very passive and inconsistent attitude of many African countries and of the OAU was not an unimportant factor which led the Ethiopian leadership to recognize that in practice only the Socialist countries are Ethiopia’s real and principal allies.
Among the imperialist countries, one has to pay particular attention to the efforts and activities of the USA, Italy, and France. Their situation in Ethiopia and also with respect to the Eritrean question is quite delicate.
All imperialist countries, of course, are interested in the elimination of the Revolutionary achievements in Ethiopia and in the establishment of a pro-Western regime. They are putting all their efforts toward this goal.
The NATO countries, led by the USA, base their efforts on the sober assumption that a frontal attack would hardly help to achieve their goals, would only foster the basic anti-imperialist mood of the Ethiopian people and its leadership and drive Ethiopia even closer into the hands of the Socialist community of states.
The USA in no case wants to burn all its bridges to Ethiopia. To the best of their abilities, they want to de-stabilize the situation in Ethiopia and the revolutionary regime, and undermine and subvert the revolutionary development in Ethiopia.
The imperialists aspire to take advantage of ethnic conflicts, exploit the social instability of the leadership, and encourage nationalist feelings in an effort to further stiffen the Ethiopian attitude in the Eritrean question and thereby aggravate the situation of the revolutionary regime.
One also has to take quite seriously the skillful attempts, in particular by the USA, to launch such arguments as “why should the solution of the Eritrean problem be done only by way of cooperation with the Soviet Union and the Socialist countries,” “a certain cooperation with the USA and the West could certainly be useful,” “the USA after all have considerable possibilities in effectively influencing Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries,” “the West has to offer quite constructive solutions.” It is remarkable that Ahmed Nasser has pointed to this question during his talks with the Soviet comrades in Moscow.
The Soviet comrades, however, have no indication that these advances are actually effective. One has to assume that the USA would prefer a unified, reactionary Ethiopia to a divided Ethiopia. By using the unity slogan, they are trying to activate those reactionary and nationalist forces, which no doubt still exist, against the revolutionary regime.
Considering all these aspects it is not surprising that the USA, Italy, and France have officially opposed Eritrean separatism. It is also symptomatic that the United States is making obtrusive efforts to prove that it was they who recommended to Siad Barre to withdraw his troops from Ethiopia.
The cautious handling of aid to Somalia also shows that the USA on no account intend to keep their relations with Ethiopia – in the long run – strained. The USA and China are using Somalia and the provocative actions by Somalia against Ethiopia – which are above all intended to have a de-stabilizing effect–more for anti-Soviet than anti-Ethiopian purposes.
They understand that support of the Eritrean separatists would also be directed against the reactionary forces in Ethiopia.
With respect to Somalis, the USA are intent on establishing a foothold and bringing the leadership of the country under their firm control. In this regard attention has to be paid to the fact that they also do not consider Barre a solid partner.
They assume that he would deceive even the West. Nevertheless, it is to be expected that Barre will soon make a trip to the USA. He wants to gain military support in the amount of $1 billion. There are indications that the USA is willing to give $50 million.
With respect to similar “military abstention” by China, without doubt other motives play a role: the Chinese leadership does obviously not consider it opportune to display its military weakness in public – and especially in such a burning spot of international politics.
Light arms are less revealing, yet they will not allow Somalia to wage a large war against Ethiopia. In addition, China does not want to strain its relations with Africa any further.
With respect to the domestic situation in Somalia, one has to first emphasize that Barre is continuing to exploit nationalist slogans and considerable tribal feuds to eliminate progressive elements from the state and party apparatus and to replace them with people faithful to him.
This is facilitated by the fact that the party is without a broad social basis and in practice was organized by Barre from above. Barre is careful not to expound a pro-Western course. He has to acknowledge that the progressive development in the past cannot simply be crossed out.
The country still has sufficiently powerful progressive forces which for now are silent. He thus prefers to leave many things outwardly as they have been. Officially, the program and the organization of the party are retained. The party organization is even being activated.
Information on Talks of Ahmed Nasser (ELF-RC) in the USSR Solidarity Committee http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1409&fuseaction=va2.document&identifier=5034E637-96B6-175C-9EAACCF00193EBAE&sort=Coverage&item=Eritea