Kenyan Military; the unique change of guard in Kenya’s history
Time memorial the revered, prestigious and colorful men of the uniformed Army, yet adorned with peculiar but symbolic rankings on their official Kenyan Military attire, become a shudder of nostalgic reckoning as the curtains finally fall for the unique change of guard.
The commander in Chief of the armed forces who by extension is the President of the republic of Kenya authoritatively exercises his power of appointing the apparent successor of retiring General Kiangi; this is the man to be in charge of the Kenyan Military defense forces. He doesn’t stop at that but effectively assembles a top list of Kenyan Military hierarchy.
“Kibaki juggles ethnic balance, seniority and experience, and the need to preserve Kenyan Military tradition of rotational command,” a local newspaper reported.
Kenyan Military and the tribal factor
“Historically, the Kenyan Military hierarchy was dominated by particular tribe which was perceived to be a reflection of the top brace of leadership. The spirit and letter of the current constitution prescribes otherwise. It is significantly interesting to see that the commander in chief cautiously but instructively juggled to inject some ethnic balance.
All state institutions are currently enforcing changes that gradually seek to attain equity in ethnic diversity and gender. Kenyan Military as it is, at least for now must indicate and ignite the willingness to follow suite.
Lt-Gen Julius Karangi is the first Kenyan from Central Province and the first Kenyan Military officer to hold or take up this prestigious post of Vice-Chief of the Defence Forces (VCDF). He hails from Nyeri. His predecessor retires officially on 31st of August but will be required stay in office until end of next month to facilitate a smooth transition. General Kiangi hails from Eastern Kenya.
In the latest appointments the president also appointed a Kenyan Military official who hails from Coast region, an immediate former Navy commander Simeon Mwathathe to VCGS after promotion to rank of Lt-General. Simon hails from the coast.
Major-General Maurice Oyugi was retained as Deputy Army Commander while Major-general Joff Otieno was made the Kenyan Military Air Force Commander. Both Oyugi and Otieno hail from Nyanza region. Brigadier Njunge is the deputy of the Kenya Air Force Commander.
The immediate KAF Commander Major-Gen Harold Tangai was appointed senior Directing Staff-Air, National Defense College. Brigadier Ngewa Mukala the former deputy Navy commander was promoted to rank of Major-Gen as he becomes the Navy commander.
Seniority and experience in the Kenyan Military
Other than trying to factor in the image of a well represented Kenyan Military, there is the reasoning that the President deliberately stuck to the order of seniority and experience. He also employed the neutrality of appointing regional balancing and promoted some who had stagnated in certain regions for long. “Appointments must reflect ethnic diversity equity for both men and women. The appointments must also be fair and representative.”
In charge of Kenyan Military
The man in charge of defence Lt-Gen Julius Karangi joined Kenya Air Force in the Kenyan Military in 1973. He did his cadet training in the UK and thereafter was commissioned as a Military officer in 1974. After he qualified as a flight navigator in October 1975 in the Royal Air Force in England, he was posted to Flying Wing, Kenya Air Force. He is married with three children.
In December 2000 he was appointed Commandant, Defense Staff College, Karen where he worked up to 2003 in the rank of major general. He was then appointed Commander, Kenya Air Force in November 2003 up to August 10, 2005 where he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and appointed to his current post of Vice-Chief of the General Staff, Defence Headquarters.
Kenyan Military transformation
Karangi will be expected and charged with the responsibility of transforming the Kenyan Military or armed forces from its current status to the newly created outfit of Defense Forces letter and spirit of the current constitution.
He joins the coveted list of heads of security agencies and becomes a member of the powerful National Security Council chaired by the President. The new constitution stipulates the how the Kenyan Military (Defense Forces) are structured, they consists of the Kenya Navy, Kenya Army and Kenyan Air Force.
The new laws sates that a Defense Council shall be established to consist of the Cabinet secretary responsible for Defense who shall be the chairman, the Chief of the Kenya Defense Forces, the three commanders of the Defense Forces and the Principle secretary in the ministry of Defense.
National Cohesion and Integrity Commission had raised concerns about ethnic composition in various Government departments including the Kenyan Military.
There is also the argument that our man kibaki wanted to preserve the Kenyan Military tradition of unit rotation. It is said that the Kenyan Military had a quiet agreement that entailed that each unit will hold the coveted position on rotational basis.
Interestingly, the Air Force wing of the Kenyan Military had never produced an individual to become the Chief. The President must have therefore, acknowledged the need to re introduce the Kenyan Military tradition by making sure the job went to the high ranking officer within the Air Force. This must have been an advantage in the waiting for Karangi.
Kenyan Military led by the Defense Council will be keen to embrace the new laws that will tag them with the responsibility for the overall policy, control and supervision of the Defense Forces and any other functions prescribed by national legislation.
Kenyan Military and its leadership are therefore, tasked with the enormous responsibility of assisting and cooperating with other authorities in situations of emergency or disaster, and are required to report to Parliament whenever deployed to such circumstances.
Kenyan Military under the new constitution may also be deployed in any part of the country affected by unrest or instability only with the approval of the National Assembly.