When the story of Athletics Kenya President Lieutenant General (retired) Jackson Tuwei is written, his military career will perhaps be competing for space with his impressive CV in sports management.
Tuwei has risen from a military officer in Lanet to become the first Kenyan to be elected as World Athletics Vice President.
From leading a Kenya Army squad that was part of elite squads that subdued a rebel group from the Kenya Air Force during an attempted coup in 1982, to winning elections in the African and World stage, Tuwei’s is writing one chapter after another in management of athletics.
In April, he was elected the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Senior Vice President in an election staged at the continent’s congress during the African Under-18 and Under-20 championships in Lusaka, Zambia.
Four months later, the retired military man at the helm of AK was elected World Athletics Vice President at a Congress held in August in Budapest, Hungary, during the World Championships.
Before his rise to the Vice President positions in Africa and the World, Tuwei had a decorated career in the military.
He fought a number of battles and according to him, he won all of them, including the elections.
His village mates in Lelmolok, Uasin Gishu County organised a party and thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate his rise to a senior position at World Athletics.
The celebration was graced by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba and a host of athletes, among them World 800m Champion Mary Moraa and former Olympic and World champion Vivian Cheruiyot.
Tuwei recalled how the military shaped him into a disciplined man who would make a mark in athletics management.
His biggest and most challenging assignment in the military came when he was asked by his bosses to lead a team tasked with subduing a rebel group from the Air Force, which had launched a coup on August 1, 1982.
He was a major in the military during the attempted coup.
"I didn't know what was happening that day (during the day of the attempted coup). I switched on my radio and I heard Marshall Music playing and that kind of music was only played when there was a serious issue requiring military intervention," Tuwei recalls.
He was commanded to take his troops to Nairobi for a mission, but no further details of the mission were given.
But from the Marshall music, he knew there was a problem.
“I prepared myself and woke up all my troops and loaded our weapons and drove towards Nairobi," he said.
“At Gilgil, I saw a group of civilians singing and dancing. I stopped to find out what was going on. The crowd responded tuko pamoja (we are together). In Naivasha, we encountered another crowd and the response was the same. At Rironi, the crowd was even bigger. They thought we were the group that had launched a coup. But we proceeded to Nairobi,” Tuwei adds.
In Nairobi, Tuwei and his brigade found the rebels already suppressed by loyal forces, and headed to the Voice of Kenya (current Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) where top military chiefs were announcing to the nation that order had been restored.
Later that day, Lt Gen (rtd) Tuwei was deployed to Moi Air Base in Eastleigh, Nairobi where he would serve for 13 years as a commander.
During the period, he rose through the military ranks, to become a Brigadier.
“During his tenure at the Air Force, I got an opportunity to advance my studies at the Royal College of Defence in Central London,” he said.
Upon return from London, Tuwei was transferred to Kenya Army, a rare feat in the military.
Tuwei was later promoted to the position of Lieutenant General and a Kenya Army commander and was in charge of athletics in the military.
Due to his position as head of athletics in the military, he was co-opted to Athletics Kenya, where he later replaced the late Isaiah Kiplagat in 2016.