Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1988 Jan 6 We
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference in Nairobi

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: British High Commissioner’s Residence, Nairobi
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Around 2100 local time?
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3975
Themes: Monarchy, Civil liberties, Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Commonwealth (South Africa), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism

Prime Minister

Thank you for coming in at this hour of night after a very very busy day. I wonder if I can perhaps just sum up my impressions of the visit to Kenya in this way:

By any standards, it is one of the most fantastic visits I have ever paid. It is an impressive country, impressively run politically, with great stability, great wisdom and always with the long-term effect in view.

The welcome of the people and the way in which they came out was beyond one's wildest dreams. It was such that it was genuine. There is no way in which you could have imitated the expression of feeling which I saw in their faces, in their voices, in their music, in almost everything which I saw about them.

It is a country which is achieving results by believing in the capacity of personal responsibility, self-reliance, and a kind of unity and loyalty to Kenya, to bring about a great advance.

As we went up to Western Kenya today, one saw a combination of things:

First, how the smaller farmer has been encouraged himself, which we saw yesterday! how they have taken the small family unit as the core of the strength of Kenya. They have educated people for the technicalities required, for the techniques required; [end p1] they have educated them in the need for the best kind of results from agriculture, the best technique in carpentry, in metalwork, in maintenance and so on, believing that if you keep a family farm going well, the next generation will be equally keen on farming and you will keep a large part of your population in your rural areas. That has been vital.

That is the core of what they have been practising, but at same time they have recognised that you must encourage the larger company in order to get results, so we have seen people also growing tea, coffee, sugar, to go for the larger company and I was most impressed this morning when I enquired from that very impressive sugar factory we went to, how many people are really dependent upon refining in this factory, and the answer was about 400,000. Only about 4,000 work there, but they keep a lot of growers going, they keep a lot of companies who are then engaged in cutting the cane and delivering it to the factory; that keeps going a lot of subsidiary industries and there are a lot of people dependent upon them.

Politically, one would like to say to many other countries in Africa! “Look at what Kenya has done by wise government, by believing in personal responsibility and self-help, by believing that if you have a good soil agriculture is one of your main wealth-creating aspects, by believing in good communications—transport, rail links, air links and telecommunications—and by believing in educating people both in the fundamentals of education and in the practical techniques!” [end p2]

Altogether a wonderful visit. I am very pleased to have been asked. I had not realised when I came that no British Prime Minister had been since independence. I think we have rectified that omission and I just feel that there is a link between Kenya and Britain that can go on, because they are very grateful for the aid which we have given. It is our second-largest recipient of aid from Britain—India the largest, Kenya the second—and you feel that every pound spent here really does good for the people of Kenya and, if I might say, as an example for the whole of Africa.

I am sorry that is rather longer than I intended. Would you like to ask questions now? And of course, I need hardly say that a great deal of this is owed to the wisdom of President Moi and the wisdom of the government in the way in which they have conducted things in such a stable and peaceful way. [end p3]

Question

Prime Minister, if I can touch on South Africa for a moment, you have been widely reported last year as describing the ANC as a typical terrorist organisation.

Prime Minister

Just be accurate. Is this BBC? Typical? Typical?

Same Man

“Typically terrorist organisation” , I think that was the quote at Vancouver. Is that not so?

Prime Minister

I said that the ANC had threatened our companies in South Africa; they had threatened to attack them because of the attitude which I was taking in Vancouver and that that was of a kind of terrorism which we had seen elsewhere and I do not accept violence as a means of bringing about political change.

Same Man

But does that mean, Prime Minister—I will just conclude my question—that Britain does not recognise the ANC as a legitimate political force? [end p4]

Prime Minister

Britain does not recognise the ANC as the sole representative of people in South Africa. We do not have contacts at Cabinet level with the ANC, other than when we happen to be in the Chair at Europe. That it is in keeping with our view with regard to the PLO and other organisation. There are other contacts at official level and sometimes at junior ministerial level.

The ANC in other words, is treated on all fours with something like the PLO.

Question

Your stance on South Africa …

Prime Minister

Before we go any further, has anyone any questions to ask about Kenya?

Question (Same Man)

This is a Kenya question, Prime Minister …   . has caused a lot of opposition across the whole continent of Africa …   . you will agree …   .

Prime Minister

Steady the Buffe! Has caused some political opposition. [end p5]

Question (Same Man)

Political opposition. Your agreement with President Moi to remain good friends while disagreeing over this very volatile issue is a very interesting development. Does it encourage you to take your position on South Africa further into black Africa to other countries and other leaders?

Prime Minister

No. My position has not changed. My position has been stated at the Bahamas Conference, at the London Conference, at the Vancouver Conference. My position has not changed. I detest apartheid. I think people should be judged on merit. You try to give equality of opportunity and equality before the law.

That objective is not in doubt. The only question is how to bring it about. I do not think you bring about the improvement of a country or a nation by attempting to destroy it economically. That, I believe, will not help. I think it will hinder.

I think our way is much more practical and constructive, by helping black South Africans with educational facilities, as we do and continue to do, by helping the front-line states to be less dependent upon South Africa than they are now for their communications through South Africa, for their imports through South Africa, for their exports through South Africa, for their earnings along with South Africa and I think that our position is much more constructive in helping to bring about the end of apartheid than those which other people take up. [end p6]

I think the wisdom of the viewpoint which we have taken can be gauged by the fact that the arguments which we have put have in fact held in practice. They may not have held in rhetoric, but they have held as arguments as valid and they have held in practice.

Question

Just picking up on that.

Prime Minister

I hope you are doing all right.

Question (Same Man)

We are doing all right. We are doing all right in Kenya, not so well in London.

Prime Minister

You are doing all right in London!

Question (Same Man)

There has been some talk about further visits within Africa, going to the front-line states and then to South Africa.

Would you like to be able to do that within the next couple of years or your third term? [end p7]

Prime Minister

On South Africa, if I thought that it would help to achieve the objective, I would go there. I do not think the time is now. When it is now, I will know, but I can tell you it is not now and I think that it would be misconstrued by other people in Africa.

On the ground, I am told things are changing in South Africa, they are changing on the ground faster than they are in law.

Some of our big companies there, BP for example, Unilever, Shell, are changing things very fast. They are changing things, because job reservation has gone; they are changing things, because they are getting mixed housing projects; they are changing things; they are breaking down, they are dismantling apartheid in practice and it seems to me mad to attack them. What you want to do is to encourage them. So things are changing on the ground faster than they are changing in law.

If I thought that we could make advances in the direction in which we wish to go, I would go there. I do not think that time is now.

I had some time this Recess. Sometimes they say to me at the Commonwealth: “You have not been to see us!” and I thought that as I had come on one of my first visits after coming to government to Lusaka for the Commonwealth Conference, it had been a very profitable one, somehow I had taken that as visiting Africa. It was not so; it was the Commonwealth Conference in Africa, and I really must use this week to visit countries in Africa. Then one day, one would hope to go to others, but right now I have quite another kind of list in hand. [end p8]

As you know, I promised to go to Poland, I promised to go to Turkey, and I hope to go to Australia in August for the Bicentennial. That is why with that programme in mind this year, quite apart from one or two important European Councils and the Economic Summit in Toronto, I really could not let this year go without visiting Africa, and this is why I came to make these two visits, but I have not got anything else in mind at present.

Question

Prime Minister, what can you tell us about your views on the human rights situation in Kenya which were attacked by Annesty International earlier this year?

Prime Minister

I think that President Moi fully answered that in his speech last night and I think what he said and the way in which he has tackled the criticisms that were made, should make it abundantly clear that he is just as concerned at any abuses of human rights as anyone else would be—as anyone else in this room would be—and he is determined to do everything to dispel any doubts that there may be and to make certain that human rights are observed.

Question

There seems to be a great deal of sensitivity in Kenya about foreign press criticism and broadcasting criticism, including the BBC. Do you think that the Kenyan Government is actually being over-sensitive about this? [end p9]

Prime Minister

Do you think you are fully and impartially reporting the success in Kenya, all of you? I leave that question with you.

QUESTION (INAUDIBLE)

Prime Minister

That is not the point. I think Kenya is an example to many other countries in Africa. It is an example of what you can do if you have a wise government working with the people for the benefit of the people in a tremendous spirit of cooperation, with a stable government, making use of the natural assets of the country, which in this case are the agricultural assets. There are not so many mineral assets.

Kenya has shown what can be done in many other countries, some bordering on Kenya, others further away, and I think that is the message which for the good of people in the rest of Africa that we want to get across.

Question

Prime Minister, could we throw forward slightly to your visit to Nigeria?

There seems to be resentment in Nigeria, not only on your attitude to sanctions about which they take a different view, but [end p10] also on British immigration policy and the situation now applying on visas and also on what they claim to be a lack of sympathy in Britain for their position on debt. Are the Nigerians getting the British Government wrong on this?

Prime Minister

I have not met President Babangida. He was not able to come to Vancouver which was a great disappointment. I had wanted to talk to him, and I am very pleased that he has asked me to go now to Nigeria and I look forward to the visit very much indeed. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It is a very important country. It has important natural resources. It is a great trading partner … very constructive way.

My views on South Africa do not change. They do not change whether I am in Britain, whether I am in Vancouver, whether I am in the Bahamas, whether I am in Nigeria, whether I am in Kenya, whether I am in Lusaka, wherever I am, because they are founded on reason and they are founded on the practical results, and the fact is, as I indicated, that I believe our way will result sooner in the dismantling of apartheid and with a country which is successful than the way of those who—I understand their resentment, I understand that; I would hate to be discriminated against because of the colour of my skin; I expect to be taken for what I am by virtue of what I am and not for the colour of my skin; that is the way that we deal with people and that is the way it is one's ambition that other countries in Africa will deal with people—so my view will not change. [end p11]

But the fact is that although we have debated this many many times, although I have been the butt of many many criticism, so far that view in fact, in practice, has held, except with things which are absolutely vital like arms embargoes which we fully operate and with other things which we agreed were signals to South Africa that we thoroughly disapproved of what was being done and it was our hope that as most of life consists of managing change and making progress in the direction you want to go, we thought that progress was not fast enough and we wanted there to be no doubt about the direction in which we went.

Whether I am in Nigeria, whether I am in Kenya, whether I am in Lusaka—anywhere—the views do not change. The reasons are the same, and I believe that what we are doing is right and that it is breaking down apartheid in South Africa far better by some of our pre-eminent companies there than by those who are pulling out and thereby are losing any influence they might have in bringing about change within. But basically, it has to come from within. If you start to tell a country what to do from without, you are soon told where to get off—and not surprising.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

We had to do this. We had people coming through London Airport. We just simply could not carry on with the numbers [end p12] that were arriving with the immigration service as it was, and so we adopted the policy that many other Commonwealth countries have already adopted, saying you simply must get your visas in the country of origin rather than the country of destination. That is a policy which most other countries in fact operate and we have followed their example in doing so. We could not have carried on. It was a practical thing, and it was very distasteful for the people who were being kept in none too nice circumstances while we had to go into every case.

Question

Prime Minister, why is it so important to go to Nigeria, to actually have to ask for an invitation?

Prime Minister

It is important to go to Nigeria in any event. We are very considerable trading partners. We have a historic connection with Nigeria. We backed Nigeria during her problems with Biafra and so on.

Normally, I can see people at the Commonwealth Conference and have quite a long talk with them, but actually at Vancouver President Moi asked me to come because the timing there was that we have an industrial investment in Kenya conference in London.

I have never met President Babangida. I had hoped to see him at the Commonwealth Conference. I was not able to do so and was [end p13] very pleased when he warmly agreed to invite me there and I very much look forward to it—and I hope you do—I hope you do in a constructive way.

Question

Do you think though, Prime Minister, that the atmosphere might not be quite hostile? There seem to have been fairly hostile statements from other ministers apart from President Babangida himself? Other ministers and talk of demonstrations and so on. Do you not think it might be quite hostile?

Prime Minister

I have met demonstrations in my own country. I am no stranger to them. I meet hostility on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the House of Commons. I am no stranger to it.

I look forward to my visit to Nigeria. It is going to be a different visit from this one. I very much look forward to talking with President Babangida. I shall enjoy anything he has to say and if he has anything to say about South Africa, I have not the slightest shadow of a doubt that I shall repeat the views which I hold, but I hope that the similarity of the objectives are not in doubt.

I look forward to Nigeria. It is a very important country. It is a great trading partner of Britain and I have been in the House of Commons since 1959 and I remember many debates on Nigeria [end p14] and I look forward to going and I hope you do, and I can cope with a few demonstrations. They will not really upset things and I do hope you will not get things out of proportion, don't you?

Question

Might it not take the shine off this a bit though if there are people shouting and yelling, say, “Down with Thatcher!” ?

Prime Minister

Nothing can take the shine off this and I hope there might even be one or two people in Nigeria who would quite welcome Thatcher there! I cannot think why I am going if not, except maybe perhaps to put my viewpoint, which I do wherever I am. Cheer up!

Question

Prime Minister, some people may not want you to go to Nigeria in Nigeria. I also hear there is a certain disappointment that you are not staying longer as it is such an important country.

Prime Minister

It would be nice to stay longer, I agree. One could have spent much more time. As it is, I could not do more than two countries in a week and I do not think that Parliament would take it very kindly if I chose to be away for next Tuesday's questions. [end p15]

I sometimes have to be away, if we have European Councils or Economic Summits and just very occasionally for other reasons, but I do try to fit in the overseas visits during the Recess, even though it means one gets very little rest, but you know, the kind of adrenalin that flows is far better than any amount of rest. And you were not that optimistic about the visit to Kenya before it started, were you?

Question

Were you?

Prime Minister

Was I? Yes. I do not know. I have perhaps known many people who have lived in Kenya for a long time. I know that wherever I go in international conferences where President Moi is there, whatever the problem, he will take a positive and practical and constructive view and I cannot tell you how vital that is when we are gathered together in international conclaves, and I found basically what I expected to find, but in greater measure.

I had not realised the tremendous advance which they have made during the last eight to ten years. I think it is most impressive and it seems to us if you just say: “Look! What is the mystery?” There is not a mystery. There is a very good government taking practical, constructive, positive policies and it just shows you what can happen in the Continent of Africa if other people adopt a similar plan. [end p16]

Question

Are you coming back to Africa soon?

Prime Minister

I would like to come back here for a holiday. I would like also to come back here, yes. In other countries too.

Question

Front-line states?

Prime Minister

I can think of one front-line state which has quite a lot to thank me for.

Question

But will they invite you?

Prime Minister

It would not surprise me if they did!

Question

I was admiring, if I may say so, your molasses tones in your voice.

Prime Minister

Molasses? [end p17]

Same Man

It is what they put on the roads today to keep the dust down!

Prime Minister

No, no, no. Honey is much more natural!

Same Man

But is it just the dust in your voice or have you caught a cold?

Prime Minister

I do not have a cold. It is a very good microphone, and it is a smaller room than usual. I think it is about the same tone of voice as I used when I went to the 200th anniversary of the …   . at about midnight …

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

I would love to do that again! We got a good press the following day. It is about time I came again. I talked about Adam Smith I seem to remember. I think they gave me a copy of “The Wealth of Nations” . That is a spanking copy and I repeat it to Scotland now quite regularly. [end p18]

Question

Prime Minister, there was some leader comment that you were remiss in putting off Africa for as long as you did. Clearly you had lots of reasons for doing that, but do you have any regret at having waited as long as you did?

Prime Minister

As I say, I came to Lusaka, and if you really wanted to see hostility you should have been there the day I arrived in Lusaka. It really was quite fantastic, and you should have seen the way in which we left, which was quite different.

I really wish that I had come a little earlier, but I have, you know, trotted around quite a bit. It was not only visiting Lusaka, you see. The fact was that during the following three months we had during that Lancastor House Conference— Charles PowellCharles was involved in the Foreign Office, Peter Carrington and myself—was three months; it was not just what was going on there. We sent out regular telegrams of consultation and information not merely to the front-line states but other states, for example, Samora Machel of Mozambique. That is how I got to know Samora Machel. And they regularly sent people to visit us in No. 10 and for three months I saw so many people from all countries in Africa—not merely the front-line states but everyone who was concerned. We had contact to do with South Africa, we had contact with Samora Machel, we had contact with everyone involved in Africa and then I remember Julius [end p19] Nyerere coming over and we discussed how in the world did we think we could get three armies together if it all came right—you know, the Mugabe, the Nkomo, and the army of Rhodesia—and so to me it seemed that I had had nothing but Africa for about three months and I cite as evidence the fact that is where one's respect for Samora Machel arose and how we came—and then he came back later—and we got people coming to London from Africa, and in all of this the tone and the tune were set, plus cooperation with South Africa or we should not have got it without that. The tone and the tune were set in that time and that is what it was that in my first year took perhaps a much higher remembrance in my mind and made me think that I had done actually a great deal more with Africa than in fact we had. So I think that is probably the reason why and now we are back we will take a renewed interest.

Question

Prime Minister, what would you like to say to many of those thousands who turned out today who, according to West Kenyan officials could not believe that Britain had a woman prime minister and a queen and in fact thought you were queen?

Prime Minister

Oh, of course they did not. They said “Tatcher!” That is not queen. On any interpretation that is not queen. It is [end p20] “Tatcher” . Nothing like that. The Queen has been here. She made a very successful state visit and I think that they had no doubt that I was just the prime minister. I do not think they knew about the “Financial Times” calling me “A Man of the Year” !