Public Papers of Jimmy Carter, 1980-1981

Author: Jimmy Carter  | Date: February 20, 1980

Visit of President Moi of Kenya
Toasts at the State Dinner.
February 20, 1980

PRESIDENT CARTER. More than 2 million years ago in northern Tanzania and in southern Kenya, the first human beings stood erect and derived from that change a new freedom to use their bodies more effectively, to use their hands for constructive work, and began to develop a brain, which made freedom enjoyable for them. In the same country 2,000 years ago, long before our country was discovered by Columbus, the civilization had grown to such a point that the coastal region of eastern Africa was enjoying a thriving international trade, centered in a large part around the country which is now Kenya.

Sixteen years ago the people of Kenya, after a long struggle and even the imprisonment of their political leaders, became free and independent, and a republic was founded. Many people didn’t believe it could survive and thrive and grow and that it could not stand the test, in the continent of Africa, of freedom and democratic elections and the honoring of human rights and the preservation of the individuality of the citizens of that country.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became an honored leader, not only of Kenya but admired throughout the world—a man of spirit and determination, a man of great courage, a man of great force of his personality, who brought together a disparategroup of people and a common goal of preserving those human freedoms that are so precious to the people of that great country. Not only did he bring new life, new hope, new achievements, new leadership to the people of his own country but provided a spirit of hope and anticipation, confidence, and a dream of independence and freedom to many other people in Africa and, indeed, around the world, who had suffered under the burdens of colonialism for generations and even centuries.

The beauty of Kenya is astonishing to those who’ve been there. I stood beside President Moi tonight and had several people come through who are citizens of our Nation who have been to Kenya. And a frequent response to him was, "You have the most beautiful country on Earth." Because I’m the host, I didn’t question that analysis— [laughter] —and since it came from Americans, I didn’t want to question them either. [Laughter] But I think that those who have been there and those who’ve studied about Kenya, as I have—the last few days, in particular—know that it has been blessed by God with enormous and very beautiful natural resources, a highly diverse climate, beautiful mountains, lovely plains, access to the sea, and a strategic position in the eastern part of Africa.

Through hard work, through the honoring of human rights in its broadest definition, Kenya has not only enjoyed political growth but also great economic achievement and again has set an example for others to emulate.

Sixteen months ago came the death of Kenya’s first President, and the world waited with bated breath to observe the test of democracy, under a relatively new constitution, and a testing of ancient customs, and the free balloting and expressions of their own will, of a free people. And the country stood the test, and a new President was chosen. And he has honored us here tonight by being our guest.

This is the first time that our Nation has enjoyed the presence of a President of Kenya, but we have enjoyed friendship, communication, a shared purpose, common goals, common ideals, ever since Kenya became a republic and a free nation. This test of democracy was passed with flying colors. And our guest tonight, after having been chosen to lead his country in the first and highest position, consolidated his strength there by constant travels throughout his great land.

The eastern coast of Africa is a turbulent part of the world, but there is a rock, an anchor, a bastion of freedom and stability, which is very beneficial to Kenya’s neighbors as well as to its own people. Because of his diplomatic relationships with the leaders of other countries of Africa, Kenya continues to show the beneficent influence that it can exert on those who admire the achievements in that great land.

As a famous runner myself— [laughter] —when the land is flat— [laughter] I’ve always admired the wonderful achievements of Kenya’s world-famous and world recordholders in the middle and long distances. Our President comes from the same part of the nation where a world recordholder lives now. He holds four world records, as a matter of fact. And they run up and downhill with no apparent difficulty at all. [Laughter] And because of that, the recent actions of our guest were very significant.

Kenya announced on their own initiative, after consideration of the principles on which their nation was formed, that they would not attend the Summer Olympics in Moscow, because the Soviets hadinvaded Afghanistan and taken away the freedom of the people of that country.

This action of leadership was typical of the principles that have permeated the life of our guest this evening. When he had lunch today with Secretary Warren Christopher, he said, "When any person is deprived of freedom, I am deprived of freedom." We admire leaders like this, and we honor them when they come to our country, and we cherish their friendship with us.

I would like to say, in closing, that it’s reassuring to a great nation like our own to realize how much we have in common with the great nation of Kenya: a relatively short history of freedom since we escaped from colonial domination ourselves; a searching for human values which do not change in a rapidly changing turbulent world; the honoring of the rights of different kinds of people to live their own individual lives; to search for the ultimate in human achievement; to try to set an example for others when our beliefs are true; and the searching out of friends—not only neighbors but neighbors in spirit, who might live in far distant places. We are distant geographically one from another, but we’re close because we share so much.

I would like to ask all our guests to join me in a toast: To the brave and free people of Kenya and to their leader, President Moi.

PRESIDENT MOI. Mr. President, I find it difficult to make a speech, because everybody is ready for dinner. [Laughter] Maybe it is better to start with a short speech and therefore relax.

Mr. President, I thank you very sincerely indeed for your warm welcome and kind words about myself and my .country. In our African traditions, sharing meals together is a very important element in expression of generosity and friendship. This dinner, Mr. President, has, therefore, great significance for us. I bring to you, Mr. President, and, through you, to all the citizens of the United States warm greetings from the people of Kenya.

I’m sure that I do not have to say that Kenyans know something about the United States and its people. Through many programs and cooperation, including trade, technical assistance, other forms of government-to-government programs, cultural contacts, and sports, Kenyans now do know a fair amount about this Nation and its people. Moreover, our interest in you is positive and steadily growing, especially because we share many objectives and values including democratic and constitutional forms of government.

I should also add that in you, Mr. President, we in Kenya see a great friend whom we can count upon. Not so long ago when our late President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, passed away, you sent your own son Chip and his wife to represent you during the funeral ceremony. In the American team for that occasion was Justice Thurgood Marshall, a good friend of ours and someone who assisted in structuring Kenya’s Constitution. Your interest and demonstrated friendship to us is one of the reasons why we are very happy to be here this week.

Another reason to thank you and the people of the United States—for the help which you have given us since our independence. We were most heartened in the early days of our independence by the great interest which the people of this Nation showed in our future development. That interest was demonstrated in a very visible and concrete manner through various forms of cooperation-cooperation which included the development of our youth, involving the establishment of our national youth service, and generous offers of trainingand education contribution in your institutions. Indeed, many of the young people who have received education and training in the United States are now in responsible positions in the development of our country; some of them are Ministers.

Mr. President, we have done the best we can in making use of assistance received from you and our other friends abroad. If I were asked to summarize the situation so far, I would say that the development of our nation since independence—a development which has been fairly impressive by standards elsewhere in the developing world—is largely due to three factors: The first one is good leadership by our late President; the second is the tremendous determination by our people to promote their own development and welfare; and third is the support received from our friends abroad.

In many ways these are the same requirements for the future. However, that future now looks uncertain for countries such as Kenya because of some external forces well beyond their control. In fact, countries such as mine can be described as innocent bystanders when major matters affecting their own survival are being discussed or carried out.

It is for this reason that I consider one of the real challenges facing the international community today to be how all of us can participate effectively in planning the future of the international community. Those who are strong .and wealthy must not take those who are small and poor for granted. A solution to this particular challenge will, of course, facilitate global solutions for the various crises now facing the world.

There is another aspect of this relationship between the strong and wealthy nations on one hand, and the poor nations on the other, which I would like to mention; this is the very important issue of territorial integrity. Some recent events indicate the urgent need to give assurance to all nations that they can live without fear that their territorial integrity will be violated. And there can be no doubt that such fear undermines the very foundation on which to build a happier future for each and every nation.

At this juncture I would like to say that no country can be isolated from problems happening elsewhere; they can be for you today and for me tomorrow. So, there is no distinction between what is happening today and what may happen tomorrow to any nation.

There are, of course, other urgent matters facing the international community. One of them, which is a particularly dangerous one, is the whole question of prevailing mass poverty in the Third World. As I said in the Federal Republic of Germany last week, there can be no lasting peace and prosperity in any part of the world when there is poverty and despair in most of the world. Moreover, the solution to many of the economic problems now facing the industrial countries can only be solved if there is more rapid development in the Third World.

And finally, the world has the resources and technology to deal with the development problem, provided there is political commitment. I believe that the need for such commitment is now obvious to all, because self-interest reinforces the valid arguments based on morality and responsibility. We hope that the United States will be even more active in providing leadership in this field.

Mr. President, I should perhaps now stress that the purpose of my present visit to your country is not only to discuss issues like these but also to exchange views on bilateral relations between the United States and Kenya. Here, I’mhappy to say that these relations are good and that I expect them to grow even stronger in the years to come.

We in Kenya are trying hard to promote the development of our people, under very severe constraints. Our success so far demonstrates that steady progress towards that objective can be made even without valuable minerals, provided there is peace, effective leadership, and determined efforts on our part and, of course, a favorable external environment.

Some people complain that maybe God did not give others oil. I always say, each country has its own gifts from God, and therefore, no one should complain. Somebody from my own country asked me, "Why have we not got oil?" I told him, "We have fresh .air; it is a gift of God." [Laughter] Others may have oil, but they suffer from the heat of the Sun. [Laughter] And so, we should not complain. God, even in our generation—and that means we should not be selfish—even in our generation we may not find oil or other valuable things, but in the years to come, our children and the future generations may discover the things which we want to have now.

Now, Mr. President, I’m now concerned that recent developments in the eastern African region may create conditions which will make it difficult for us to develop as rapidly as we expected. In particular, it would be disastrous for all the countries of that region if they are compelled to use their own scarce resources on more and more military expenditures. What the region needs is peace, cooperation, and good neighborliness. We in Kenya will continue to do the best we can to promote such a climate. But it is a climate which cannot be established by only one country. This important and urgent job calls for active commitment on the part of each nation involved.

Before I sit down, Mr. President, I would like to say that we in Kenya continue to admire your commitment and decisive efforts to uphold human rights everywhere in the world. If there is one thing which can unite us all and which makes ideological arguments truly irrelevant, it is the whole subject of human rights and human dignity. This is so important to the human race. If we can all uphold that principle, then I think you are lucky.

The United States, from George Washington up to Jimmy Carter, you have had those cherished ideals, which have made this Nation a strong nation—not the weapons, not other things that matter. It is what has made you so united. It enables the citizens of this great nation, free—free to express the things they want to do and thereby enable each one of you to be free, as God meant us to be. And therefore, we in Kenya value the dignity of man. We therefore strongly support your efforts in this area, in practice, in everything.

The reason why—and I indicated it this morning—why I had to ask my National Sports Council that we should not participate in the Olympics, not because of anything else, because our own conscience, our own dignity is being undermined. And I did say this afternoon that nobody should ask me, to sit on me, that I must cooperate. It is ridiculous, when those Afghanistanis are being suppressed, and we are told, "Let us cooperate." And I said before, when the lives of those people are threatened, mine is threatened. Why should I cooperate then? Those who would like to cooperate maybe are following the same ideals—ideals which are not worthwhile supporting.

And in any case, we made—we Kenyans, we made sacrifices because we were very hopeful that we were going to secure gold medals, silver, and the rest. Others, of course, are participating with no prospects of securing one. [Laughter]

In the case of Africa, there is a particularly serious situation of apartheid in South Africa, which again touches human rights. That situation is a tragic one, because it is also preventing that country from playing its rightful role in the development of Africa, and all which is potentially, exceedingly important.

Mr. President, I also take this opportunity to say how we in Kenya are encouraged by your untiring efforts to promote peace and cooperation in the Middle East. Our stand on this matter has been made very clear to all. We urge the nations of that region to accept negotiations as a method for finding a lasting solution, a solution which must include a homeland for the Palestinian people and a solution which must also include acceptance of the right to live for all the people of the Middle East.

Finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for the discussions we had today. As I explained, the economic problems created by external forces beyond our control compel us to look for more assistance from the United States and other friends. Here I should add that we also look forward to greater private investment. Our policies in this field and our commitment to honor our obligations are well known.

Mr. President, once again I thank you and Mrs. Carter for this reception. I hope you will one day visit us in Kenya. If it were not that you are in the middle of elections, I would say I invite you to Kenya. [Laughter] Nevertheless, I wish you success, and my invitation is extended to you, hoping that you will succeed— [laughter] —and come and see us, see our little country, Kenya.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to rise and join me in a toast: To the health and happiness of President Carter and strengthened cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Kenya.

THE PRESIDENT. I’ll drink to that.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.