Kenya, home of several potential Olympic medalists, yesterday became the second black African nation to join the growing list of countries asking that the Summer Olympics be moved from Moscow or shunned in repudiation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
"Kenya joins the vast majority of the world's nations in condemning the Soviet action and in rejecting totally the reasons advanced by the Soviet government for its invasion," Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi said in a statement released by Kenya's official news agency.
"In the meantime, the Soviet Union is going ahead with its plans to host this year's Olympic Games without the slightest care about world opinion. It is my very strong view that it would be most inappropriate for any non-aligned nation to attend the Moscow Olympics while Soviet troops are in Afghanistan," the statement continued.
"For these reason, I have requested the Kenya Olympic Committee to press for a change of venue for this year's Olympic Games from the Soviet Union, failing which Kenya athletes should turn down the invitation to take part in the Moscow Olympics," Moi said.
Kenya has several world-class track and field athletes, including Henry Rono in the steeplechase, 5,000-and 10,000-meter events, and Mike Boit in the 800 yards.
The kenyan decision is significant because it marks the second erosion in as many days from previously solid black African support for participation at Moscow. Zaire's minister of sports and recreation announced Friday that his country would not take part.
Last month, following President Carter's initial calls for the games to be relocated, postponed, canceled or bypassed unless Soviet troops were fully withdrawn from Afghanistan, a spokesman for the influential Supreme Council for Sports in Africa said that black African nations would participate in Moscow.
It was this group, closely associated with the Organization for African Unity, that orchestrated an 11th-hour boycott of the 1976 Montreal Olympics by 26 African nations because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not expel New Zealand for its rugby links with South Africa.
The Executive Bureau of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa will meet this month to address the issue of the Moscow games, secretary-general Amadou Lamine announced yesterday in the Ivory Coast.
He recalled that in December the organization recommended "massive participation" at Moscow, but said that "the recent events in Afghanistan make a meeting of the Executive Bureau necessary now."
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, enlisted by President Carter last week as a special envoy to muster Third World support for sanctions against the Moscow games, will leave India today for talks with government officials in Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Liberia and Nigeria.
U.S. embassy officials in Dar es Salaam said that Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, who reportedly has no interest that he meet with Ali.
The official explanation was that Nyerere is too busy with visiting Irish President Patrick Hillery to see Ali, but United Press International reported that Tanzanian officials privately considered it an insult that President Carter would send a boxer -- even one as illustrious as Ali, who yesterday joked that he would be president of the United States in eight years -- on a diplomatic mission.
Nevertheless, Ali's visit has reportedly generated considerable excitement in Africa, where he is idolized.
State Department officials -- already encouraged by government decisions in Japan and China on Friday recommending against participation unless the games can be moved from Moscow -- say Kenya's announcement as an important indication of mounting Third World sentiment.
"Kenya is an important country in Africa. We think the decision represents its perception of the world situation, not necessarily support of us," said a spokesman.
"Most countries will ultimately decide their position on the Olympics issue on their reading of the Soviet action," he said. "We think there is definitely momentum in favor of moving the games from Moscow. We sense it particularly in Europe, where the press seems to be talking more and more about the need not engage in sports as usual with the Soviets."
Meanwhile, Greek Premier Constantine Carmanlis, in a letter to IOC President Lord Killanin, renewed his call for the Summer Olympics to be permanently relocated in the country of their origin in order to avoid "political, racial and ideological conflicts" engendered by the competition between prospective host cities.
Carter and the Senate, in a resolution supporting the president's position on the Olympics, called for the summer games to be shifted permanently to Greece. The IOC has rejected this proposal several times in recent years for a variety of financial, political and technical reasons.
Killanin -- who will meet privately with officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee at Lake Placid, N.Y., this week and then preside over the Feb. 10-12 IOC discussions on whether to move, postpone or cancel the Moscow games -- yesterday reiterated his opinion that the world's superpowers should trick to politics and stay out of sports.