His Excellency
Hon. Daniel T. arap Moi,
C.G.H., MP.,
President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic Of Kenya.

Occasion: United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, New York

25th June 2001

Mr President, Secretary General, Excellencies Distinguished Delegates

    The Continent of Africa has suffered from the harsh experience of wars, drought, floods and other human and physical tragedies. Our people have been resilient and adaptable. At present, there is a plague engulfing a huge area of our continet, particularly sub saharan Africa. This is a disaster unlike any previously experienced. It continues without an apparent cure. You will know I speak of AIDS.

    The reality is that millions of African people have died and many more millions will die. Some countries in Africa have been particularly successful in educational programmes to control the spread of this terrible pandemic.

    In Kenya, AIDS has been designated as a National Disaster. We continue to vigorously pursue our educational programmes. I am pleased to say that Kenya is participating at the forefront of research for a vaccine or other preventive measures or cures.

    We shall continue to cooperate and work with the world research leaders and others in this field. We, are determined to fight the spread of this dreadful disease relentlessly until a permanent cure is found. But the indications are that it will be at least ten years before significant, tangible developments are available.

    In the meantime, the sick must not be deprived of the most basic human right - the right to life. I have walked around hospitals and other caring institutions in my country.

    I have experienced the desperation of the faces of the victims of AIDS. It is a grim reminder that they are deprived even of the, treasure of hope itself.

    These are my people. These are Africa's people. I would be failing in my duty if I was to stand by idly. This is a time when the production of coffins is a growing industry because of this dreadful pestilence. As a leader I am charged with the welfare of my people. We are not a wealthy nation, but the people must at least be given hope.

    It is incumbent upon myself and my fellow leaders to turn this suffering into history rather than destiny. To this end, my Government must choose between the lives of people and reality - that research and development of new medicines is enormously expensive. It also takes many years to establish their safety and efficacy.

    We agree that companies or institutions carrying out such new developments have the very justifiable right to patent protection to allow
them recoup their investment.

    As in many other countries, Kenya, also has in force laws pertaining to patents which give such protection. Even though we are a developing nation with limited financial resources, we shall play out part in honouring our international obligations. The time has come when we are compelled to make a decision between the human lives and the right of commercial interest. Human life must surely come before anything else.

    Our choice is therefore made. Nonetheless, we must pursue our choice in a balanced way - balanced to protect the interests of further research and development so that life can be further protected and enhanced. We believe this balance can be achieved by making available the best possible medication at the lowest possible cost. At the present time, we are unable to pay international prices for the medicines we need.

    This is a simple fact which we are facing - and this is why we are embarking on the following course of action. My Government has enacted emergency legislation to deal with lifethreatening epidemics. This legislation provides for the suspension of existing patent protection legislation. It is framed to prevent abuse. Manufacture, marketing, distribution and exports are rigidly controlled. The sole purpose of legislation is to make high quality AIDS Drugs, which are the subject of internationally valid patents. They will be made available to the people at the lowest possible cost.

    There will be no question of corporations or individuals making handsome profits at the expense of my people, the people of Africa or at the expense of the sick, or valid patent holders. Instead, it is our intention that this action will signal the start of a life-saving crusade - a crusade that will stimulate and enthuse the people of Africa - enabling them to fight against this disease with energy and courage.

    Our culture of self-help will be reborn. This will ultimately lead to a scientific ability within Africa and equals anywhere in the world. We shall, at the same time, seek to maximise the protection of valid patent holders of patents currently in existence.

    They will be given preference to supply the active the active ingradients or finished dose form. Provided first that it meets European or American pharmacopoeial specification- the appropriate measure of quality. And second, that it is offered at the same or better price than it can be produced indigenously in Kenya or imported
from a source and did not infringe valid patents rights.

    Furthermore, my country will work in close co-operation with our African neighbours for the same purposes I have outlined here. Exports to these countries will be by licence from both the exporting country and the importing country. The cost to these Governments will be calculated on a basis to minimise the costs and maximise benefit from our programme. This lethal virus knows no borders -nor is it selective in its host. The saving of life will take priority over political beliefs or aspirations.

    To this end, I am confident that my fellow African leaders and their Governments will enact, where necessary, the appropriate legislation to protect international trade agreements and other obligations. There will be those who will endeavour to cast doubt. There will be those who will try abuse. There will be those who will try to profiteer.

    In planning the legislation, my Government is mindful that legalising the import of such medicines - which are the subject of valid international patents - may give rise to the manufacturing of raw materials in an area which will invalidate those patents. It is to this end that my Government will wish to have medicines manufactured in Kenya from as far back in the manufacturing chain as practicable. Raw materials can be suitably tagged for the purposes of tracing their domicile origin. Finished dose form can also be suitably marked, with appropriate identification.

    My country - Kenya - subscribes to the World Trade and other agreements including those pertaining to intellectual property.

    We have considered very seriously the steps we are taking to ensure that our people and the people of Africa can live in hope. - Hope that one day they will be able to take their place amongst the communities of the world in providing for their well-being. That fathers will see sons become men and that men and women will live to grow old with the dignity they deserve.

    I want to see my people - my Nation. - Africa - moving into the Twenty First Century with an increasing ability to manage disaster in a confident and competent manner.

    With every passing week, thousands more are dying or becoming infected. I am not prepared to allow this to continue. This campaign will be driven with the utmost vigour. The people of Kenya - and the people of Africa - will be the beneficiaries.

I thank you for hearing me.