Why Ruto settled on Kahariri as new KDF chief

Friday, May 3rd, 2024 07:40 | By
Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale (third left) with (from L-R) Kenya Army Commander Lt General David Tarus, Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Charles Muriu Kahariri , Defence PS Patrick Mariru, Vice Chief of Defence Forces (VCDF) Lt General John Mugaravai Omenda and outgoing Kenya Navy Commander Major-General Thomas Ng’ang’a after the CS chaired the National Defence Council meeting in Nairobi yesterday. PHOTO/X (@kdfinfo)

President William Ruto yesterday promoted Lieutenant-General Charles Muriu Kahariri to the rank of General and appointed him the Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF) in line with the Tonje Rules and military regard for seniority.

Kahariri is said to have beaten Lieutenant General Jimson Longiro Mutai, the current National Defence University-Kenya (NDU-K) Vice-Chancellor (VC) due to his seniority having been enlisted in the military in 1987 while the latter joined in 1992.

Both Kahariri and Mutai are from the Kenya Navy, which was due to produce the next CDF after the late General Francis Ogolla who hailed from the Kenya Air Force as per the Tonje Rules.

The President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces,  also promoted Major General John Mugaravai Omenda to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed him the Vice CDF.

Until his appointment, Lt. Gen Omenda was the Kenya Air Force commander.

General Kahariri’s appointment comes two weeks after Ogolla died in a helicopter crash alongside nine other military officers at the Kaben-Cheptulel border between Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties.

The President, acting under Section 9(2) of the Kenya Defence Forces Act that mandates him to appoint the CDF, the VCDF, and the three Service Commanders. The President is responsible for the organisation and command of the Defence Forces.

The President also appointed the first-ever woman, Maj- Gen Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed, to serve as a Service Commander. Maj-Gen Fatuma, the first female Air Force Commander, replaces Lt. Gen Omenda and will be deputised by Brigadier Samuel Kosgei Kipkorir.

Maj-Gen Fatuma, who joined the military in 1983, first grabbed the headlines in August 2015 when former President Uhuru Kenyatta promoted her to the rank of Brigadier, again, becoming the first woman to attain that rank in the military.

Maj-Gen Fatuma who once served as a Battalion Second in Command (BN 2IC) Staff Officer II Audit Personnel and Records, is a graduate of the National Defence College holds a Diploma in Management from Strathmore University College.

Until her latest appointment, she has been serving as the Assistant Chief of the Defence Forces in charge of personnel and logistics.

In the changes, President Ruto also named Maj-Gen Paul Owuor Otieno as the new Kenya Navy commander.

“These changes have been made across the Kenya Defence Forces in line with the advice of the Defence Council,” the statement signed by the Assistant Director of Public Communications at the Ministry of Defence Grace Linnet Sitawa Mwanja noted.

The promotions, postings and appointments were done on the advice of the Defence Council Chaired by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale after President Ruto upheld the Council’s recommendations.

Maj-Gen Thomas Ng’ang’a was posted to the National Defence College and appointed the Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration and Finance while Brigadier Peter Nyamu Githinji has been promoted to the rank of Maj-Gen and appointed Senior Directing Staff, Air at National Defence College.

Also promoted to the rank of Maj-Gen is Jattani Kampare Gulla who has been appointed the Managing Director Kenya Meat Commission (KMC).

Brig. George Okumu has also been promoted to the rank of Maj-Gen and appointed the Managing Director Kenya Ordinance Factories Corporation and Food Processing Factory.

General’s death

Gen Kahariri becomes the fifth CDF after taking over following the death of General Ogolla. Gen Kahariri is expected to retire at 62 years or serve for four years, whichever comes earlier.

Gen Ogolla was Kenya’s fourth CDF who replaced General Robert Kariuki Kibochi who served for three years. Kibochi had succeeded Gen Samson Jefwa Mwathethe who served for five years. Gen Julius Waweru Karangi, was the first CDF who was appointed in July 2021 and served for almost four years.

Gen Daudi Tonje who served between 1996 and 2000 introduced the rules that guide the promotion, deployment and retirement of senior military officers. Tonje, a top 1961 high school graduate, joined the military in April 1962, and trained at Lanet.

The rules, popularly referred to as the ‘Tonje Rules’, provide a very clear career path within the military. They are however not necessarily binding, but President Ruto and past C-i-Cs considered them in appointments.

Reports indicate that some of the Council members had suggested that the next CDF be appointed from the Air Force as Gen Ogolla did not finish his term but the service did not have any officer of the rank of a Lt Gen.

Sensing the Herculean task of head of moving the outgoing KAF head Major-General Omenda, two ranks upwards by first having him   promoted to Lieutenant-General, then appoint him as acting CDF before confirming him, the Council settled on General Kahariri in line with the Tonje Rules that required Ogolla’s successor comes from the Navy.

Sources also intimated that the President used the opportunity to appease his voting bloc in Mt Kenya region through the appointment of General Kahariri. There has been some disquiet in some quarters in the region that despite the electorate having voted for President Ruto to the last minute in the last General Election, he has appeared to reward more to areas that did not accord him full support when it comes to appointments in government.

Both the Council and the President are also said to have overlooked Lieutenant General Mutai as his elevation was likely to send a negative perception that he was favouring a person from his community.

The Tonje Rules are like a gentleman’s agreement, and not formalised or encoded in any statute, legislation or law.

The position of CDF rotates among the three services –Kenya Army, Kenya Navy, and Kenya Air Force. The CDF serves a period of one term of four years with a possible extension at the pleasure of the C-i-C.

After Gen Tonje retired, Gen. Kibwana (Kenya Navy) took over and later handed over to Kenya Army’s Gen Kianga. Gen Kianga handed over to Gen Karangi (Kenya Air Force). Other CDF’s that followed were Gen Mwathethe (Kenya Navy), Gen Kibochi (Kenya Army), Gen Ogolla (Kenya Air Force) and now Navy’s Gen Kahariri.

Unified millitary ranks

The past Chiefs of General Staff (CGS) were Major General Robert Penfold (1966-1969), Maj-Gen Joseph Musyimi Ndolo (1969-1971), Gen Jackson Mulinge (1971-1986), Gen Mohamud Haji Mohamed (1986-1996), Gen Daudi Tonje (1996-2000), Gen Joseph Kibwana (2000-2005), and Jeremiah Kianga (2005-2011).

According to Gen Daniel Opande in his book In Pursuit of Peace In Africa, Ndolo, who replaced Penfold on May 8, 1969, had two achievements; ending ethnic food discrimination by ordering all soldiers to eat the same food and also unified the military ranks by discarding naval and air force titles like midshipmen, flight lieutenants among others.

In June 1971, Chief Justice Mwenda and Ndolo were implicated in a coup plot, and President Jomo Kenyatta forced both of them to resign.

The position remained vacant only to be revived later by President Daniel Moi who appointed Jackson Mulinge who served until 1986.

Mulinge was replaced by Gen Mohamud Haji Mohamed (1986-1996). Mohammud crushed the August 1982 coup attempt by the Air Force.

The KDF Act says a CDF, his deputy and service commanders shall serve a single term of four years or retire upon attaining the mandatory retirement age.

The Act, however, allows the President, on the recommendation of the National Defence Council, to extend the CDF’s term for a period not exceeding one year.

A general’s retirement age is 62, while that of Lt-Gen is 61, and Maj-Gen and Brigadier retire at 59 and 57, respectively.

“The President may remove, retire or redeploy the Chief of the Defence Forces, the Vice Chief of the Defence Forces or any of the Service Commanders at any time before the expiry of the term of office,” the Act says.

Besides age, seniority also plays a role in the appointment of a four-star general.

“In appointing the Chief of the Defence Forces, the Vice Chief of the Defence Forces and the three Service Commanders, the President shall take into account— seniority; military and formal civil education; the possession of a relevant degree from a university or an institution recognised in Kenya or such other equivalent qualifications as may be approved by the Defence Council; and military and security experience,” the KDF Act says.

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