More Kenyan-U.S. Diplomatic History: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

For those of us who would still like to have a better understanding of what went wrong with the last Kenyan election, and how to do better this year, it’s worth taking advantage of the passage of time (and the declassification and publication of the kind of things that we don’t have yet from 2007) to see more clearly how U.S. and Kenyan leaders have interacted over time.  And in looking at the 1970s, while Kenyatta is no longer with us, he casts a broad shadow, and Scowcroft and Moi are of course very much still around.

MEMORANDUM

  • OF CONVERSATION
  • PARTICIPANTS:
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall
  • Robert S. Smith
  • SUBJECT:
  • Current Situation in Kenya

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

DATE & TIME: Wednesday – October 13, 1976 5:45 p.m.

PLACE: Scowcroft’s Office

Ambassador Marshall summarized the present security and political situation in Kenya. The GOK very much appreciated our moral support during the Uganda crisis. They believe this brought the Ugandans to the conference table. Ambassador Marshall remains pessimistic, however, about Uganda’s capacity for destabilizing Kenya. He does not expect an invasion, but he does see the continuation and increase of terrorist activities from Uganda. Nevertheless, he thinks that the ultimate threat to Kenya comes from Somalia with Soviet support. He also sees Tanzania’s economic difficulties and political policies affecting Kenya.

Ambassador Marshall believes that our interests in Kenya are to see the country remain stable. Military and economic aid and political reassurances from us can help. He sees Kenya as a buffer among the East African states and a means of slowing down Soviet penetration in East Africa. He believes that continuing stability in Kenya might even turn some of the other countries in the region to Kenya’s way of thinking. [Note: Unfortunately, African nations do not learn economic stability from one another.]

Ambassador Marshall said we have excellent bilateral relations with Kenyatta. Kenyatta is very pleased to be receiving our arms aid even though we are one of several suppliers. We have stressed the defensive purpose of our arms aid.

Ambassador Marshall turned over to General Scowcroft a letter from President Kenyatta to President Ford. It covers two principal issues. One is the possibility that the U.S. will provide a “fly past” in Kenya on December 12, Kenya’s independence day. This was discussed by Secretary Kissinger when he was in Nairobi in September. General Scowcroft knew of the proposal but did not know whether there would be an aircraft carrier available in the area at the time. If not, he said the planes could be ferried down.

The second important issue in the letter is Kenyatta’s prospective visit to the United States. Unfortunately, according to Ambassador Marshall, although Kenyatta knew about the trip in advance of Secretary Kissinger’s visit, he had not told his staff about it. The room was full of people when Secretary Kissinger brought it up and the invitation for November 10 drew a laugh from staff members who could not understand the implications of a date which followed our elections. Kenyatta himself did not understand that, in the event that President Ford was defeated, he would still be in office until late January.

General Scowcroft inquired as to Kenyatta’s health and the prospect that he could really travel to the U.S. Ambassador Marshall explained that Kenyatta has a blood clot which occasionally causes total unconsciousness for periods up to one and a half days. This has occurred three times in the past year. The rest of the time Kenyatta is in good health for a man of 84.

Ambassador Marshall noted that a move to change the constitutional provision for a 90-day Vice Presidential succession when the President dies was squashed. Nevertheless, said Marshall, we should not put all our eggs in Vice President Moi’s basket. There are other potential candidates and so far Kenyatta has not named anyone. [Note: There are indications Kenyatta does not favor Moi.] Marshall said that part elections which are expected in early 1977 (for the first time since 1966) may fill three senior vacancies and thus be a clue to the succession.

As to the post-Kenyatta era, Marshall sees the continuation of civilian government, slightly to the left of the present government. There would be tribal disturbances but the situation would remain stable. There is a good civil service and the Kenyans are interested in maintaining foreign investment and a sound economy.

General Scowcroft asked about the status of whites in Kenya and Ambassador Marshall replied that they flourish. Scowcroft was impressed.

General Scowcroft asked about the status of the MAP program and Ambassador Marshall said that it was on schedule and the Kenyans were highly satisfied. We have requested the Kenyans to accept a U.S. Defense Attache but we are not pushing it. General Scowcroft agreed that we should not push.

There was a brief discussion of the Seychelles, to which Ambassador Marshall is also accredited. The Ambassador referred to the importance of tourism to those islands. The U.S. has an Air Force tracking station there with 300 Americans. [text not declassified] We are concerned that the Prime Minister, Mancham, is flirting with the Communists.

1 Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 3, Kenya. Confidential. The meeting took place in Scowcroft’s office. All brackets are in the original memorandum. The letter from Kenyatta to Ford, dated September 28, is ibid.


One thought on “More Kenyan-U.S. Diplomatic History: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

  1. Pingback: “Competition for Military Superiority” between Uganda and Kenya not a sign of political maturity | AfriCommons Blog

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