Lt.General Nick Leshan takes the final bow
By Amos Kareithi
| September 4th 2021
The military is in mourning after one of Kenya's most decorated veteran Lieutenant General(retired) Nick Leshan died on Friday night at Nairobi's Aga Khan Hospital.
According to Kenya Defence Forces Spokesperson, Bogita Ongeri, Leshan had been hospitalized at Aga Khan hospital where he was being treated for some time.
“It is true he died yesterday(Friday) night. Leshan was an astute military officer who served his country with dedication, " said Ongeri.
Leshan's time at the air force was as long as it was illustrious and he had to overcome many hurdles to rise to point of touching distance of being the chief of defence forces at the time of his retirement.
By the time he exited Kenya Air force, he was the vice of Defence forces, deputising Jeremiah Kianga who took the reins of the military in 2005 and ultimately retired in 2011.
Leshan found himself facing the wrong end of the gun in 1982 after he was commandeered by Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu, the masterminds of the August 1 coup.
At the time, Leshan was the Air Transport Major, and the coup plotters ordered him to fly them in a Buffalo aircraft to Tanzania. The coup plotters hope of getting refuge in Tanzania were short-lived for the then President, Julius Nyerere refused assist them but instead had them deported back to Kenya.
On their return to Nairobi, the two just like other rebel airmen were court-martialed and upon conviction were sentenced to hang. They were among the last Kenya prisoners to be hanged at Kamiti maximum security prison.
In the meantime, Leshan had a very difficult time convincing his bosses that he was a victim who had been forced to jet out of the country. At one time just like all the soldiers suspected to have played a role in the coup, he was treated as a suspect but after screening and vetting, he was cleared to rejoin the Air force.
When the military planned a book, The Kenya Air Force Story: 1964-2014, Leshan shared some of his experiences and the struggles he and his colleagues went through to regain the trust and the dignity of their unit which had been bastardised on account of the aborted coup.
Following the coup, Leshan explains in the book that, “It took many hours of talking and drilling the officers for them to feel confident again" adding, “I wanted them to understand that the country depended on them to make the right decisions and nobody could do that if they were feeling as if they were last..."
This was in response to attempts to scrap the air force and craft new outfit which some people in government wanted treated as inferior to other out fits such as the army and the navy.
He argues in the book, “... you don’t destroy an institution because a few people have done the wrong thing. You don’t turn it a pariah within the family of the defence forces which is what happened then.”
At the time he left the military, his beloved air force had regained the confidence and the dignity to an extent that its top brass could be trusted to lead the entire defence forces and defend their country from external aggressors.
Leshan defied the coup, the plotters to rise to be the second most powerful man in the military in his time and will be remembered for having saved Kenya at its darkest moments in 1982 by being loyal to his commander in chief.
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