For posterity's sake, retired military generals should write memoirs

A section of Kenya's retired military generals. [File, Standard]

Napoleon Bonaparte had great influence in the world. Besides spreading French Revolutionary ideals in Europe and arousing deep anti-French nationalism leading to his 1815 defeat at Waterloo, he reformed French institutions.

He wanted, using knowledge as a strategic weapon, excellence in all types of fields and so he instituted special awards, among them the Knight of Napoleon.

At least two Kenyans, including John Sibi Okumu and Frederick Kang'ethe Iraki, are Knights of Napoleon due to their command of the French language and culture. Napoleon commands military respect and became a source of reference for such Western strategists as Carl Von Clausewitz, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Antoine-Henri Jomini.

When Kenya's first generation of post-colonial military officers went for training in British military academies, they were exposed to the ideas of those thinkers. Those pioneers included Lazarus Sumbeiyo, Daniel Opande, and Humphrey Njoroge.

The three Kenyans rose to become Lieutenant Generals and have books to be read on different aspects of their experience. While Sumbeiyo's and Opande's books stress their roles as UN peace keepers or successful conflict mediators, Njoroge's Promises to keep is, besides his experience, about building Kenya's post-colonial military education.

He does not, as Musambayi Katumanga notes, address the diversity challenge in the military; that was not his issue. He had studied Clausewitz and Jomine and struggles to conceptualise appropriate tools for Kenyan grand strategy. He settles on the concept of a three-legged African stool to symbolise state stability. The stool cannot be steady if one of the legs is missing or wobbly.

Njoroge's three interdependent legs comprise the economy, diplomacy, and the military. The economic leg supports the diplomatic and the military legs but cannot operate without the other two. This implies that weakened diplomacy and military is disaster for the country because the economy will similarly suffer.

Njoroge needed Makumi Mwagiru's 'Seminar C' prodding to write and not to disappear into potato farming. His book launch attracted Kenya's top military brass, including five of the seven living CDF/CGS. Four had been participants at NDC which Njoroge, as ordered by General Daudi Tonje, had helped to found and then become commandant.

Tonje, with a sharp futuristic mind that relates things in easy language, also has ability to force action. He was at the book launch, enjoying every moment as Njoroge recounted how Tonje made him create military education institutions.

Concerned about stagnation because senior officers overstayed in one rank and could not open space for their juniors to move up, he explained to President Daniel arap Moi and he agreed to change policy which became the Tonje Rules.

Although Tonje's humility hides inner toughness and also makes him hesitant to write, he is not necessarily reluctant to. This challenges CDF Robert Kibochi to find ways of tapping and recording that wealth of unusually detailed Tonje knowledge whose influence reverberates among the commanders.

Like Mwathate, Karangi, Kianga, and Kibwana before him, Kibochi received his fourth star courtesy of Tonje's foresight to create military succession order. This was, besides creating colleges, by rotating the top office among military services and limiting the time that a CDF or service commander can stay in office.

Njoroge's three-legged challenge is to military and civilian policymakers to consider reflecting on their experience. Among is Uhuru Kenyatta who, while president and during Munyua Waiyaki's funeral, urged people to record their experiences but there were no takers.

The challenge is also to the only remaining "Effendi", Mahmood Mohamed, who transitioned from colonial NCOs to post-colonial commissioned officers. There are other military luminaries like Major Marsden Madoka who later served as minister and Captain Kungu Muigai who operates as Gikuyu 'elder'. Persuading such officers and policymakers to record their experiences is worthwhile.