Full in-tray for Defence CS Juma at her new docket

Monday, January 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma (right) with her Foreign Affairs counterpart Raychelle Omamo. The two swapped roles in a Cabinet reshuffle last week. Photo/PD/FILE

Newly-appointed Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma has her work cut out for her as the government scales up efforts to tame the terrorism threat.

It is a homecoming case for Dr Juma, who was brought up in military barracks in Gilgil where her father, a retired Warrant Officer from Kitui, worked.

A hard worker with a strict work ethic, Ambassador Juma also previously worked as a PS in the Department of Defence (DoD).

She swapped roles with Raychelle Omamo, now the Foreign Affairs CS, in a reshuffle last week.

Top on her agenda will be the intricate assignment of steering a selection panel to pick a new Chief of Defence Forces to replace outgoing Gen Samson Mwathethe, whose extended tenure ends on April 17.

The exercise usually kicks off two months in advance, in this case next month.

Also awaiting the new CS’s attention is the increased wave of terrorist raids by al Shaabab militants.

Juma is one of the key authors of the African Union Security Architecture that gave birth to the African Mission in Somalia (AMISON) during her stint at the Ethiopia-based African Union headquarters.

She is also expected to start navigating the issue of obtaining a charter for the National Defence College in Karen, Nairobi, to transform the facility into a fully-fledged State university, an issue that has been pending for the last six years.

Military modernisation

The CS is also expected to drive the implementation of the Defence Policy—also known as the Defence White Paper—which was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017 as well as Gender Policy.

It is also important that she imparts interpersonal working relationship at different tiers of the ministry’s ranks which is reported to have been lacking for a long time in addition to focussing on military modernisation within the Infantry, Naval and Aerial ranks of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).

Mwathethe’s term was extended last year when the selection team did not agree on his replacement. The President has powers to extend a retiring general’s tenure by strictly one year.

The Chief of Defence Forces is appointed by the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, following a recommendation by the National Defence Council, chaired by the Defence CS.

Failure by the NDC last year to identify a suitable person to succeed Mwathethe left more questions than answers on the working relationship between members of the selection panel. 

A source privy to the process confided that, unlike last year, Uhuru now has only one option—to appoint a new CDF, reason why Juma has to hit the ground running.

Reliable military sources revealed that Mwathethe’s successor will be drawn from the Kenya Army, which is the next in line in the succession arrangement instituted by former Chief of General Staff Daudi Tonje. 

Under the Tonje rules, the position of the CDF is rotated among the three arms of the KDF—Army, Airforce and Navy. 

The holder of the position retires after serving four years or after attaining the age of 62 years, whichever comes first.

The rules have helped get rid of canvassing, influence peddling and political interference in appointment to top military positions.

People Daily established a number of changes will also be made within the various military cadres in accordance with NDC’s recommendations.

Although it has completed all procedures allowing it to become a public university, the Defence College has for the last six years been awaiting a charter to facilitate its elevation.

Top military officers said they expect the university matter to be one of the leading items on Juma’s agenda.

“Preparations are complete. As of today, the only remaining bit is the handing of a charter to the college. Everything else is in place,” a senior military officer revealed.

If granted the charter, Kenya will be one of the few nations around the globe to have a defence public university offering international graduate courses similar to those in the US, UK, China, Sweden, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, Poland, Pakistan and Finland.

NDC handles complex issues on national security. It is a premier centre for developing required knowledge base for senior public officials on matters of national security across government departments and the region.

More on National