Army’s ‘turn’ to produce KDF chief as Mwathethe term ends

Monday, April 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Jeffa Mwathethe.

 Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

The country will in two weeks have a new Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) to replace General Samson  Mwathethe, whose term expires on April 17. 

Mwathethe’s tenure had expired in 2019, but President Uhuru Kenyatta extended his mandate for a year.

The Kenya Army is expected to produce the new boss if the tradition to rotate the post among the three military units—Army, Navy and the Air Force—is anything to go by. 

Gen Mwathethe is a Navy officer and his predecessor, Gen Julius Karangi, was from the Air Force. 

According to reliable military sources, senior officers tipped to take over from Mwathethe  include Vice Chief of Defence Forces Lt-Gen Robert Kibochi, Army Commander Lt-Gen Walter ole Raria and Lt-Gen Leonard Ngondi, who is the force commander of the AU-UN Hybrid (Unamid) Operation in Darfur, Sudan.

Another candidate is Lt-Gen Adan Kanchoro Mulata, the current commandant of the National Defence College,  but who serves in the Air Force. 

The sources told the People Daily that the various stakeholders had settled on Raria.

“In all aspects, we can confidently say that Mwathethe’s succession has methodologically been dispensed with.

Kibochi still has less than a year to hit the retirement age. If he is not promoted it shall mean that he goes home,” said the source who did not want to be named.

 “Ordinarily, there would have been no basis for the National Defence Council (NDC) to appoint another officer to jump him (Kibochi) on the line. But when the President makes the announcement, it will be curious to find out if Kibochi will be elevated this time round after being shelved last year.

Save for the coronavirus menace, we are not in a politically volatile situation like war, election or a state-of-emergency to necessitate the President to extend Mwathethe’s tenure again.”

The rank of Lieutenant-General is the second-highest position within the Kenyan military structure after that of General.  

 The sources also revealed that major changes will take place targeting top hierarchies in  the Kenya Army, Air Force, Navy and National Defence College, a move viewed as meant to ensure stability ahead of 2020 General Election. 

Unanswered questions

 Kibochi, who was promoted to his current position two years ago to deputise Mwathethe was last year highly viewed as the de facto officer to assume the reins at the Department of Defence (DoD) 

That was not to be. Instead, Uhuru extended Mwathethe’s tenure in office by one year for reasons that remain unexplained.

The President can choose to extend the tenure of a serving general by one year.

Mwathethe was appointed on April 17, 2015, to replace airman General Julius Karangi who is currently the chairman of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). 

 “Most of us view Raria as the most possible next CDF. In terms of hierarchy and experience, Kibochi ranks as the first-among equals and the most suited to take over from Mwathethe.

However, the fact that Kibochi was not appointed last year left so many unanswered questions,” said a senior military officer.

Uhuru will only pronounce himself on  Mwathethe succession following a recommendation by NDC chaired by the Defence  Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma.

Although Ngondi is drawn from the Kenya Army which is the next in line in the succession as per the so-called Tonje Rules, sources say  he does not fit the bill by virtue of the fact that he serves out of the country where his assignments are more of diplomatic than military nature.

Mulata  is highly tipped  to be appointed the next Vice Chief of Defence Forces.

 Under the Tonje Rules, the position of the CDF is rotated among the three services.

The holder of the position retires after serving four years or attaining the age of 62 years, whichever comes first. Lt-Generals retire at 60 years and major-generals at 58. 

 People Daily has learned that the NDC headed by Juma has met twice and already unanimously identified Mwathethe’s successor. 

It is, however, set to hold two more sessions to hammer out concurrence on appointments regarding deployment, promotion, replacement and retirement of other senior officers before forwarding the recommendations to the President.

Among the senior positions to be filled are those of Kenya Navy Commander held by Maj-General Levy Mghalu whose tenure was extended by Uhuru for a year alongside that of Mwathethe last year, Air Force Commander currently occupied by Maj-General Francis Ogolla whose retirement is near, Deputy Commandant of the Defence College occasioned by the recent retirement of Maj-General Andrew Ikenye and Air Force Deputy Commander left vacant by last year’s retirement of Brigadier Simon Wachira.

 Mwathethe is credited with the formulation and the ongoing implementation of the Defence Policy inaugurated by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017 as well as the Gender Policy and Military Modernisation.

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