Kibochi retirement age stirs debate as Mwathethe exits
Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram
“For you, General Mwathethe, I wish you fair winds following seas; and the very best in your future endeavours,” that was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s salutation for the retiring military commander whose term comes to an end next week.
After a 42-year tour of duty in the military, General Samson Jeffa Mwathethe will hand over the reins of power to Lt-Gen Robert Kariuki Kibochi as the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF).
Kibochi, who was vice-CDF, was appointed to the position by the President on Thursday last week to replace Mwathethe.
Uhuru also elevated Navy Commander Maj-Gen Levi Mghalu to the rank of Lieutenant-General and appointed him the next vice-CDF to take over from Kibochi.
Mwathethe’s exit, however, leaves the public’s eye transfixed on his successor’s tenure in office which will be a subject of prolonged debate.
Kibochi (pictured), 61, as well as his incoming deputy Mghalu, will be attaining the retirement age within a year, begging the question as to whether they shall still be in office to oversee Uhuru’s succession in 2022.
The KDF Act stipulates that the CDF (a General), his deputy (a Lieutenant-General) and all service commanders (Major-General or Lieutenant-General) retire upon serving one four-year term in office or attaining the mandatory retirement age. A general retires at the age of 62, a Lt-Gen (61), a Maj-Gen (60) and a Brigadier at 58.
Mwathethe, a mariner who reportedly declined another offer for the extension of his term by one more year now joins six eminent predecessors in retirement where speculation is that he will soon be appointed to a senior public office upon handing over to Kibochi.
Former heads of Kenya’s military now living in retirement are Generals Mahmoud Mohammed (Kenya Army), Daudi Tonje (Kenya Army), Joseph Raymond Kibwana (Kenya Navy), Jeremiah Kianga (Kenya Army) and Julius Karangi (Kenya Air Force). Mwathethe was drawn from the Kenya Navy.
The outgoing CDF had been handed a one-year extension last May after having completed his four years in office whereas Karangi was a beneficiary of a two-year extension.
Tonje, who initiated the rotational succession formula encompassing the three formations of the military, declined an offer from President Moi, to extend his tenure by one year, arguing that he could not be the first to violate the very rules he had drafted.
On Thursday, Uhuru also promoted from a Brig Jimson Mutai to a Maj-Gen and appointed him head of the Kenya Navy, replacing Mghalu. Maj-Gen Albert Kendagor is now the deputy commander of the Kenya Army, Brig John Omenda becomes the Kenya Air Force deputy commander while Col Lawrence Gituma got promoted to Brigadier and appointed deputy commander, Kenya Navy.
Brig William Shume was promoted to Maj-Gen and appointed General Officer Commanding Border Security Command while Brig Peter Njiru was promoted to Maj-Gen and appointed Commander, Kenya Military Academy, among others.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the officers are expected to assume office under their new positions, on May 11, 2020.
He said the promotions were in line with the recommendation by the National Defence Council and praised General Mwathethe for his leadership in the service, saying since his appointment, the military had seen significant expansion and enviable improvement in the defence capacity of the forces.
“During your tenure, we detected and expunged early enough a number of plans by those who do not mean well for our country in good time...” he said.
Mwathethe, a long-serving Kenya Navy officer, was appointed CDF on April 17, 2015 to replace airman Karangi from Kenya Air Force.
He is credited with among others, the formulation and the continuing implementation of the Defence Policy (also known as the Defence White Paper) inaugurated by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017 as well as the Gender Policy and Military Modernisation within the Infantry, Naval and Aerial ranks of KDF.