182. Memorandum of Conversation1 2

Your Meeting with President Kenyatta


  • H.E. The President of the Republic of Kenya The Honorable Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
  • H.E. The Vice President of the Republic of Kenya and Minister for Home Affairs The Honorable Daniel arap Moi
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State
  • The Honorable Minister of State Mbiyu Koinange, Office of the President Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall


The chemistry of opening remarks and philosophical exchanges immediately established a solid rapport between President Kenyatta and Secretary Kissinger. Kenyatta praised and thanked the United States, as a good friend. Kenyatta, never having visited the United States, was invited by the Secretary for a visit within six-to-nine months; “it would mean a lot to us,” the Secretary stated. The Secretary agreed to Kenyatta’s request for an additional $20 million in FMS credits (to the $45 million already “approved”) to purchase a squadron of F–5Es. Kenyatta pleaded for earliest delivery; the Secretary promised to look into the matter, also suggesting that the United States might “let Kenya have” [Page 2] some F–5As until the F–5Es “are ready.” The Secretary promised to look into the possibility of Kenya acquiring A-4s, in response to Kenyatta’s request. Deputy Secretary Robinson and Minister of Finance and Planning Kibaki were asked to discuss ways and means for Kenya’s economic development, including “triangular arrangements.” In closing, the Secretary praised Kenyatta for his “spirit of reconciliation and human dignity” and commented that, “Only truly free people can cooperate with each other.”


Secretary Kissinger promised President Kenyatta that he would provide information through Ambassador Marshall within one month on the following:

—Proposal for a specific time for Kenyatta to visit the United States (within the next six-to-nine months), subject to Kenyatta’s counter-proposal. (para 3, below)

—Whether the United States can speed up delivery time of F–5Es. (para 5, below)

—Possibility of “letting Kenya have” F–5As until the F–5Es “are ready.” (para 5, below)

—Reply to Kenyatta’s request for purchase of A-4s. (para 5, below)

Comment on Participants:

The number and persons were limited (without prior notice) by President Kenyatta, as he wanted to keep the subject matter of the discussion restricted only to those who attended. A meeting with greater attendance was subsequently held at which it was obvious that Kenyatta did not wish to allow Foreign Minister Waiyaki to speak (presumably on southern Africa issues).

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1. Opening Exchange:

The Secretary stated that the last time he came to Kenya, in 1960, he was warned that Kenyatta was a “very dangerous man;” however, it would have been impossible to have seen him, anyway, as he was in detention. Kenyatta replied that it was a good feeling to “feel free,” and that in this world some people consider themselves “above others,” but “all came on earth through the same gate: mother—rich, poor, big and small. Selfishness is what causes trouble.” The Secretary responded, observing that human dignity is the key element, and that the “desire to dominate” is a cause of trouble. The Secretary continued, “We admire what you have done under difficult circumstances.”

2. Kenyatta on American Ties with Kenya:

“We are trying,” replied the President. “America is the one who has come to our aid.” The Secretary: “We consider ourselves good friends.” The President: “There is nothing like having good friends when one is in need. We appreciate what America has done in the various fields—hundreds who have had a good start in America—education—scholarships.” The President cited Minister KOINANGE as an example.

3. Kenyatta Visit to the United States:

The Secretary asked whether Kenyatta had been to the United States, to which the President replied by saying that he had “Once looked on America as something horrid,” but then he got to know Americans, and arrangements were made twice, but canceled twice (once because of President Kennedy’s death; once because of Martin Luther King’s death). The Secretary asked, “Why don’t you make it up now? Would you accept an invitation?” “I think I would,” Kenyatta replied. The Secretary: “President Ford would be delighted. Kenyatta stated he had had six children educated in the United States. The Secretary: “It would mean a lot to us,” [Page 4] and suggested a visit within six-to-nine months. The Secretary said that he would check President Ford’s calendar on his return and make a proposal which would be sent through Ambassador Marshall. President Kenyatta could then come back with a counterproposal if he wished. (NOTE: After the meeting, Ambassador Marshall asked Minister KOINANGE whether the President was seriously interested. “Very much.” The reported aversion by Kenyatta to flying would be no barrier, KOINANGE stated; and, Kenyatta’s health was good enough for the trip.)

4. Purpose of Secretary’s Visit to Africa:

The Secretary stated that a basic purpose in his visiting Africa—which, in fact, was a liability in an election year—is the importance for the United States to see what it can do to help “our” friends in Africa… to work for racial equality and economic progress. The United States has had long experience with the Soviets. British imperialism was more benign than Soviet imperialism. If we want to fight the Soviet Union, we can do it anywhere. However, if the African countries are strong and prosperous, then they can take care of themselves. We don’t want anything from Kenya. Our interests are compatible. “I,” the Secretary stated, “am willing to talk to you with open-mindedness. We have no complaints against Kenya.” Kenyatta responded that this was “a very good spirit.”

5. U.S. Military Aid and Sales to Kenya:

Kenyatta: “You have helped us in armament.” Kenyatta noted that the United States had “approved” $45 million (toward the purchase of a squadron of F–5Es), but Kenya would like to ask for an additional $20 million, and also would like to have the F–5Es as soon as possible. “Our neighbors are armed to the teeth,” he commented. Ambassador Marshall observed that Kenyan pilot training which required nearly two years would be necessary before the planes could be flown. The President replied stating that Kenya would like the planes even before the pilots are trained. The Secretary said he understood Kenyatta’s requirement: that he wanted the planes for “symbolic reasons.” The Secretary [Page 5] promised to look into the matter, and referred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Clements, with whom he would speak. “Mr. Clements has been able to speed up delivery for friends.” The Secretary promised to let the President know within a month. (Later, at lunch, the Secretary suggested that the United States might be able to “let Kenya have” some F-SAs until the F–5Es “are ready.”) The Secretary informed the President that “We are prepared to offer $20 million” (bringing the total U.S. FMS credits to $65 million). The President then raised Kenya’s wish to obtain A-4s, recalling that we had previously said we could not sell Kenya an attack plane. The Secretary said he did not agree that attack aircraft should not be sold to Kenya, and would like to look into the matter on his return. “I recognize the equipment your neighbors have.” The President expressed his great appreciation.

6. U.S. Economic Interest/Assistance to Kenya:

The President raised the question of additional U.S. economic assistance to Kenya. He mentioned housing and the National Youth Service. The Secretary suggested that Deputy Secretary Robinson and Minister of Finance and Planning Mwai Kibaki get together to discuss the matter. The Secretary informed the President that “the Deputy Secretary is in charge of economic affairs,” and that they should discuss development projects and “triangular arrangements.” The Secretary mentioned Saudi Arabia. (NOTE: Deputy Secretary Robinson and Minister Kibaki were then brought into the meeting and subsequently had discussions.) “Mr. Robinson has done extraordinary things for us,” the Secretary stated. “We consider Kenya one of our best friends in Africa. Countries that have demonstrated stability and progress are those we want to support with their economic development.”

7. Concluding Remarks:

Kenyatta moved toward an end of the meeting by saying that “too many words are useless.” The Secretary commented that this was not true of too many heads of government. Kenyatta expressed his pleasure with the meeting. The [Page 6] Secretary noted, “you proved you had the spirit of reconciliation and human dignity.” Kenyatta: “I hated to be a slave. I wanted to be free—we didn’t hate Britain.” The Secretary: “Now you’re admired in Britain.” Kenyatta: “Some said Kenyatta would be cutting their throats. All I wanted was to be free.” The Secretary: “Only truly free people can cooperate with each other.”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Briefing Materials for VIP Visits, Box 23, Kenya. Secret. The meeting took place in the State House in Nakuru, Kenya
  2. Ambassador Marshall recorded Secretary of State Kissinger’s conversation with President Kenyatta on April 25. They spoke of a Kenyatta visit to the United States, Kissinger’s trip to Africa, and U.S. military and economic aid to Kenya. Kissinger said he would try to speed up delivery of F–5Es.