Key appointments signal new era in military leadership

Front L-R: Defence CS Aden Duale, CDF Lt Gen Francis Ogolla, Defence PS Patrick Mariru and the outgoing Vice CDF Lt Gen Jonah Mwangi. [KDF]

President William Ruto has initiated a significant reshuffle within the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in what is seen as preparing for a post-General Francis Ogolla era. The Chief of Defence Forces is set to retire within a year if his term is not renewed.

The changes unveiled on Friday signal a meticulous succession plan, outlining promotions, appointments, and reassignments across the military hierarchy.

The spotlight falls on Major General Charles Muriu Kahariri, now Lieutenant General, who has been appointed as the Vice Chief of Defence Forces, succeeding Lieutenant General Jonah Maina Mwangi who has served the KDF for 42 years.

“Further, the president has promoted and appointed Major General David Kimaiyo Tarus to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed him the commander of Kenya Army,” a statement signed by assistant public communications in the Ministry of Defence, Grace Sitawa, said.

Simultaneously, Major General David Kimaiyo Tarus assumed the role of Kenya Army Commander, succeeding Lieutenant General Peter Mbogo Njiru, who served for 39 years.

“Other changes have been made across the Kenya Defence Forces in line with the advice of the Defence Council,” read the statement.

Selling point

In 2023, President Ruto’s deliberate selection of General Francis Ogolla as the Chief of Defence Forces faced opposition from his followers, but Ruto emphasised Ogolla’s qualifications and capabilities as a great selling point of the military officer.

“The President has also promoted and appointed Major General Jimson Longiro to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed him Vice-Chancellor National Defence University - Kenya. Until his appointment, Lieutenant General Jimson Longiro was the Commander Kenya Navy,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement to newsrooms.

“The President has also promoted and appointed Brigadier Thomas Njoroge Ng’ang’a to the rank of Major General and appointed him the Commander Kenya Navy. Before his new role, he was the Base Commander Kenya Navy Base Manda,” read the release.

In a ripple effect of changes, President Ruto has promoted and reassigned seven senior officers within the KDF, aligning with recommendations from the Kenya Defence Council. Lieutenant General Juma Shee Mwinyikai assumes the role of Commandant of the National Defence College, while Major General Mohammed Nur Hassan becomes the Deputy Army Commander at the Kenya Army headquarters.

Major General Aphaxard Muthuri Kiugu takes charge as the Commandant of the Kenya Military Academy, Major General John Maison Nkoimo becomes the General Officer Commanding the Border Security Command, and Brigadier Peter Shikuku Chelimo is appointed Deputy Navy Commander at the Kenya Navy headquarters. Brigadier Yahya Abdi is designated as a Senior Directing Staff for the Kenya Navy, stationed at the National Defence College.

Daudi Tonje’s  rotation structure stipulates that after General Kibochi of the Army and General Ogolla of the Air Force, it is now the Navy’s turn at the helm.

“The focus on maritime security, with Kenya signing agreements on naval shipbuilding technology, aligns with the upcoming changes,” a source explained, adding, “The rotation structure positions General John Mugaravai Omenda and General Kimaiyo Tarus as likely deputies to Vice Chief of Defence Forces Kahariri, but their promotions can be fast-tracked. That means with a two-year timeline for General Tarus to ascend to Vice Chief of Defence Forces (VCDF) and eventually Chief of Defence Forces (CDF).”

Major General John Mugaravai Omenda, the Commander of the Kenya Air Force, is a seasoned officer with an extensive military career, including service in the United Nations Mission in Liberia. His elevation to Major General in 2021 positioned him to play a key role in the evolving KDF leadership landscape.

“In addition, on the advice of the Defence Council Chaired by Hon Aden Duale, Cabinet Secretary for Defence, the president has upheld the council’s recommendation and made various promotions, postings and appointments of Kenya Defence Officers,” read the statement from Ulinzi House.