Mukalo Kwayera @Kwayeram
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s swearing-in for his second term in office on November 28 has placed the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) top leadership on tenterhooks in readiness for a high-ranking replacement expected shortly.
The replacement of immediate former Commandant of the National Defence College (NDC) Lt-Gen Leonard Muriuki Ngondi, who landed an international assignment five months ago, is said by military insiders to be in the works. Ngondi,57, was in August appointed to handle United Nations (UN) responsibilities.
He was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guiterres to head a joint UN and African Union peace-keeping force in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
However, Ngondi’s successor could not be identified soon thereafter as his elevation to the global portfolio came only days before Kenya went into the General Election, an exercise that took a protracted four months after Uhuru’s initial victory in the August 8 poll was invalidated by the Supreme Court necessitating a repeat election on October 26.
With Uhuru, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces now inaugurated into office, anticipation has been building up within the top cadres of the military where Ngondi’s replacement is among priority items on the agenda, expected to be executed when or soon after Uhuru names his new Cabinet.
Ngondi, an accomplished soldier with vast international and national experiences, was formally named in early August 8 to take over from Rwandese Lt-Gen Frank Kamanzi. He had been NDC boss since last year after being redeployed from the position of Kenya Army Commander to replace Lt-Gen Jackson Waweru who had retired and has since been appointed chairman of the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA).
The replacement is procedurally recommended by the National Defence Council (NDC) chaired by the Cabinet secretary for Defence and the names handed to the President. The Defence CS is Raychelle Omamo. It is not clear whether she will be retained in the docket in the new Cabinet expected to be named soon.
The docket of National Defence College Commandant is held by an officer at the rank of Lt-Gen which is just one rung below that of General. In Kenya’s military structure, there can only be one General who is the overall head of the military holding the post of Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), currently held by mariner Samson Mwathethe.
There can only be five Lt-Generals at any given time holding the positions of Vice-Chief of Defence Forces (VCDF), Commander of the Kenya Army, Commander of the Kenya Air Force (KAF), Commander of the Kenya Navy and the NDC Commandant. Presently, NDC has two deputy commandants, one drawn from the military and another one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They are Maj-Gen Andrew Ikenye and Ambassador Peter Ogego, a former Kenyan ambassador to Washington. While announcing Ngondi’s appointment, a statement from Guiterres’ spokesman described him as a soldier “with a distinguished career with the Kenyan Defence Forces, spanning over 39 years.”