Duale: I'll go herd my camels when Ruto's tenure as president ends

Defence CS Aden Duale responds to questions when he appeared before the National Assembly Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations at Parliament on October 5, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Defence Cabinet Secretary Adan Duale says he misses Parliament and plans to retire from public office with President William Ruto in 2032, if he wins a second term. 

Duale, a key ally of the president, notes that after 15 years as a ranking member in the National Assembly where he served as the pioneer Majority Leader for eight years, and possbily another 10 years Cabinet, he deserves to retire to his farm in Garissa.

“After President Ruto ends his second term, I will retire with him and change to a kikoi and shawl and go herd my camels and goats. After serving in a government where the most powerful man is also your friend, what else would I need to come back and do?” poses Duale.

In an exclusive interview with The Saturday Standard during which he addressed a wide range of issues, he said his transition from Parliament was smooth but he remembers with a lot of nostalgia his time in the House because of the lively debates he said he championed for Kenyans.

“It is in Parliament that you get to defend and champion issues for Kenyans, you speak your mind and your heart, you get the opportunity to stand for the down trodden. I still miss those moments,” said the former Garissa Town MP.

Sitting at the helm of the country’s defence docket where he makes policy statements for the safety of the nation, the CS says he will spend Christmas in Kismayu with Kenyan soldiers there.

He is happy that Kenya has a president he says has the presence of mind, energy, charisma and stamina to transform the country.

Duale believes that Ruto is the best thing to happen to Kenya today.

Below is the full interview:

Are you fulfilling your childhood dream given that in your book, For The Record, you said that to serve your country in the military and the fact that you are married to the family of General Mahamud Mohamed family?

I am not necessarily fulfilling my dreams but I believe I have been a lucky man. Allah has guided my journey of life. As I wrote in my book, I wanted to be in the military and life has given me the chance of being at the helm of Defence, in the backdrop my father-in-law having been a General in the military.

My interest in the military and my close interactions with Gen Mohamed, at least I had a heads-up in my work now at the Defence. When I got through my interactions with the senior officers including the CDFs, current and former Majors and Brigadiers, I learned that Gen Mohamed is a highly respected retired military officer, and this has made it easy sometimes for them to even embrace me.

As one of the key CSs and being close President William Ruto, how would you rate his government’s performance in its first year in office?

If Kenya does not transform under President William Ruto, then it will never. The President has the presence of mind, energy, charisma, dedication, and the will to change the country. Kenyans need to be a bit patient.

In the first year, Ruto has implemented the foundation of his transformation through budget allocations, deliberate legislative agenda, and decisions and he is a direct supervisor himself.

In the one year in office, he has reformed the education sector and employed over 50,000 teachers instantly solving a historical problem that has lingered in all the previous four governments. In the same breath, the Tvets have also gotten a boost and are working seamlessly. At the university, he introduced a fair and equitable model of financing that will take into consideration every Kenyan young man and woman.

To boost agriculture, the Ruto administration introduced fertiliser subsidies that have ensured a record high maize yield in years and, at the same time, built a database for all Kenyan farmers.

In the security sector, Ruto directed the KDF and other multiagency security agencies to bring to an end banditry in the North Rift region and the results are there for everyone to see.  Within one year, terror and cases of terrorism have gone down by 95 per cent and no serious attacks have taken place in the last year. He has empowered KDF and other security agencies in terms of intelligence gathering.

The opposition has been using the issue of high cost of living. This will be a tired debate. Food prices are already low. Other things like fuel will come down and they will run out of steam because there will be nothing for them to use.

Expound on your remarks that you will retire with Ruto?

I am a man of integrity. I want to serve for the hopefully 10 years which we hope Allah will give President Ruto to serve. After that, I will go to the village, put on a Kikoi and shawl, and keep my camels and goats in Garissa as I interact with my grandchildren while running some family businesses.

After winning four elections and serving as CS where I am close with the President and interact with the most powerful man in the country, what else would I need in the power circles? I will retire together with President Ruto.

I served as an assistant minister in the old constitution while being an MP, I was the pioneer majority leader who served for eight years at the helm and was a ranking member who served as chair of different House committees.

We must build a culture where we can learn to say enough is enough, not like most African leaders who want to die in office.

How is your transition from politics to the Executive? Do you miss Parliament where you stayed for 15 years?

I think the President honoured me by appointing me the Defence minister. My transition was smooth. I came from Parliament where there are systems, hierarchy, and structures and with a competent staff of high calibre. At Defence, I also found there are systems, structures, hierarchy, order, and a lot of discipline, which I have gelled well with.

Of course, I will not pretend. I miss politics and being in Parliament. It is only in the chambers that you spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday defending issues that have an impact on Kenyans. It is the only place under the sun where you can speak freely, defend the Constitution and several laws openly, and where you can push for Article 10 of the Constitution on National Values and principles of Governance without fear or favour.

Since the Kenya Kwanza administration took over, there has been relative calm on issue of terrorism, what is the secret?

The reason is that the Ruto administration has invested more in artillery equipment and intelligence so that any terror attempt can be preempted.

Why did Kenya Contingent (KENCON) troops under The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) exit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prematurely after only one year of deployment when the situation in the country is still fluid?

It is indeed true that the security situation in the DRC, especially in the east, has remained fluid and complex. This is due to the conflict perpetuated by over 100 armed groups, both local and foreign, fighting for control of valuable mineral resources while others protect their communities, leading to a humanitarian crisis.

The KDF contingent was deployed in areas earlier occupied by the M23 rebel group. As an outcome of KDF’s operations, the rebel group vacated most of the areas and the ceasefire between the M23 and FARDC generally held, creating a conducive environment necessary for the political process to take root. Equally, the group had indicated conditional readiness for pre-cantonment, which is a critical step towards demobilisation.

The KDF contingent also supported the P-DBRCS and Rey Engagements within the Joint Operation Area on peaceful coexistence of communities while also gradually establishing leadership in areas occupied by EACRF - Nyumba Kumi. This has led to the re-opening of basic social amenities, including schools and health facilities.

On the expiry of the mandate and failure to extend/renew by the host nation as confirmed by the DRC Minister of Defence during the 23rd EAC Heads of State summit held in Arusha Tanzania on 24th December 2023, the Force Commander presented an exit plan that was approved by the summit. Eventually, Kenya exited after a one-year successful tour.

What is your take on the presence of BATUK in Kenya? Their approval by Parliament had initially raised issues?

The British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) is a training support unit of the British Army located in Kenya. BATUK has existed in Kenya since 2008, but the British Army, in varying forms, has had a training organisation in Kenya since 1963. Kenya and the UK have an existing Defence Cooperation Agreement ratified by the National Assembly on 13 April 2023 with some reservations that we are still working with the British High Commission to resolve. This is the document that guides military-to-military relations between the two countries.

The presence of BATUK in Kenya benefits the country in various ways including joint military training between Kenya and the UK thereby directly supporting the KDF’s professionalisation strategy as well as payment for the facilities they use for staging and training.

Equally, the British Army makes a significant contribution to the Kenyan economy through direct employment of the local population. Currently, between 2,000 and 4,200 Kenyans are employed by BATUK throughout the year both as permanent and additional staff. These are mostly sourced majorly from Laikipia, Samburu, and Isiolo counties.

In addition, with the presence of approximately 500 UK military personnel and their dependents with an annual operating budget of over Sh6.7 billion, BATUK makes a significant contribution to the economy of the counties where the training takes place.

Defence CS Aden Duale during the 1st Graduation Ceremony of the National Defence University - Kenya in Lanet, Nakuru on November 17, 2023. [ Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Do you think the visa free policy declared by the President on Jamhuri Day is a security threat to the country?

This will likely improve tourism, and business environment and foster Kenya’s position as an international destination. This decision could have negative consequences for the country, including exposing the country to risks related to infiltration of organised crime, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption. However, these challenges can be mitigated by robust protective measures the government is putting in place. The Immigration department will be equipped with a digital platform to ensure that all travelers to Kenya are identified in advance. Fostering good cooperation between the Immigration department, Kenya Police Service, and other security agencies will also be undertaken. Also, the National Intelligence Service will be involved in vetting and approving likely visitors.

What is your take on the military taking over civilian duties as is the case with Kenya Meat Commission and also KICC renovations?

The KDF possesses certain competencies that can be utilised in national development. The military is often associated with discipline, organisation, and efficiency. Bringing military principles into civilian establishments leads to better management, improved operational efficiency, and a focus on achieving objectives. One evident case to note was when KMC was recently awarded an ISO Certification: ISO9001-2015 QMS (Quality Management System).

Why were the Police preferred over the military in the Haiti Mission? Did it dent the record of the force given that it is highly regarded globally for its role in peacekeeping missions?

This followed the request for support by Haiti in a 22 September 23 letter to the United Nations Secretary-General. The mission is mandated to, among other things, support the efforts of the Haitian National Police to re-establish security in Haiti and build security conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections, by providing operational support to the Haitian National Police, including building its capacity through the planning and conduct of joint security support operations. Accordingly, the mission is a policing mission and not a military mission and, in our knowledge, no country has pledged a military force to the mission.

 What legacy do you want to leave at the Defence ministry?

My vision is to ensure national security through maintaining a professional military that boasts of work ethics, public trust, values, and culture that befits an internationally recognised military force. Equally, the force should have the face of Kenya in all aspects. So far, we have achieved many successes including commissioning of a slipway by the commander-in-chief. 

The military is a closed docket, including their budget. Do you want to demystify it and open it up to public scrutiny?

KDF is an open body. Its budget is passed by the National Assembly and its expenditure is audited by the Auditor General’s office. Both its operations internally and outside are approved by Parliament and it is also answerable to the commander-in-chief and there it is not an opaque military.

Soldiers experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and most suffer mental anguish. Does the ministry have plans to give them psychological support?

The Directorate of Medical Services has an established branch that deals with mental disorders for both for the service personnel and their dependents. The branch has developed mitigation measures for medical disorders meant to achieve a mentally healthy force.  Among the measures include prevention. This is done through pre-deployment, intra-deployment, and post-deployment support to troops deployed to operations This is done through sensitisation by counselors and psychologists and even buddy-buddy care. The KDF has established the Defence Forces Wellness Centre that takes care of service personnel who suffer PTSD and those who require both physical and mental rehabilitation.

Young people have a lot of interest in joining the military as a source of income yet it is a service to the nation. How do you reconcile the two?

The Kenya Defence Forces is a voluntary service in which every eligible Kenyan citizen who qualifies can be enlisted to render his or her service. Just like any other employer, the KDF remunerates its personnel.

There have been a lot of concerns about military aircraft safety. Four of them have come down in the last 11 months. What are you doing about the matter?

Aircraft like any other machines are prone to incidents and accidents. Equally, military flying is unique and is usually conducted in the most extreme conditions and operating environments. These conditions expose the aircraft and crew to higher risks of incidents and accidents. However, every time there is an incident or accident, thorough investigations are conducted to establish the cause. Lessons learned are drawn to mitigate the recurrence of similar incidents in the future.