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Who will it be ? Big test for Ruto On Who to replace Ogolla

Who will it be ? Big test for Ruto On Who to replace Ogolla



A Herculean task lies ahead of President William Ruto as the country awaits him to appoint the next Chief of Defence Forces to replace the late General Francis Omondi Ogolla who perished in a plane crash.

Ogolla’s sudden demise while on official duty in the banditry-riddled North Rift region left the country in shock as he was the first head of Kenya’s military to die while in office. His departure has created a void in the CDF succession matrix never contemplated before.

For the last 23 years, succession at the apex of Kenya’s military brass has been largely guided by the much revered Tonje Rules and the Kenya Defence Forces Act which stipulates that the leadership of KDF must always reflect the face of Kenya.

The Tonje Rules were devised by retired Chief of General Staff (CGS) — a post that has since been renamed CDF— when he was the head of Kenya’s military. Under the Tonje Rules, the position of the CDF is rotated among the three services.

The holder of the position retires after serving for four years or attaining the age of 62 years, whichever comes first.

Lt-Generals retire at 60 years and Major-Generals at 58. In military parlance, Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force and Kenya Navy are each known as a Service and their heads go by the title of Service Commanders while the National Defence College chief, who too occasionally qualifies in the succession matrix is referred to as Commandant.

“In line with the Tonje Rules, at no time can both the CDF and his/her deputy, the Vice-Chief of Defence Forces (VCDF) come from the same service,” a military source said.

Political interference

Although not binding, the Tonje Rules have ensured tranquility within the military and faultlessly steered the top KDF appointments and helped to get rid of canvassing, influence peddling and political interference for the position which is now largely determined on merit, experience, education and Service origin.

A retired Colonel stated: “Before the adoption of the Tonje Rules, all heads of the military were drawn from the Kenya Army, a development that triggered friction among the three Services and which was one of the underlying drivers of the 1982 attempted coup staged by elements of the Kenya Air Force against the late President Daniel arap Moi.”

Military sources told People Daily this week that, in fact, the events leading to and after the unsuccessful 1982 bid to topple the Moi regime was the centerpiece of

Tonje’s reasoning when formulating the rules that would guide the transition in the military as it would— as it indeed has —present a fair and even playing ground. The sources said that the National Defence Council (NDC) chaired by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale would soon be meeting to identify the options available for the President before presenting the Commander-in-Chief with the name or names for him to pick Ogolla’s successor and the arguments and recommendations on each of those names.

Said the source: “Though the President has several options at his disposal, he will ultimately have to whittle his thinking down to Tonje Rules and the KDF Act.”

All eyes are focused on the Vice-Chief of Defence Forces Lieutenant-General Charles Kahariri and the current Commander of the Kenya Air Force, Major-General John Mugaravai Omenda. In formulating the guiding rules that would later acquire his surname, high-placed sources revealed, General Tonje did not envisage a situation where the head of the military would die while still in office, as is now the case with the Ogolla departure.

President Ruto is not obligated to stick to the Tonje Rules as they are not constitutionally binding, though doing so would elicit unwarranted frictions, the sources said.

Bomas issue

General Ogolla was drawn from the Kenya Air Force and while his deputy, Kahariri is from the Navy.

There is debate within the senior military cadres as to whether KAF can be said to have adequately filled the CDF position under Ogolla, given that the airman had served less than one year in the position and was left with one more before retirement, though eligible for a year’s extension at the pleasure and whim of the Appointing Authority, the President.

KAF top brass also argue that the Service was completely left out in the latest appointments and promotions announced by the President.

In spite of the cloud of controversy that surrounded Ogolla’s appointment as CDF owing to his appearance at the Bomas of Kenya on August 15, 2022, in the company of National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) to allegedly compel electoral agency chiefs to overturn the election of President Ruto, the current Commander-in-Chief has been hailed for curing an underlying malady in the military ranks where members of the Luo and Luhyia communities have been shunted out of the top leadership of the forces.

General Ogolla was the first Luo to occupy that position, though for only 11 months. During Ogolla’s burial last Sunday, Siaya Governor James Orengo asked President Ruto to identify someone from the deceased’s Luo community as his replacement.

However, military sources disclosed to People Daily that the highest ranking Luo in the military at the moment is so lowly placed in the pecking order that it cannot be possible for Ruto to appoint him even if he wished as it would require triple promotion of the officer.

Save for the argument that Ogolla had served for a very short stint that does not convince his former colleagues in KAF as having served a full term, the natural successor to the late General would be Kahahari as he is drawn from the Navy as clearly stipulated by the Tonje Rules.

However, there are arguments surrounding the face of Kenya inclusivity element in the impending Ogolla succession. Pundits within the military contend that being a native of the Mt Kenya region, his ascendancy to the top could revive ethnic animosities within the KDF where they argue the position of Chief of Defence Forces has in the recent past already been held twice in the persons of General Julius Karangi and General Robert Kibochi.

Current composition What is more, they argue that the current composition of the top military brass has a considerable presence of members from the Mt Kenya region considering that Major-General Thomas Ng’ ang’ a is the Commander of the Kenya Navy while those from the former Nyanza and Western Provinces have none after Ogolla’s exit.

Should the President opt to extend the tenure of KAF at the apex of the military, then he would go fishing for the present head of the Service, Major-General Omen-da, whom he would need to promote to Lieutenant-General and appoint as acting CDE Omenda, a Luhyia, was appointed to the position in 2021.

No Luhyia has ever risen beyond the rank of Major-General in independent Kenya’s 60-year history. Before Ogolla, retired Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande was the only other Luo to have risen to that position and occupy VCDF position, though he did not get to replace Tonje who — according to Duale’s revelations at Ogolla’s burial last Sunday —had actually recommended him as his replacement.

At the moment, the top KDF strata is structured thus: Lt- General Kahahari is VCDF, Lieutenant-General David Kimaiyo Tarus is the Army Commander, Lt-General Jimson Mutai is the Vice-Chancellor of the National Defence University (NDU – Kenya), Major-General Omenda is the Commander of the Kenya Air Force while Major-General Ng’ang’a is the Navy Commander.

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