The outgoing Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, General Julius Karangi, may continue to call shots in government if plans to create a new Cabinet slot are effected.
Sources say plans are in place to create a new position of National Security Advisor to be occupied by Karangi. In the US, where Kenya has heavily borrowed much of its military operations, the National Security Advisor is a senior position whose holder sits in the Cabinet.
Other speculations say the retiring CDF could be appointed to the yet to be created Ministry of Homeland Security, which will replace the present Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination. “He is the man to watch and he is dependable in all ways. He will be in Cabinet,” said a source privy to the plans. As he retires from the military to serve in civilian capacity, Karangi leaves with his head high.
“I have served the military for 42 years now and I am happy,” he said. During his tenure, Karangi says he, among other achievements, made sure all military property was secured. “There were many speculators who even wanted to grab military land here in Nairobi and other parts of the country. We secured the property and we have faith they are safe,” he said in an earlier interview.
He said land belonging to the military in Embakasi would have been grabbed had he not stood his ground. Another land near DoD, valued at Sh3 billion, had also been grabbed but the retiring general says he was in the front line in reclaiming and fencing it. Karangi also won public praise for the successful military operation against the Al-Shabaab in Somalia under Operation Linda Nchi and overseeing a smooth transfer of power from President Kibaki to Uhuru Kenyatta.
On Friday, President Kenyatta, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, was full of praise for the retiring general. “I take this opportunity to thank Karangi for his dedicated service to Kenya that was marked by diligence, great commitment, humility and patriotism”.
The President said Karangi “leaves our Defence Forces in a much better place both professionally and operationally.” The 64-year-old Karangi, who also served as Vice-Chief of General Staff, became the first Chief of Kenya Defence Forces under the new constitutional dispensation.
The new Constitution replaced Kenya Armed Forces with Kenya Defence Force, with the Chief of Kenya Defence Forces replacing the Chief of General Staff. Karangi’s extended stay in office was occasioned by a misunderstanding on the takeover of the troops at Somalia under Amisom. His stay in office, according to insiders, saw a number of senior officers retire early while keeping with internal administrative rules, popularly known as the Tonje Rules, named after former military chief General Daudi Tonje, who designed and implemented them.
Under the Tonje Rules, the CDF retires at 62 while lieutenant-generals and major-generals retire at 58 and 56 respectively if they are not promoted to the next rank. The rules are applicable to the CDF, the commanders of the Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force and the Kenya Navy. But an officer can retire at a younger age if he has been a service commander for four years. The Tonje Rules also allow the CDF position to rotate between the Army, Air Force and Navy. However, the rules are largely guidelines that are subject to change by the Commander-in-Chief.
Karangi became the first Kenyan general to be decorated by the US military in 2014 for his role in the KDF raid of Somalia. He was invited to the US by General Martin E Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, where he held talks on the prevailing security situation in the region.
The retiring CDF also inspected a guard of honour at the Pentagon. “While at the Pentagon the CDF was awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit Medal in a colourful ceremony presided over by General Dempsey. This award was given in recognition of his efforts in stabilising Somalia and degrading the capacity of Al-Shabaab,” says DOD website.