A little Kenyan-American history: Kissinger, Waiyaki, Kibaki–getting the F-5s, safaris and slums

A priceless bit of diplomatic history, from October 1, 1975, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with Kenyan Foreign Minister Waiyaki  at the U.S. United Nations Mission in New York.  You just have to read it:

The Secretary: It is good to see you here.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We are enjoying ourselves very much.

The Secretary: I was in Nairobi before your independence. I went to see the animals. I was there in June. It was very pleasant. How long are you staying here?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope to leave tomorrow. I have been here a long time.

The Secretary: You were here for the Special Session of the UN?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes.

The Secretary: How did you get into your present job? Were you a career officer in the Foreign Ministry?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: No, I am a member of Parliament. I was formerly Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

The Secretary: The only way I could get into the State Department was to be appointed Secretary of State. I was told that I don’t have the qualifications for entry into the Foreign Service.

The Secretary: What are the major problems in our relations?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Our relations are good.

The Secretary: I can’t understand Foreign Ministers saying that our relations are good. Normally everyone says they are lousy.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Relations are good.

The Secretary: I agree with you. Our relations are good. It is pleasant to hear this. Usually I am told that everything we are doing is wrong. You have a very constructive policy and our intention is to support you within the limits the Congress will go along with.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope Congress will understand the requests which we make.

The Secretary: Congress does not go along with the requests I make, but we are going to get them under control soon.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I am in the strange position where I am a congressman myself, but I still get pushed around by other congressmen.

The Secretary: You have a parliamentary system?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes.

The Secretary: You have only one party?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes, but I am questioned by backbenchers and also by assistant ministers sometimes.

The Secretary: We have had some talks on arms. We are trying to put together a military assistance package for Kenya.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope you can move quickly.

The Secretary: What is holding things up?

Mr. Coote: We thought we had some F5A aircraft lined up for Kenya. They would have been available immediately at a low cost. This was the big advantage of that package. However, it did not work out.

The Secretary: Why didn’t it work out?

Mr. Coote: We thought we could get the F5A’s from Iran but unfortunately the Shah had not approved the arrangement and it fell through.

Assistant Secretary Davis: The Shah believed he had already committed the aircraft to Jordan and he didn’t want to go back on this commitment.

The Secretary: I remember that now. How many F5A’s were involved?

Mr. Coote: Ten.

The Secretary: Can’t we find ten F5A’s?

Mr. Coote: The Defense Department has informed us that no suitable F5A aircraft are available now but perhaps some may become available in a year or two.

Assistant Secretary Davis: Unfortunately, this is a very popular aircraft.

The Secretary: I find it hard to believe that ten F5A’s are not available. I will look into this when I get back. Have you found any helicopters which can be sent quickly to Kenya?

Mr. Coote: Defense is looking into this. I think there are some helicopters which can be made available right away.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We are also interested in F5E’s. Did KIBAKI (Minister of Finance and Economic Development) talk to the State Department when he was in Washington for the IBRD meetings?

Mr. Coote: No, he did not raise the subject. However, Ambassador Marshall has discussed the general subject of military assistance with Minister KIBAKI in Nairobi. We are also looking at the F5E-‘s here. The problem is that they are very costly and the package might be so high as to create difficulties for both Kenya and the United States. We have a military team which will be visiting Nairobi soon. They will be prepared to discuss F5E’s as well as alternatives with Kenyan officials.

The Secretary: The F5E’s would cost around $60 million. Are we talking about MAP?

Mr. Coote: The Kenyan package involves a combination of MAP and FMS credits.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We hope the US will be as generous as possible. Are F5E’s or F5A’s better for us?

Mr. Coote: This is a question for the Kenyan Government to decide, whether the high cost of the planes has a higher priority than your other needs.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Are they good aircraft?

Mr. Coote: They are very modern, multi-purpose and efficient aircraft containing the latest equipment. This is why they are so costly.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: President Kenyatta is anxious to know quickly what will happen.

The Secretary: I will look into it. We will let you know next week. I have a theory about getting things done in the government. Every issue can be settled within a four-hour period. The question is when this four-hour period takes place. Normally, it is just before a decision has to be made and follows several weeks or months of meaningless changes and compromises in papers prepared by staff personnel. I also have another theory. This is that the Pentagon always has more weapons than it is willing to admit. We will see whether they have any F5A’s.

Mr. Coote: Mr. Minister, I wish to assure you in this instance that the Department of Defense is keen to have a military assistance program with the Kenyan Government.

The Secretary (turning to Assistant Secretary Davis): Make sure I look into this.

Assistant Secretary Davis: Yes, sir.

The Secretary: Are you going to vote with us on the Korean resolution? There are two resolutions. We would like you to vote for the one which we support and against the one which Algeria supports. Our resolution calls for the abolition of the UN Command but to replace it with an alternative arrangement. The Algerian resolution has no alternative arrangement. We think it is too dangerous to leave the armistice agreement to luck.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We will study that.

The Secretary: In how many countries do you have embassies?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We have resident ambassadors in fourteen countries plus the UN. Some ambassadors cover several countries. There is one thing that we are very interested in which we would like your help. That is rural development.

Mr. Coote: We are already active in the rural development field in Kenya.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We are especially interested in housing. This is in our new development program.

The Secretary: Are you talking about technical assistance? Why don’t we send someone out to look at the program? Won’t AID send someone out right away?

Assistant Secretary Davis: We will get in touch with AID.

The Secretary: We are interested in your political stability and development. If you have any ideas on how we can be helpful, we will look at them.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: What we need most in the rural areas is water supply. We also need housing in both the rural and urban areas. Our urban areas have slums, even in the beautiful city of Nairobi. This is because people move to the city and have no place to go. We need better housing and better social centers in the countryside so that the people will stay in the rural areas instead of moving to the cities. When we tell the people to go back to the rural areas, they say there is nothing there. We need more development.

The Secretary: This is in keeping with our own priorities. I don’t know how much resources we have but we can provide technical advice. We will ask AID to send someone out to Kenya to discuss this question with you. We will get in touch with you next week.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Another pressing problem for us is the question of education. We are unable to place all our qualified secondary students in East African institutions. It is also a problem to send our students abroad because there is not much financial assistance. We send them to the United States in greater numbers than to the U.K., even though we know the U.K. better. We find this year that there are 1200 secondary school graduates whom we cannot place in East Africa. Even if a family can afford to send its children to the United States, then they run up against the restrictions of our own foreign exchange laws. The students need financial assistance from your government and your institutions.

The Secretary: Can we do anything about this?

Minister Waiyaki: We would like to see an increase of scholarship aid.

The Secretary: How do we do this?

Assistant Secretary Davis: The CU budget provides for a few scholarships, but not many.

The Secretary: Are CU funds a part of the State Department budget?

Assistant Secretary Davis: Yes, sir.

The Secretary: Make sure that I take this up when I get back. How much would it cost? We will get a paper to you.

Mr. Adundo: The students who are already here also have a serious problem. The availability of scholarship money provided by universities and private institutions in the United States is declining. Money is much more scarce now and the students are having a difficult time getting by.

The Secretary: Universities are feeling the economic pinch too. Let us look at the CU budget.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We would be eternally grateful to you if you can do something about it.

The Secretary: It was nice to see you.

From:  The Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume E-6, Documents on Africa

1 Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Henry Kissinger Papers, Box CL 274, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Coote, cleared by Davis, approved in S. The meeting took place during the annual session of the UN General Assembly.

3 thoughts on “A little Kenyan-American history: Kissinger, Waiyaki, Kibaki–getting the F-5s, safaris and slums

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