Battle for KDF top slot intensifies as General Mwathethe’s tenure ends

Battle for KDF top slot intensifies as General Mwathethe’s tenure ends

Intense behind the scene jostling is on for Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe’s successor after his four-year tenure lapsed a fortnight ago.

Mwathethe, whose term as the country’s top soldier ended last month, took over from retired Chief of Defence Forces Julius Karangi in April 2015 for a single four-year tenure as outlined in the Kenya Defence Forces Act 2012.

The 59-year-old had been promoted to deputise Karangi after a stint as Kenya Navy Commander, a force he had joined in 1978.

The task of identifying Mwathethe’s successor exclusively belongs to the Defence Council, headed by Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo.

The outgoing Chief of Defence forces sits in the council, together with commanders of the Kenya Army, Kenya Airforce and Kenya Navy, as well as the Defence Ministry principal secretary.

Though the search for Mwathethe’s successor ought to be a meticulous internal process, jostling for the influential position is on behind the scenes, with senior military officers at the rank of lieutenant general particularly from the Kenya Army eyeing the seat.

The KDF Act outlines the factors that must be considered by the Defence Council in the search for a new military boss. They include seniority in the force, military and civil education including a relevant degree on defence matters as well as outstanding military and security experience.

Questions have emerged on whether the president can extend Mwathethe’s tenure. Military sources however told Citizen TV that it was highly unlikely, since the KDF Act was explicit on the four-year non-renewable tenure for the chief of defence forces, the deputy as well as commanders of Kenya Army, Kenya Airforce and Kenya Navy.

The Act also gives the president, who is also the commander in chief of defence forces, power to remove, retire or redeploy the chief of defence forces, his deputy or any of the service commanders before the expiry of their term in office.

Mwathethe’s deputy since July last year, Robert Kibochi, is touted as his successor due to his senior rank, experience and credentials. The 60-year-old soldier joined the military in 1979 and previously served as Kenya Army Commander.

For now, it’s all eyes on President Kenyatta, as he appoints the next military boss, in consultation with the Defence Council.