149. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Kenya’s Security Concerns



    • Daniel T. arap Moi, Vice President and Minister for Home Affairs
    • Mwai Kibaki, Minister for Finance and Planning
    • Dr. Munyua Waiyaki, Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • C. Njonjo, Attorney General
    • G. K. Kariithi, Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Cabinet, Office of the President
    • J. G. Kiereini, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defense
    • N. Nganga, Permanent Secretary, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • John P. Mbogua, Kenya Ambassador

    • The President
    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor
    • David Aaron, Deputy National Security Advisor
    • Paul Henze, NSC Staff
    • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State
    • Richard Moose, Assistant Secretary of State, AF
    • Richard Post, Director, AF/E

Before the President entered the Cabinet Room, Dr. Brzezinski started the discussion off by noting that the US is very preoccupied with the maintenance of the principle of territorial integrity, not only in the Horn of Africa but elsewhere. The US is very conscious of the closeness of its relationship with Kenya, and in consequence of its closeness to Kenya, the US is very concerned for Kenya’s security.

Vice President Moi said that Kenya felt the same concern as the United States does over the Horn of Africa. The situation requires urgent attention. The conflict must be removed. Kenya feels that major powers should not be involved there, and Kenya therefore appreciates the US position of staying out of the conflict. Territorial integrity is a priority concern. If that principle comes apart, it could cause chaos in Africa. Kenya has concentrated on economic development up to now. But the world is unpredictable. Kenya sent this delegation to make the US Government understand Kenya’s problems. People may misunderstand Kenya from hearsay or from reading newspaper accounts. But the fact is that Kenya’s concern is real and that is why President Kenyatta has asked the delegation to come to the US.

Dr. Brzezinski said that the US needed to consult with Kenya on these problems and needs Kenya’s guidance. He noted that Kenya is much closer to the problem and we are of course close friends who share the same values about growth, development, political organization, etc. He hoped that Kenya has noted a change in US policies toward Africa under this Administration. We are against the involvement of outside powers in African problems. We have made clear our support in southern Africa for majority rule. We have also made clear our support for the principle of territorial integrity. This is the thrust of US policy.

In that context, Dr. Brzezinski said the US is concerned about the Horn and wished to fashion a response that will improve the prospects for a peaceful settlement. In that context, he wished to make three points:

1. The US does not approve the Somali aggression. Somalia should withdraw from the Ogaden and should not pose a threat to any of its [Page 395] neighbors. We will not provide the means for them to make or carry out such threats.

2. There must be some African arrangement to ensure that the Somalis have confidence that there will not be any retribution against the Ogaden population if they withdraw. Such an arrangement would also ensure that Somalia’s territorial integrity would not be violated.

3. There must be an arrangement for the removal of foreign troops. The Soviets and Cubans went there to protect the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. Once that threat is gone, they should go also. We fear that their presence there could be the beginning of military and political involvement in the area and in African problems which should be a cause of concern to Africans themselves. He stressed that foreign incursion in the Horn breeds foreign counter-incursion.

Mr. Kibaki said that Kenya agrees with Dr. Brzezinski entirely. Those objectives are also Kenya’s objectives. It is most important to realize that the reason why there has been foreign incursion is the pursuit by Somalia of something fundamental to Somali life which they have been undertaking with Soviet help: Greater Somalia. That is the fundamental issue. If the Somalis do not abandon the goal of a Greater Somalia, withdrawal will mean nothing. It will simply represent a pause before they start to pursue Greater Somalia again. For that abandonment by them they may have some need for foreign assistance. But the US and the West must think of the demand side: Why did the Soviets get invited in?

At this point in the conversation the President entered the room and shook hands with all the Kenyan guests. He then said that he was honored to have the delegation here from Kenya which is a great country and a great friend of the United States. He asked Vice President Moi to express his pleasure and his admiration to President Kenyatta and also to pass along his hopes that President Kenyatta would have a long and fruitful life.

The President then said that he would like to say that the US shares Kenya’s deep concern about the deteriorating situation in the Horn of Africa. The US shares Kenyan concern about violations of territorial integrity. While it may well be that boundaries in Africa were drawn without very good reason, nonetheless we must now stick with them.

The President said that the US is concerned at the fact that the Soviets first overarmed the Somalis, which precipitated the invasion of Ethiopia, and now they are pouring arms into Ethiopia. We have talked to President Siad and have impressed upon him the importance of withdrawing from the Ogaden. On the other hand, we have a commitment from Mengistu and from the Soviets not to cross the border into Somalia. We are concerned about Kenya’s security. Evidence of that is the fact that the first F–5’s are about to arrive. We are working [Page 396] to improve Kenya’s security with other Western powers who share our view of Kenya’s importance.

The US feels that Kenya has taken the right course in not investing in weapons, but instead putting its resources into meeting the needs of the people.

The President hoped that in the coming months there might be a lessening of tension between Kenya and Somalia. It would be much easier for us to use our influence if there were a drop in the level of harsh language used between the two countries. He hoped that in conveying his words to President Kenyatta that Vice President Moi would also express his admiration for Kenya’s great leader. (At this point Vice President Moi handed over a letter from Kenyatta to President Carter.)2 The President remarked that President Kenyatta had certainly sent a superb delegation. We are honored by the quality of the delegation and by the fact that it represents such a considerable portion of the leadership of Kenya.

Vice President Moi said that President Kenyatta had sent him with a very important message. Having concentrated its efforts on economic development, Kenya now finds that the time has come for it to safeguard its security. There are three areas of importance to Kenya: political, military, and economic. On the political side, Kenya knows that the interests of the United States and Kenya are identical: containment of communism in the Horn of Africa and protection of the sea lanes and safeguarding the sources of petroleum. These matters are vital to East Africa and especially to Kenya. When goods had to go around the Cape, Kenya had to pay much more. Kenya wants the United States to understand Kenya. Kenya does not wish to get arms. The possession of arms does not contribute to a better standard of living for the people. For a long time President Kenyatta held that view, but now he feels the time has come to seek help from Kenya’s friends and that means the United States, our close friend. When Kenya needs help, we come to you.

As for the political aspect, Kenya itself does not dispute any borders. But Somalia has enshrined a Greater Somalia in its constitution and now they are embarked on achieving it. Kenya has put a great deal of development effort into the Northeast Province, such things as schools and hospitals. Kenya shares nothing in the way of ideology with Ethiopia. The only thing that Kenya shares with Ethiopia is a devotion to the principle of territorial integrity. That question is vital [Page 397] to Kenya. Kenya loathes the presence of Soviets in Ethiopia. Kenya feels that withdrawal of the Somali forces from the Ogaden would leave the Soviets with no excuse for staying, but as long as the fighting continues the Soviets do have an excuse to stay: protection of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity. If the Somalis withdraw, then Kenya feels that all of us can call for Soviet and Cuban forces to withdraw as well. He said that Kenya felt that the United States had made the right move in sending a special emissary to Ethiopia.

Vice President Moi said that the delegation has come to request the US to help on a number of items. They are asking the minimum to defend Kenya’s borders. Kenya has no desire to become a military power. However, they face the threat from Somalia and they also face a future threat from the Marxist regime in Ethiopia. It makes no sense to wait until the end and then ask for help. This has led many African countries to panic and seek help anywhere it was available.

Moi said that President Kenyatta places high hopes on the success of this mission. He has already been telephoning Vice President Moi to find out what progress has been made. Vice President Moi hoped that the President would consider very sympathetically Kenya’s request. Kenya has threats from Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia. The only peaceful neighbor it has is Sudan. He stressed the strategic importance of Kenya.

President Carter said that he had to go to make an appearance on television. He said that he had already had a very good briefing from Secretary Vance on his meeting with the delegation the previous day3 and has also discussed matters extensively with Dr. Brzezinski and he will be talking to both men this afternoon. He expressed his appreciation for the delegation’s coming to Washington. He noted that the US shares a number of principles with Kenya and the US is indeed concerned over Kenya’s security situation. We share Kenya’s feeling that you must be able to defend yourself. He said he would be awaiting a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State on which to base a decision, but he assured the delegation that he would give their request very sympathetic consideration.4 He said that an attack on Kenya would be very dangerous for the United States as well. He agreed to study their request and their military needs as [Page 398] well as the assessment of their situation that our defense officials will make. The President then left the Cabinet Room.

[Omitted here is a long discussion on the situation in the Horn of Africa.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 36, Memcons: President, 2–3/78. Confidential. Drafted by Post. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. The January 27 letter from Kenyatta to Carter expressed hope for a new security understanding between Kenya and the United States. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 11, Kenya: President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta 1/77–3/78)
  3. In telegram 56370 to Nairobi, March 5, the Department reported on the March 1 meeting between Vance and the Kenyan delegation led by Vice President Moi in which they discussed the Horn of Africa and Kenyan defense needs. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780099–1288)
  4. See Document 150.