HC Deb 04 December 1959 vol 614 cc1521-2
Mr. Callaghan (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the fighting in the Haud that resulted in the deaths of a number of British-protected Somali tribesmen in clashes with Ethiopian forces.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I am informed that on Sunday last, 29th November, Members of the Arap tribe from the Somaliland Protectorate attacked members of the Ogaden tribe from Ethiopia, in the Awareh area, a part of Ethiopia in which our Somalis have grazing rights. In this tribual clash one Ogaden Somali was killed and livestock was looted.

Ethiopian security forces proceeded to the area to restore order and in further clashes the death roll mounted to three Ethiopians and three Arap. The Ethiopian District Governor and the British liaison staff, working together, are now investigating on the ground, and I am awaiting further reports.

From the report which I have had, there seems to be good co-operation between the Ethiopian and Protectorate authorities to prevent further clashes and to restore order.

Mr. Callaghan

Does the Colonial Secretary realise, first, that some of us feel that the Ethiopian security forces are very well capable of looking after themselves, and that what we should like is a reassurance that our security forces will lose no opportunity of protecting the interests of our own tribesmen in the very delicate situation in which they are there, grazing on the Ethiopian side of the frontier?

Secondly, is it not clear, from these repeated clashes, that the agreement which was entered into between Her Majesty's Government and Ethiopia some years ago is not working out? Will he have a fresh look at this problem and consider whether some other solution can be found for what is obviously bound to be a continuing source of friction?

Mr. Macleod

I agree, of course, with what the hon. Gentleman has said about our responsibilities; but I am bound to say that, on the information which has reached me so far—the Governor has kept me fully informed—it does not seem that the Ethiopian forces went outside their responsibilities for law and order in this case which appears to have arisen out of an inter-tribal clash.

As regards the hon. Gentleman's second point, relating to the 1954 agreement, it is, of course, true that this is full of difficulties and has caused difficulties for a very long time, but, again, I doubt that this was the reason for this particular clash, although I recognise that it is a constant source of friction in the area, and we should very much like to see the working of it improved.

Mr. Wall

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there is still very strong feeling in British Somaliland at the transfer of this Haud area to Ethiopia, and will he see that not only adequate protection is given to our Somalis, who are grazing in the area, but also that adequate forces are available to give that protection?

Mr. Macleod

I entirely recognise the feeling which is caused among our Somalis about the working of the agreement. It is one of our objectives to try to make it work better if we possibly can.

Mr. Callaghan

Could the Colonial Secretary find it possible, in his trip to East Africa, to visit this area or the borders? I believe that that would do a very great deal to bring reassurance to the Somali tribesmen that we are not losing sight of their interests.

Mr. Macleod

I doubt that I can manage to go on this particular trip. I have discussed this point with our newly appointed Ambassador, who will be leaving in a few days for Addis Ababa, and I certainly hope that it will be possible in the not too distant future for a British Minister to visit this area.

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