Sid Ahmed,



INTERVIEWER: So this is the 9th of May we're in Washington DC I'm talking to Paul Henze. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Could you just start off by telling me strategically how close the Horn of Africa is linked to the Middle East.

PAUL HENZE: Well the Horn of Africa is really as much a part of the Middle East as it is of Africa. This is true historically and it's certainly true in terms of politics, it is also true in terms of what people think. a country such as Sudan regards itself as much a part of the Arab world in the Middle East as it does a part of Africa. Ethiopia has been connected with the Middle East and the Mediterranean world for most of its history. Somalia at one point declared itself an Arab country although of course it isn't. But it has been involved, although it has collapsed in the last two years in Arab politics. So you really can't consider the politics of the Horn of Africa without considering the relationships with the Middle East.

INTERVIEWER: And what were America' s strategic and economic interests in the Horn of Africa?

PAUL HENZE: America's interests in the Horn of Africa stem from World War 2 and they were basically a continuation of British interests. In fact just as America in effect took over from Britain in respect to Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean in the late 40s in the early 50s America took over from Britain in Ethiopia and Britain lost it's interest in maintaining it's position in Ethiopia although Britain and British commonwealth forces had originally essentially liberated Ethiopia from Italian occupation. South Africans played a very major role up until fairly recently now that South Africa has become respectable again that was never talked about. But as there were 2 aspects of Ethiopian history that up until fairly recently were no nos. One was the importance of the Portuguese back in the 16th century, who essentially liberated Ethiopia from Arab domination. Ethiopia might well have become an Arab country at that time had the Portuguese not come in. And Britain played a major role in liberating Ethiopia from Italy. Ethiopians of course played a role themselves too the partisan movement in Ethiopia was strong, but especially South African forces coming in from Kenya on the one hand and coming in from the North from Sudan on the other, were very important in liberating Ethiopia. And Britain maintained a position in Ethiopia until the late 40s early 50s of course was the principle occupying power in Eritrea. But gradually during that time, the United States in effect took over and the US position in Ethiopia was formalized in 1953 with treaties that gave the US base rights in Ethiopia. Ethiopia. Ethiopia is looked very important at that point and was very important because it was strategically situated where it had a major impact on traffic through the Red Sea on the Eritrean Coast. it was very important from the point of view of communications and it remained very important from the point of view of communications until the 70s. one of the interesting features of Ethiopia during the late 60s and 70s was that it was one of the few places in the world where it was possible for Western Intelligence people to intercept television and other internal broadcasts in the Soviet Union and that is one of the reasons that the American communications establishment in Eritrea was maintained until the mid 70s. Now that all became redundant when satellites came in.

INTERVIEWER: That is all very interesting, can you just describe to me briefly the nature of America's alliance with Ethiopia.

PAUL HENZE: Well there was never a formal alliance between the United States and Ethiopia just as I suppose there was a formal alliance between Britain and Ethiopia in terms of world war 2. the American position toward Ethiopia was always called a special relationship, the United States never committed itself to defend Ethiopia against invasion or outside problems but the United States did commit itself to give Ethiopia substantial military aid. Haile Selassie however was a very clever ruler, he didn't want a relationship with a single country, he wanted his relationships to be very varied, and when it came for example to modernizing the Ethiopian Army Haile Selassie sought help from the Swedes and the Indians, from the Belgians but at the same time the united States was the logical source for major military equipment and the military equipment the United States supplied to Ethiopia was looked on as in effect payment for the use of air facilities, communications facilities and naval facilities in Ethiopia. So Ethiopia was an important position from a strategic point of view in the 50s and 60s.

INTERVIEWER: d you tell me Haile Selassie gets overthrown and the Menghistu regime comes in can you tell me how and why the US continues to support the Menghistu regime?

PAUL HENZE : The US did not continue to support the Menghistu regime as such the US continued to support Ethiopia. The US commitment in the last analysis was never to Haile Selassie as an individual; it was to the country. Ethiopia was important because of it's location it's size it's historical position and it's basic political orientation. And therefore the hope of Americans when Haile Selassie was overthrown and the pretty half-baked military bunch took over was that somehow they could be steered in a direction that would be favorable to the US and to the West. It's rather analogous to what's going on in Zaire right now. I , as I just tonight listened to the news from Zaire and listen to our UN ambassador Richardson talk about it I was vividly reminded about Ethiopia, because Richardson expressed the same kind of hope about Kabeela that many Americans including Henry Kissinger were expressing about Menghistu and the military group that took over in Ethiopia. Now there everybody turned out to be disappointed. Menghistu had apparently decided quite early to embrace the Soviet Union, earlier I think than the Soviets decided to embrace him.

INTERVIEWER: Can you give me a thumbnail sketch actually of the Menghistu regime?

PAUL HENZE: Well the Menghistu regime to begin with was basically a bunch of military people who basically didn't know what they want except that the Haile Selassie government had pretty much collapsed. It had collapsed because the old emperor had pretty much lost his cool. He was an extraordinary able statesman I think he ranks as one of the major statesman of the 20th century. Up until his very last years. In his last years he failed to provide for succession he failed to take a number of steps that would have ensured stability during a period of transition. He had the bad luck also of having a rather inadequate family, the crown prince was a very weak man and while he had to content himself with a system where the crown prince was to succeed him, the crown prince had a stroke at the in the final Haile Selassie years and was totally unable to succeed him, so the Crown Prince's son who was also a fairly inadequate figure, was named heir. So Ethiopia found itself at sixes and sevens floating. And this affected the Ethiopian establishment to a very great extent. Ethiopia had a really quite distinguished aristocracy, many of them British educated, many of them extraordinarily good credentials, good experience, and very proud of their position, but for a complex series of reasons the Ethiopian aristocracy was unable to do much as Haile Selassie weakened and the Haile Selassie government weakened for a number of reasons. One was the American presence was no longer very effective. The United States was going through the throes of the Vietnam collapse, there was no substitute for the American presence in terms of European influence, Britain, Germany, France really did very little for Ethiopia during that time. The Yom Kippur war came Haile Selassie very ill advisedly broke relations with Israel. Israel had been very important to Ethiopia, so Ethiopians found themselves without any anchor points. Felt very uncertain, and the result was thatout of this uncertainty a group of military people formed a committee and that comto begin with was pretty incoherent. It was not clear what it wanted. But Menghistu operating behind the scenes, very skillfully manipulated the situation to the point where he was able to take power. His power was not absolute and his power was challenged by a number of others for a period of time. But Menghistu was always faster with the gun than anybody else and the key of development came in February of 1977 when there were serious disagreements primarily over Eritrea. Menghistu had the problem of coming from the, coming from a very dubious background socially of coming from the South West of the country from a border region he didn't have good Ethiopian credentials. Good blue blood of any kind. There were rumors in later years that supposedly he had descended from some Ethiopian emperor, but there was no evidence whatsoever that this was the case. Therefore Menghistu felt necessary to prove his nationalism and he had to prove he was as tough as anybody else and he was desirous of protecting Ethiopia's interests. So Menghistu and the military group inherited the Eritrean insurgency which at, the point when Haile Selassie's regime collapsed was not actually doing very well. It was fairly weak. But Menghistu, decided to pursue it very energetically and he shifted most of the army to the north. Got into a totally confused political situation. And the net result was that there was a great deal of disagreement within the Durg, the military committee as it was called about what exactly what should be done. Menghistu solved it all in early February by shooting every body who was against him. The bodies were carried out, the Russian ambassador came in and congratulated Menghistu and from then on things went from bad to worse. Menghistu expelled most of the Americans from Ethiopia, the following months, arrogantly terminated the American Aid program, apparently got some promises from Moscow, went

INTERVIEWER: May I ask you just to very briefly say, how, how aware was the United States of the sort of rapprochement or whatever you want to call it between the Soviet Union and Menghistu and how did the United States respond?

PAUL HENZE : Well the United States was all very aware, it was all very obvious in the first period even before the many of the American elements in Ethiopia were expelled, large numbers of Ethiopians were taken off the to the Soviet Union for training, including military people. The Ethiopian press and media became completely communist oriented repeating all of the standard themes. Bulgarian team came in to teach the Ethiopians how to be effective in Communist style propaganda, all of the Eastern countries were very active in their various ways. The Soviets, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Russians always made very little effort to stay in the background themselves, but they didn't deliver much in the way of military equipment they kept Menghistu dangling out on the end. They obviously wanted to see who was going to come out on top. The united states was very aware of this, but the United States was very diverted during this period. This was the period when the United States was recovering from the confusion in Vietnam. The United States was pretty passive in terms of its own 3rd world commitments. It is true that somewhat later in that period, the United States got very much involved in Angola, but there was no direct connection between Angola and other activities and Ethiopia. Meanwhile Somalia which was still very strongly oriented towards Moscow and getting massive military aid, there were about 4,000 military advisor still in 1978. Somalia- American relations were absolutely at rock bottom. Somalia was doing all sorts of things that not only angered the United States but angered the countries in Europe. Letting it's ships, letting it's ships be used for breaking embargoes, offering the support for radical Arabs Ghadaffi and so forth and in the end of course the Somalis, greatly overplayed their hand because they had very substantial claims on Ethiopian territory, had had them for a long period of time. Moscow had tacitly been supporting those claims, but again, never openly endorsing them. But again starting in 1977 and continuing into 1978 the Somalis mounted a major invasion of Ethiopia.

INTERVIEWER: Can you just stop a minute I want to take you backwards. Can you just tell me why and when the US terminated their relationship with Menghistu.

PAUL HENZE : Oh the United States never terminated their relationship with Menghistu. Menghistu expelled, all American military organizations, a number of American research groups like the naval tropical disease research group and so forth, expelled the US information service. Closed the American libraries. Kept the American aid organization however. in the spring of 1977 the US took all of this, because the US position was in Ethiopia because of support for the Ethiopian people, not for support for any particular Ethiopian regime. The aid program in the face of severe Ethiopian harassment and restrictions was maintained until 1979, but when the Somalis invaded the Ethiopians discovered that they needed military equipment, spare parts because the entire Ethiopian armed forces were equipped with American and other NATO countries equipment and the Russians had been very favorable propagandistically and they hadn't given the Ethiopians very much and so the Ethiopians were very hard - pressed in the summer of 1977 and into 1978. The Ethiopian air force had been permitted after Menghistu took power to receive F5Es fighter-bombers the best that were available at that time in spite of the fact that the Menghistu regime was very unfavorable. These had been ordered and promised back in the early 70s. Henry Kissinger after weighing of the considerations decided in 1976 that the planes would go to Ethiopia Meanwhile Ethiopian pilots had been training in the states. These planes were supplied to Ethiopia, the pilots came back and flew them and they utterly destroyed the Somali air force supplied by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1977.

INTERVIEWER : Can I ask you, can you give me a detailed, oh dear can you give me a brief sort of a thumbnail sketch of Seaadbaar and his regime.

PAUL HENZE: Seatbaray in some ways was sort of a junior Menghistu well he was much older than Menghistu, he was an old Somali camel trader in mentality. He had been chief of the General staff in Somalia during the period when major soviet aid was coming in. The Soviets supplied Somwith about 6 - 7 times the amount of military equipment and training assistance that the United States and other Western countries had given Ethduring the 60s. In the fall of 1969 Seatbaray took over the Somali government. The Somali government had been a fairly democratic government, there was a play of political parties that was almost unique in Africa at that point because you had a lot of political parties and fairly free elections. But Somalia had a lot of problems because it was put together from 2 pieces an Italian and a British part and no Somali government was able to cope with the problem of claims against Ethiopia, against Kenya, against Djibouti for additional territory. Seatbarau chief of the General Staff and immediately oriented Somalia toward the Soviet Union. Now it's widely suspected that the Russians probably had a hand in the coup itself, those things just don't get proven. But Seatbaray then proceeded to establish socialism Soviet style in Somalia. He played a bit around with, he played around a bit with the Chinese, but the Chinese really weren't terribly important in Somalia they had a lot of propaganda operations, they gave some assistance they built a huge national theatre in Mogadishu and did a few other ostentatious aid projects, but basically Somalia was very much in the Soviet camp, from the late 60s on to 1978.

INTERVIEWER: But was, could you say that there was actually very little to choose between the two regimes?

PAUL HENZE: in terms of the nature of the regimes, there wasn't much to choose, but there was a lot to choose between the two countries. Somalia is a poor scraggly desert there isn't much wealth in Somalia, not too many people either, it is the sort of tag end of things, it is the edge of the horn. While Ethiopia is a very big, rich country, very talented people and obviously the prize the Soviets were very happy to have. And, but the Soviets had been interested in Ethiopia for a long, long time, Russia was interested in Ethiopia way back in the early 19th century. During the scramble for Africa, there was a Russian colony established on the coast near Djibouti. Russians sent explorers into Ethiopia they were very prominent in Ethiopia at the end of the 19th century. Russians actually gave significant aid to Emperor Menelek when he defeated the Italians in 1896 at Aduwa. So and the Russians played the religious connection. The Ethiopians are orthodox, Russians are orthodox. the Russians at times supported when there were tangles and troubles between the various religious groups in Jerusalem, the Russian supported the Ethiopian religious people. So now this of course posed a problem for the Soviets it also posed a problem for Menghistu, because Menghistu would have liked to have been anti-religious, he was never able to believe anti-religious and one of the net results of the Menghistu regime in Ethiopia is that Ethiopia today is more religious than it's ever been. But Seatbaray didn't have that problem, because Somalia is, is completely Muslim and the Somali-Soviet relationship we know now in retrospect often involved tensions but nevertheless the Soviets moved into Somali bag and baggage because they couldn't get Ethiopia.

INTERVIEWER: Wonderful, some wonderful black moments in all of this as well, Very briefly could you describe Somali interests in the Oggaden.

PAUL HENZE: Well Somali interests, the Somali aim was always to have all Somalis together the classic irredentism of the kind that has infested various parts of the world for centuries and many parts of Europe and unfortunately, the countries that are usually most avid about uniting all their people under one flag usually end up in the worse mess. We've seen that happen over and over again in Europe a prime example I suppose being Germany itself. Hitler's Germany bringing all Germans together is now half the size that Germany was before he took power.