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written by ANTONY MBITHI on 11-05-2011

In 1971, Njoroge Mungai, then Kenya foreign minister proposed the key resolution on arms sale to South Africa. The resolution opposed any sale of arms to the South Africa. In August, Mungai visited Nigeria to discuss the same issue and to encourage co-operation between East and West Africa. He was a member of the Kaunda delegation which visited a number of European countries including Britain and the U.S on the arms issue on behalf of it and the non- Aligned summit (J. A Ballard, “policymaking in a New State”, Papua New Guinea 1972-77 (University of Queensland press, London, 1978)

Kenya did not hide her feelings but criticized Britain for her policy or proposed resumption of arms sales to South Africa. The criticism by Kenya came at the common wealth conference in Singapore in 1971. Nevertheless, this attitude did not upset the British Prime Minister Mr. Heath as much as the attitude of other African Leaders. This was probably because Kenya’s criticism was put in a moderate and diplomatic manner, quite consistent with her foreign policy behavior of co-operation and compliance with Britain. This kind of foreign policy behavior was further displayed when at the same conference, Kenya agreed to join the commonwealth study group on Indian Ocean security which collapsed when Britain resumed arms sales to South Africa in February.

On the question of Rhodesia, Kenya’s position at the Singapore conference again displayed co-operative behavior towards Britain. In a closely argued statement, Kenya said on 2 November that the proposed Rhodesian statement was unsatisfactory, though it contained some positive aspects. But Kenya insisted that only British military presence in Rhodesia could make agreement more than a paper statement.

On the question of the sale of arms to South Africa by Britain, it can be argued that the Kenyan delegation resorted, both publicly and in the corridor, to effective and dignified diplomacy to prevent Britain from pursuing her policy of entrenching further in power to obnoxious apartheid regime through supply of weapons of mass destruction, for internal oppression and external aggression against free independent Africa. Although the British government persisted with her policy of selling arms to South Africa, this did not necessitate a change in Kenya’s foreign policy behavior towards Britain. This is a clear indication that Kenya preferred co-operation to conflictive behavior towards Britain. This is probably a consequence of her economic dependency on Britain.

In commercial relations, Kenya’s trend towards widening international economic relations was maintained between 1972 and 1973, but this did not affect the continuance of her cordial relations with Britain. An agreement was signed for example, on 30th January, 1972 under which the British government assumed responsibility for the pensions of British former civil servants who served in Kenya up to the time of independence. It is such form of economic assistance to Kenya that ultimately, mediate Kenya’s foreign policy behavior towards Britain, with respect to the latte’s links with South Africa

 Renewal of sporting Links with Britain

In May 1974, Kenya broke off all sporting links with Britain because of the British Lions Rugby tour of South Africa. The chairman of the Kenya National Sports council, Isaac Lugonzo, said the boycott would last until such times as the bodies controlling sports in Britain gave assurance that they would not allow her sports men and women to participate in activities organised by South Africa and other racist regimes. Not surprisingly, however, the ban lasted only until July when British under secretary of states for foreign Affairs, Joan Lestor, informed Kenyan sports officials that her government was taking positive steps to prevent British teams playing in countries practicing racial discrimination.

Though one would have expected Kenya to maintain the ban a little longer than three months, while closely examining the under secretary’s statement and ascertaining the truth in it, Kenya felt that it did not have to go this far. Perhaps Kenya agreed to go by the British under secretary’s poaition, not because Britain had actually stopped sporting links with South Africa immediately, but because of the need to avoid sour or histile relations with Britain. Interestingly, economic dependence relations were not affected as a result of the break. By accepting to lift the ban that soon, Kenya in our view, was exhibiting compliance (Robert O Keohane and Joseph Nye, “Transformational Relations and World Politics (Harvard University Press, 1973)

It is important to rely that even with respect to such low areas as sports; Kenya has been ready exercise compliance with the position taken by Britain.

The fact that Kenya imposed the sporting ban only to back peddle on this decision, before the expiry of three months is very significant for this study. This reflects the dilemma of a state, which while trying to pursue her foreign policy goals, is handicapped by her own economies weaknesses. This tactical retreat or compliance can be best understood within the dependency framework (Morgenthau Hans, “Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace” Penguin1985)

Emphasis should be placed on the fact that it was not until 1980 that Britain finally agreed to accept official ban on sporting links with South Africa. This happened when the British government confirmed its support for the Gleneagles Declaration of commonwealth Prime ministers on sport with South Africa and officially discouraged a British Lion Rugby team from going there; but it refused to match what France had done in enforcing the ban by refusing to grant visas.

The foreign policy behavior of co-operation and compliance with Britain on issues of salience to her is in Kenya’s interest since she remains Britain’s largest recipient of foreign Aid. Underlying this policy also is the close defence relations which are maintained but which we shall not discuss here. Because of Kenya’s positive and compliant attitude, not even the size of her economic problems are out of proportion with the means which Britain can devote to a prolonged action of her own frontiers, whether this means technical experts, financial aid or the military resources which can be brought to bear through the defence agreements.


1. Morgenthau Hans, “Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace” Penguin1985

2. Robert O Keohane and Joseph Nye, “Transformational Relations and World Politics (Harvard University Press, 1973)

3. J. A Ballard, “policymaking in a New State”, Papua New Guinea 1972-77 (University of Queensland press, London, 1978)

Date Submited: 11-05-2011

African History 1900 To 2000 Articles