Our History

HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

At independence, the Ministry of Defence was referred to as the Ministry of Internal Security and Defence. The Ministry of Internal Security and Defence encompassed the military, police and prison. During this period, there were only 21 civilians spread over the Kenya Army, the Kenya Air Force, the Kenya Navy, the Kenya Police and Prisons.

After independence in 1963, an Act of Parliament (KMF Act-Cap 198), created the Kenya Military Forces and the following year in 1964 Prisons and Police were transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs. In 1966, the Police Department was further transferred from the Home Affairs docket to the Office of the President.

In 1968 an Act of Parliament repealed Chapter 198 which had created the Kenya Military Forces and replaced it with Chapter 199 of the Laws of Kenya creating the Kenya Armed Forces. Defence remained as the Ministry of Defence until 1980.

The Ministry has changed names since independence through Executive Orders of the President that spells out names of Ministry’s. It has been referred to as:

  • Internal Security and Defence (1963-1978)
  • The Department of Defence (DoD) (1978-2000)
  • The Ministry of Provincial Administration and National Security (2003-2005)
    • The Ministry of State for Defence (2000-2003)
    • The Ministry Of Defence (2006- current)

Former Presidents of the Republic of Kenya and Commander – in – Chief of the Defence Forces.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta:

1st President of Kenya (1964 – 1978)

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the President of Kenya from independence in 1963 to his death in 1978, serving first as Prime Minister (1963–64) and then as President (1964–78).

Kenyatta was a well-educated intellectual who authored several books, and is remembered as a Pan-Africanist.

He is also the father of Kenya’s fourth and current President, Uhuru Kenyatta.

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi

2nd President of the Republic of Kenya (1978 – 2002)

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi served as the second President of Kenya from 1978 to 2002. Prior to 1978, he served as the third Vice President of Kenya from 1967 to 1978.

Moi was popularly known to Kenyans as “Nyayo”, a Swahili word for “footsteps”, as he often said he was following in the footsteps of the first President. He also earned the sobriquet “Professor of Politics”.

Mwai Kibaki

3rd President of the Republic of Kenya (2002 – 2013)

Mwai Kibaki was the third President of Kenya, serving from December 2002 to April 2013. He was previously Vice-President of Kenya for ten years from 1978 to 1988 under President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi. He also held cabinet ministerial positions in the Kenyatta and Moi governments, including a widely acclaimed stint as Minister for Finance (1969–1981) under Kenyatta, and Minister for Home Affairs (1982–1988) and Minister for Health (1988–1991) under Moi.

Former Ministry of Defence Cabinet Ministers/Secretaries

Dr Munyua Waiyaki

Dr. Munyua Waiyaki was elected as a member of parliament for North-Eastern Nairobi Currently Kasarani constituency in 1963.

He was later appointed the Parliamentary Secretary (Assistant Minister) in the PM’s office in charge of Internal Security and Defence.

During his tenure , Dr. Waiyaki spent most of the  time with the Prime Minister (Mzee Jomo Kenyatta) discussing the answers he (Waiyaki) would give on the PM’s behalf in the House of Representatives in regards to Shifta war which was a major security concern at the time.

He also handled the Mau Mau issue with the objective of ensuring that freedom fighters left the forest since Kenya had attained independence, an assignment the Prime minister followed keenly.

Later in his career, Dr. Waiyaki was appointed Kenya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs where he was tasked by the Prime Minister to pursued US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger into authorizing sale of F5 fighter jets to Kenya , an aircraft simulator and train those who would operate them.

Dr. Njoroge Mungai, M.D. EGH 1965-1966

In independent Kenya, Njoroge Mungai would serve

In independent Kenya, Njoroge Mungai would serve first as Minister for Health in which capacity he established Kenya’s first medical school.

He was later moved to the Defense Ministry and it was during his tenure at the Ministry that the Shifta War between Kenya and Somalia broke out. He led a mediation team to Kinshasa which resulted in the Arusha Accord of 1967, bringing a close to the conflict.

But he would gain fame during his term as Minister for Foreign Affairs. An astute diplomat, he successfully lobbied to have the United Nations Environmental Programme headquartered in Nairobi. He further successfully lobbied the OAU to supply arms to forces fighting the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the Portuguese colonial regime in Mozambique.

Kenya also had a seat on the Security Council during his tenure and he was instrumental in pushing for sanctions against South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.

Hon. James Gichuru 1974-1978

James Gichuru was Kenya’s first Finance Minister after independence. He was also known to be at the centre of talks between Kenyan and British officials on the take-over of one million acres of mixed farmland owned by Europeans to resettle landless Kenyans.

He was later appointed Minister for Defence during President Kenyatta tenure. President Moi retained him briefly when he took over from President Kenyatta in 1978.

during President Kenyatta tenure. President Moi retained him briefly  when he took over from President Kenyatta in 1978

The Ministry of Defence was renamed Department of Defence (DoD) and placed under the Office of the President. The highest civilian official was the Deputy Secretary.

Hon. Amb. Julius L. Ole Sunkuli, EGH, EBS

Hon. Julius Sunkuli 2000-2003

Julius Lekakeny Sunkuli was a member of parliament for Kilgoris Constituency in the National Assembly of Kenya between 1997-2002.

Sunkuli was appointed Minister of State for the newly formed Ministry of State for Defence in 2000 where he served for three years during President Moi’s Administration.

It was during Sunkuli’s tenure that Kenyan troops serving in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) were attacked by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group led by Foday Saybana Sankoh. The rebel group was supported by Charles Taylor-led National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in the 11-year-long Sierra Leone Civil War.

Sunkuli led Kenya’s delegation consisting of Kenya’s Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Relations Committee that ensured the release of the Kenyan soldiers who had been captured by the rebel group in Sierra Leone.

Hon Christopher Ndarathi Murungaru

Hon Christopher Ndarathi Murungaru 2003-2005

Hon Christopher Murungaru was a Member of Parliament for Kieni Constituency. Hon. Murungaru was appointed Minister of State for Provincial Administration & National Security.

During his two-year tenure, Defence was a department in the Office of the of President and was amalgamated with Internal Security.

Hon. James Njenga Karume 2006-2007

Hon Njenga Karume was a Member of Parliament for Kiambaa Constituency.

He was appointed Minister of State for Defense in 2005 and served until December 2007.

Hon. Mohamed Yusuf Haji

Hon. Mohamed Yusuf Haji 2008-2013

Hon. Mohamed Yusuf Haji was a career civil servant turn politician. He was a member of Parliament for Ijara Constituency in Garissa County.

Hon Haji was appointed Minister of State for Defence in 2008 and served until 2013. He was later elected as a Senator for Garissa County.

Hon. Haji was a gifted politician, a devoted and top notch administrator who advocated for peace and harmony in the country. Hon Haji, also had ground breaking mediation skills. He is remembered for his wise counsel and steadfast leadership.

It was during Honourable Haji’s tenure that Kenyan troops entered into Somalia on 14th October 2011 in a campaign aimed at securing Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against the threat that emanated from the Al Shabaab and its affiliates.

Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia re-energized regional and international resolve to address the Al Shabaab’s threat to peace and security. In that context, and in order to sustain the gains made by KDF, the UN and AU invited Kenya to incorporate KDF into AMISOM in November 2011.

Ambassador Raychelle Omamo SC, EGH

Ambassador Raychelle Omamo SC, EGH 2013-2020

Ambassador Raychelle Awuor Omamo was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Defence in 2013, the first female in the country to hold the post, and served until January 2020. She was later reshuffled and transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the same capacity.

Amb Omamo is a Senior Counsel and an advocate of High Court of Kenya for 28 years. As a practitioner she was the first female Chairperson of the Law Society of Kenya from 2001 to 2003 after serving as a council member from 1996 to 2000 and Kenyan first female ambassador to France, Portugal, The Holy See and Serbia as well as the Permanent Delegate of Kenya to UNESCO.

During her stint in the Ministry of Defence, KDF continued engagement in the Somalia theatre, under AMISOM. The troops degraded Al Shabaab and liberated several towns in the war torn country.

Amb. Omamo also spearheaded the construction and commissioning of the civilian administrative office blocks at MoD headquarters, Kahawa Barracks, Moi Air Base and Kenya Navy Mtongwe with the objective of improving work environment for the civilian component in the Ministry.

Ministry of Defence Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF) History

General Bernard Penfold (1966-1969)

Major-General Robert Bernard Penfold CB LVO was a British Army officer who commanded South East District.

In 1957, Penfold moved to the Military Mission at Washington DC. For his service as GSO1, he was appointed LVO at the end of his tour. Command of 6th Battalion King’s African Rifles in Tanganyika followed in 1959. He took great trouble to understand the history of the people of Tanganyika and, in particular, the tensions that could arise if the tribal components of the battalion became unbalanced. To the Askari, Penfold was Bwana Kali (Colonel Fierce) .

In 1964, he was promoted to brigadier and posted to Aden as security adviser during the Radfan campaign. Two years later, President Jomo Kenyatta appointed him chief of staff of the Kenya Defence Forces. He was appointed CB in 1969.

Penfold went on to be GOC South East District before retiring from the Army in 1972 in the rank of major-general.

Maj-Gen Joseph Ndolo

Maj-Gen Joseph Ndolo, the first African to head the military, lasted only two years as Chief of General Staff. His reign was abruptly brought to an end after the 1971 coup attempt. He died in 1984.

Born in 1919, Maj-Gen Ndolo quickly rose through the ranks to become the first Kenyan head of the armed forces.

He had been recruited into the King’s African Rifles, and was a high-ranking officer within the newly established Kenya Army at independence.

When Ndolo was appointed Army Commander in 1966, the newly created position of Chief of Defence Staff was held by Major-General Penfold, a British officer.

Gen (Rtd) Jackson Mulinge (1971-1986)

General (Rtd) Jackson Mulinge served as the military chief for 15 years.

The general, whose military education was entirely British, was the first Kenyan to receive the Queen’s commission in 1961.

General Mulinge was the first to hold the post of Chief of General Staff (today called Chief of Defence Forces) in 1978 and was the first to become a four-star general in 1980.

Gen (Rtd) Mohamud Haji Mohamed Barrow (1986-1996)

General (Rtd) Mahmoud Mohammed is remembered to have led an operation in his tenure as Deputy Army Commander, which crushed the 1982 coup attempt. This changed the course of Kenya’s history. The General recaptured the Voice of Kenya, the National Broadcaster from rebel soldiers suffocating the coup plotters.

A soldier with modest education, he started his career as a private in the infantry battalion; the army’s lowest rank, and rose through the ranks to head the military as the Chief of General Staff. No other man has achieved such a feat in the history of Kenya’s military.

His contribution as the head of the military was significant.

Gen (Rtd) Daudi Tonje

General (Rtd) Daudi Tonje, is one of the celebrated KDF officers. During his tenure, KDF recorded the highest number of reforms that aimed at professionalising the Force.

The reforms included: Establishment of the Defence Staff College and the Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme (DEFMIS).

He also pushed for change that would see Cadets at the Armed Forces Training College (AFTC) now the Kenya Military Academy (KMA) attain university education leading to a degree in Military Science.

It was also during General Tonje’s tenure that the Women Service Corps was disbanded leading to the inclusion of women in the mainstream military ranks and services.

He was enlisted to the army in 1962 and trained as a cadet at Hifford Barracks Lanet, then as the first direct-entry African Cadet, this was a year before Kenya’s Independence. After his training, he was posted to the 11th KAR battalion.

Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­General (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana was in the first batch of 10 African officers and servicemen recruited to the Navy in 1964. The officers were sent to the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, UK, for studies.

General Kibwana rose through the ranks and was appointed the Commander Kenya Navy. He was later promoted to the rank of Lt. General and appointed the Commandant National Defence College, which is a Centre of Excellence in Peace and Security studies across the African region.

In 2000, he became the first Navy officer to occupy the office of the Chief of General Staff.
He oversaw the smooth transition of power in 2002.

Gen (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga

General (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga was promoted and appointed to the rank of the Chief of the General Staff in 2005, taking over from General (rtd) Kibwana.

General (Rtd) Kianga, was considered a strict disciplinarian and was renowned for introducing the Kaizen Principle – continuous improvement. During his tenure he established collaboration with Egerton University for military officers to pursue Defence Forces Continuous Education Programme.

In the fulfillment of the Defence Forces Secondary role , General Kianga restored order in Mt. Elgon where the Sabaot Land Defence Force; a guerrilla militia operating in the Mount Elgon District of Kenya that was accused of killing more than 600 people, and  committing a variety of atrocities including murder, torture, rape, theft and destruction of property.

During the successful operation, more 100 fire arms were recovered from the militia group and the group was dismantled completely.

He is remembered to have championed the Environmental Conservation Programme that had been initiated by the Army in 2003, which he ensured was adopted by all the three services as a defence activity  dubbed the Environmental Soldier programme.

He joined the military in April 1971 and after two years cadet training at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, he was commissioned and posted to the 5th Kenya Rifles as a Platoon Commander in 1973.

Gen (Rtd) Julius Waweru Karangi (2011-to 2015)

General (Rtd) Julius Karangi will be remembered as the first General to hold the new title of the Chief of the Defence Forces as provided for after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

He is also the General who led Kenyan troops to war in Somalia, under the Operation code named “Linda Nchi” on the 14th October 2011. The purpose of the operation was to degrade the Al Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia who were posing a security challenge in Kenya hence threatening National interest.

In light of continued threats, to the Republic, the Government of Kenya invoked article 51 of the UN Charter in order to secure the right to self – defence from unwarranted attacks by the militia group.

KDF troops under General (rtd) Karangi re-hated into the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) after one month of successful operation.

General (rtd) Julius Karangi was awarded the Legion of Merit (Degree of Commander) by the President of the United States of America for exceptional meritorious service as Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces. The president cited General Karangi’s focus on coalition building and fielding Kenya Battle Groups that seamlessly integrated the concept of the operation and helped achieve the African Union Mission mandate to bring stability to Somalia

He joined Kenya Air Force in 1973 and after Cadet training in UK; he was commissioned as an officer in 1974. General (rtd) Karangi rose through the ranks and became to Commander Kenya Air Force and later appointed as the Chief of the Defence Forces.

Gen (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe

General (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe is renowned for the modernization program of the Kenya Defence Forces. He is famed for initiating the construction of the 4000T slipways at Mtongwe, a ships repair facility envisaged to be the only one of such magnitude in Sub Sahara Africa.

The Slipway renamed the Kenya Shipyards Limited is one of the Government’s flagship projects in a plan to revamp the Blue Economy. The Shipyard is expected to be a major boost to maritime operations in the region.

During his time, the Defence Council approved the establishment of the Welfare Branch at the Defence Headquarters and initiated welfare centres in all KDF units.

It was during his tenure that the construction of the Wellness Centre at Langata barracks was initiated that was aimed at addressing service personnel needs beyond rudimentary medical care.

He also established the Defence Forces Savings Cooperative Society (DESACCO) which provides an exclusive cooperative society for KDF personnel to save money and acquire loans at low interest rates.

Gen (Rtd) Mwathethe is also known for increasing the military’s involvement in civil engagement. He was responsible for the rehabilitation of the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line and for seconding KDF personnel to the management of the Nairobi Metropolitan Service.

General (Rtd) Mwathethe joined the Kenya Defence Forces in 1978 and underwent naval training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in UK and commissioned as a seaman in 1980.

His illustrious career in the military spanned a period of 42 years holding numerous positions in KDF key among them being the Commander Kenya Navy, Vice Chief of the Defence Forces and finally as Chief of the Defence Forces in April 2015. He retired in May 2020.

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