Documents reveal Britain made secret deal to defend Kenya in case of invasion by Somalia

Britain made a secret undertaking in 1967 to defend Kenya in case of an invasion by Somalia, declassified documents recently released from the Prime Minister’s office in London reveal.

The deal, known as the “Bamburi Understanding”, was a reassurance following a non-committal statement made by Mr Duncan Sandys, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, in 1964.

Without making any concrete commitment, Mr Sandys had told Kenya’s new government that in case of an attack by Somalia, it was probable that Britain would intervene.

Somalia, which was then considered to have one of the region’s most powerful armies equipped with sophisticated Soviet-made weapons, had threatened to annex the north eastern part of Kenya in pursuit of its Greater Somalia policy. President Jomo Kenyatta’s administration had since independence in 1963 been grappling with a secessionist conflict in the north east, known as the Shifta War, that was supported by Somalia. Indeed, Somali Prime minister Muhammad Egal had told British MPs in 1962 of the intention to unite all territories occupied by Somalis in Kenya and Ethiopia

When Somalia’s aggressive action seemed likely to lead to an invasion of Kenya in 1966, President Kenyatta quickly dispatched Attorney-General Charles Njonjo and Agriculture Minister Bruce Mckenzie to London to pressure the British government to not only give reassurances of protecting Kenya but also provide more sophisticated equipment.

DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS

According to the declassified documents, although the British government turned down the request for arms terming it “unrealistic”, Prime Minister Harold Wilson, in a private message to President Kenyatta, committed to consider protecting Kenya from Somalia’s aggression.

This private message marked “secret” was what came to be known as the “Bamburi Understanding”.

“If Kenya were the victim of outright aggression by Somalia, the British government would give the situation most urgent consideration. While the British government cannot in advance give the Kenya Government any assurance of automatic assistance, the possibility of Britain giving the Kenyans assistance in the event of organised and unprovoked armed attack by Somalia is not precluded,” the message read.

Nine months after the “Bamburi Understanding”, a key diplomatic milestone was achieved when mediation spearheaded by Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda led to the signing of the Arusha Memorandum between Kenya and Somalia to end border hostilities.

But the Somalia government, which had signed the Arusha Memorandum, was overthrown and replaced by a military junta led by General Siad Barre in 1969.

This resulted in apprehension with senior Kenyan officials fearing that General Barre was more likely to revive and pursue the Greater Somalia ambitions actively.

ANOTHER BLOW

As if that was not enough, Kenya suffered another blow when the British Labour administration, which had made defence commitments through the “Bamburi Understanding,” was replaced by the Conservatives under Prime Minister Edward Heath in June 1970, creating further anxiety.

This sudden turn of events forced President Kenyatta to send Mr Njonjo and Mr Mckenzie with a private letter seeking reaffirmation from the new British Prime Minister on maintaining the security understanding.

“I have asked them (Mr Njonjo and Mr Mckenzie) to discuss with you what we now here call the Bamburi Understanding. I hope that you will kindly discuss this matter with my ministers who have my authority to do so. I am keen that the understanding should be continued with your government,” read the letter dated August 30, 1970 and signed by President Kenyatta.

Mr Mckenzie, who was on sick leave in Britain, booked the appointment with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to deliver the letter to Number 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s residence in London.

The appointment was confirmed for September 8, 1970 at 11 am.

A BRIEF

Four days before the meeting, a brief was forwarded to Prime Minister Heath by the FCO warning that President Kenyatta was going to be unhappy if Britain refused to carry on with the “Bamburi Understanding”. The brief argued that Kenyans were among the most moderate on the “Arms for South Africa” issue — in reference to Britain selling weapons to the Apartheid government despite widespread opposition from many African countries — making it crucial for the new British government not to antagonise them.

In the brief that was written in the context of the Cold War between the Western and Eastern blocs, the Prime Minister was also advised to raise British concerns with the Kenyan emissaries about the Soviet Union’s attempts to penetrate East Africa. There was also to be the clincher that the former colonial masters were willing to co-operate on the defence problem so long as British soldiers were allowed continued access to Kenyan military facilities.

Biographical notes annexed to the brief further give insights on how the British viewed the two Kenyan ministers.

Mr Njonjo was described as one of the closest and friendliest ministers to the British High Commission in Nairobi. Although he lacked political will or the grassroots support to win the presidency, he was viewed as a leading architect in the Kenyatta succession.

STATEMENT RELEASED

Mr McClauney, however, advised that if Mr Njonjo’s visit leaked, a statement should be released that he had brought a personal message from President Kenyatta and that it was not the practice to disclose the contents of such messages. And if the media assumed that the subject of the meeting was selling arms to South Africa, then this assumption should be allowed to stand.

The secrecy of the meeting was emphasised to Prime Minister Heath by the British Secretary of State: “While I understand that you wish in general for publicity to be given to your discussion with African and other Commonwealth leaders, we feel that in this case it would be right to respect the Kenyan request, in so far as we can do so without appearing disingenuous.”

Arrangements were, therefore, made for Mr Njonjo and Mr Mckenzie to enter the British Prime Minister’s office through the Cabinet office instead of the main entrance to avoid public attention.

During the meeting, the declassified documents indicate, Mr Mckenzie pointed out the importance of reaffirming the “Bamburi Understanding”. In return, the British forces would be free to continue using Nairobi Airport, the Mombasa port as well as military training facilities in Kenya. They also had great interest in retaining the British special forces who were training Kenya’s General Service Unit commandos and the Special Branch. The visiting ministers linked the work the British special forces were doing in Kenya to the security arrangement against Somali’s aggression.

IN EXISTENCE

As late as May 1981, the agreement was still in existence, according to a brief prepared for Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime minister (1979-1990), when she met Kenya’s then Foreign Minister Robert Ouko in London.

“Kenya has our friendship/support. Kenya policy to stand on her own feet militarily is right. We will continue to help Kenya absorb new equipment,” said the brief.

It added that in case Somali attacked Kenya “UK would give all help it could, but it is unlikely our response could include commitment of combat troops. Nor indeed do we suppose that Kenya would wish for this.”

Ironically, despite the fears in the 1960s, it was the Kenyan Defence Forces that would go into Somalia decades later, in October 2011, to pursue al-Shabaab terrorists. The Kenyan forces are now part of the African Union Mission in Somalia that is trying to restore security in the country that has been grappling with civil war since the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991.

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/docum...asion-somalia/1056-3497398-yd1tasz/index.html
 

Ras

It's all so tiresome
VIP
No shit. Britain owns Kenya. Their main base in Africa is located there.

Can't remember where it was but it's a huge region they fully control.

Their biggest exports go directly to British owned companies (Tea, Tobacco etc).

Can't see any reason to invade Kenya though. Let them keep those "Kenyan Somalis".

Sometimes wish we teamed up with the Germans in Tanzania to kick out the Brits in East Africa only to realize we'd be next in line for the gas chambers if they won.
 

Diaspora ambassador

Representative of Bari
No shit. Britain owns Kenya. Their main base in Africa is located there.

Can't remember where it was but it's a huge region they fully control.

Their biggest exports go directly to British owned companies (Tea, Tobacco etc).

Can't see any reason to invade Kenya though. Let them keep those "Kenyan Somalis".

Sometimes wish we teamed up with the Germans in Tanzania to kick out the Brits in East Africa only to realize we'd be next in line for the gas chambers if they won.
Nah fam we became nazis anyway we would have been in a better state if we sided with the germans for a little while and then left that sinking boat
 
The British sided with Kenya, the Italians sided with Somalia, the Germans sided with Ethiopia. That's how it has always been in the Horn of Africa.
 

Tukraq

VIP
Britain was irrelevant at this time period, our Russian backing would trump any British backing in the Cold War era
 
Ogaden went to war with kenya between 1963-1967 in NFD and wanted to join somalia

we karbashed kenyans so much the Americans set up a base and the brutish came back with even more soldiers and said to Ogaden

we will not Ogaden to divide Kenya, we will protect them for you are too aggressive at war and we divided the Ogadens into 3 countries as they Fought us in Ogadeniya, somaliland, jubaland and central kenya, NFD, the Americans killed one British governor in 1776, the afghans killed 1 in 1839, you Ogadens killed 3 governor generals in the space of 20 years"

so in return we got 4 of the 12 Kenya generals, ministers MPs etc

a banjuun asked Kenyatta senior why do you negotiate with and try to please Ogaden and give us banjuun natives nothing,

he replied " The Ogadens spilt Kikuyu blood, fight me first then i will respect you and negotiate, are you willing to die like the war like brave tough Ogadens whom only the Americans and British saved me from? until then get lost, only a man willing to kill and be killed gets something, this is Africa"


they say this is when the phrase This Is Africa came to being,
 
The British sided with Kenya, the Italians sided with Somalia, the Germans sided with Ethiopia. That's how it has always been in the Horn of Africa.
also in 1958 when haile wanted Ogadeniya, the Russians pressured the British to give her Ogadeniya

the Russians during the late 1900s supplied Ethiopian with arms and generals to advise her during wars with Italy, so did the British and french during to Ethiopia being orthodox the Russians also supported her
 

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