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KDF Ranks and the Recent Change in Top Leadership

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Just like any other military in the world, the rank system forms the backbone of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), and its ranks, which are displayed on the shoulders of the officers while on duty, is a badge of leadership indicating their respective level of expertise, responsibility, and authority and it grows with each advancement.

At the top, in charge of KDF’s organization and command, is the President as the Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces. It is the duty of the Commander in Chief to appoint the Chief of the Defence Forces, Vice Chief of the Defence Forces, and the three Service Commanders to head the three military service branches: Kenya Army, the Kenya Air Force, and the Kenya Navy.

However, those are not the enlisted ranks of KDF. They are ‘positions,’ and in fact, temporary; that is why the President makes the appointments, and it is among state offices as classified in Article 260 of the Constitution.

Then, what are KDF ranks?

The ranking structure in the Kenyan military, leaving alone the President as Commander in Chief and focusing on KDF as an entity, employs different insignia to soldiers of all levels.

The ranks are hierarchical, having two distinct tiers: Officers and Service Members, or you can refer to them as Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers, respectively.

Commissioned Officers hold positions of high command in KDF. They are those recruited for possessing special skills needed for military operations and normally join the armed forces as cadets. After they complete training, they start with the rank of Second Lieutenant (2Lt).

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On the other hand, Non-Commissioned KDF soldiers are full-time service members who spend most of their days training for combat. They hold lesser positions of authority than their counterparts, and the common ranks in this category, from the lowest to the highest, in Kenya Army are Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Senior Sergeant, Warrant Officer Class II, and lastly, Warrant Officer Class II, administering soldier groupings of smaller units.

For the Kenya Air Force, it is Corporal, then Sergeant, Senior Sergeant, Warrant Officer Class II, and Warrant Officer Class II at the helm. It is similar to that in the Navy.

In both the Kenya Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, the insignia of the Commissioned Officers is identical, and as said, their military ranks in order start from Second Lieutenant, then Lieutenant, followed by Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier, Major General, Lieutenant General and on top, the General.

KDF ranks
Photo – The Top 5 ranks of Commissioned Officers in Kenya Army

At any given time, KDF has only one four-star General who is the Chief of the Defence Forces and the principal adviser to the President on military matters. So, the position of the Chief of the Defence Forces and the earlier mentioned Vice Chief of the Defence Forces and Service Commanders hold the most senior appointments and have the highest level of responsibilities within the armed forces.

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The highest-ranking military officer in Kenya right now, holding the four-star General rank and serving as the Chief of the Defence Forces, is General Francis Omondi Ogolla, who trained as an instructor pilot with Kenya Air Force and as a fighter pilot with the US Air Force.

He joined KDF in April 1984 and scaled the ranks to become a Major General, the Commander of Kenya Air Force for three years from 2018, and he was the Vice Chief of the Defence Forces with a Lieutenant General rank until April 2023 when President William Ruto, the current Commander in Chief, appointed him Chief of the Defence Forces, taking over from General Robert Kibochi.

Lieutenant General Charles Kahariri is part of KDF’s top leadership as the Vice Chief of Defence Forces, assisting General Ogolla in his roles. He was a Major General in the Navy prior to his appointment to replace Lieutenant General Jonah Mwangi, who had been with KDF for the last 42 years.

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Yesterday, on March 23, 2024, there was a formal change of command ceremony held at Kenya Army Headquarters in Ngao Gardens, Nairobi, whereby Lieutenant General Peter Mbogo Njiru relinquished command to now Lieutenant General David Tarus who takes over as the 23rd Commander of the Kenya Army.

Since 1985, Lieutenant General Njiru has been a member of the armed forces, becoming a Commanding Officer in 2006. From June 2022, he was the Commander of the Kenya Army before President Ruto made the recent change.

“It is an honour to have worked with you and shared the same vision to empower Kenya Army. I know your dedication and focus will be instrumental in fulfilling the Kenya Army Mandate. To achieve all that I was able to deliver, I sought to mobilize the knowledge, experience, and capabilities of all Army personnel,” the outgoing Commander said, declaring support for Lieutenant General Tarus, the newly promoted Army Commander.

Before his appointment, Lieutenant General Tarus was a Deputy Army Commander for one year. He joins Major General Thomas Ng’ang’a and Major General John Mugaravai Omenda, the Service Commanders in the Kenya Navy and Kenya Air Force, respectively.

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JUSTUS KIPRONO
JUSTUS KIPRONOhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
Justus Kiprono is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. He tracks Capital Markets and economic trends, infrastructure reform, government spending, and the financial impacts of state decision-making nationwide. You can reach him: [email protected]
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