This man Samson Mwathethe

President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed Robert Kibochi the Chief of Defence Forces taking over from Samson Mwathethe, the navy man who, as General, developed an unusual camaraderie with the Commander-in-Chief.

Navy Commander Major General Levi Mghalu was promoted to Lt. General and appointed Vice Chief of Defence Forces while Brigadier Jimson Mutai was promoted Major General and appointed Commander of the Kenya Navy.

“Since your appointment as the Chief of Defence Forces five years ago (May 2015), we have seen significant expansion in our military and enviable improvement in the defence capability of our forces, thus giving Kenyans confidence that their borders are well protected from any external aggression,” President Kenyatta said of Gen. Mwathethe.

The President further praised the retiring General as “a well-rounded person, with the capacity to provide quality leadership in other initiatives of national importance”.

“I am proud to state that as chair, you steered very well the Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee. The committee has made substantive progress in re-establishing the Kenya National Shipping Line, as part of the Blue Economy Programme,” he said.

“Once fully completed and operational, this will, indeed, enable us, as a country, exploit the potential we have in the blue economy, and consequently create thousands of jobs for our young men and women.


Whereas President Kenyatta was fond of General Julius Karangi, he grew closer to his successor, General Mwathethe during his service as KDF boss.

During a tour of Kwale County last year, the President said that when the county was asleep, he occasionally sneaked in, in the dead of the night, with General Mwathethe to inspect projects.

It was probably due to this mutual trust that President Kenyatta appointed General Mwathethe to steer the Sh430 billion blue economy project, making him the first serving general to be tasked with civilian duties.

His successes as a KDF boss include launch of welfare centres, a rehabilitation centre, national defence and gender policies and a food processing factory, as well as establishment of the first military barracks in North Eastern and KDF’s rapid modernisation.

Last year, President Kenyatta extended General Mwathethe’s term after the National Defence Council made the recommendation citing impressive performance.

Under General Mwathethe’s term, the military has been contributing to President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda, especially through the Blue Economy Roadmap which the General chairs, and construction of the ambitious Kenya Navy Slip Way, a project set to build and restore sea vessels.

KDF also contributed to the Big Four agenda by ensuring food security at its food processing factory in Gilgil.

The Kenya Navy Slip Way, which is being built at Mkunguni at the Mtongwe Navy Base and is set to be completed by 2021, will enable Kenya to establish a foothold in ship building and maintenance in the region, competing with similar facilities in South Africa and Djibouti.


The General also spearheaded the ongoing modernisation of the military through multi-billion shilling investments that include establishment of the Air Defence Regiment (ADR) and acquisition of an effective Air Defence System (ADS) to be used to defend the country from all airborne aggression.

An ADS system can detect an impending attack in time and destroy it before it reaches the target.

Further modernisation within the ranks of the Kenya Air Force includes the acquisition of Fennec helicopters, 530F planes and the Italian Spartan aircraft C-27J for transport.

An ultra-modern rehabilitation centre, General Mwathethe’s brainchild, will treat soldiers suffering the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

The centre in the 7 Kenya Rifles in Lang’ata Barracks will be the Department of Defence’s largest psychosocial health facility.

Modelled on best practices by militaries around the world such as in the UK and the US, it will be a transition point for patients who have received physical treatment for trauma, injury or substance abuse and provide counselling for soldiers undergoing cross training.

Cross training is a process that allows the sensitisation of individuals on work changes following trauma.

General Mwathethe also invested in a welfare programme which caters to soldiers and their families.


In efforts to deal with the threat of terrorism, he helped establish the Modika Barracks in Garissa town that will facilitate logistical deployment and response to insecurity along the Kenya-Somalia border.

The barracks is the home of the 6th Brigade and hosts three army fighting units and three support sub-units.

It will also be used as a temporary Forward Operating Base (FOB) during unforeseen emergencies.

In 2017, President Kenyatta inaugurated the national defence policy, dubbed the Defence White Paper, which contains an analysis of possible threats and prescribes measures against them.

The National Defence Policy, largely influenced by General Mwathethe’s thinking, will guide the next KDF boss in dealing with security threats.


Under General Mwathethe’s tenure, the KDF joined the few armies in Africa with equal opportunity policy for female and male soldiers after the launch of a Gender Policy in May 2017.

“The policy is guided by five principles, namely: gender responsiveness and non-discrimination; alignment and accountability to commitments in the Kenya Constitution; promotion of conducive institutional environment for women and men; recognition of the specificities of women and men and commitment to promote gender mainstreaming at all levels,” General Mwathethe writes in his foreword in the Gender Policy document.

Through the policy, KDF made significant progress since the disbandment of Women Service Corps in 1999, ending a period when female soldiers and officers were not allowed to get married or pregnant while on active duty.

The hallmark of the Gender Policy was the appointment of Fatuma Ahmed as Kenya’s first Major General.

General Mwathethe’s tenure also saw the increased appointment of military men to various bodies, as was the case during General Karangi term.

They include Major General Abdalla Badi (Nairobi Metropolitan Services), Brigadier Vincent Naisho Loonena (Kenya Coast Guard Service), Brigadier John Waweru (Kenya Wildlife Service) and Major George Okong’o (Kenya Maritime Authority).

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