The National Defense Council held a meeting on Wednesday with promotions in the military being among the top agendas following the retirement of General Samson Mwathethe, reports the Nation.
General Mwathethe's term expired on Wednesday after four years in charge and he's unlikely to have it extended for one more year by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The constitution allows the Head of State to extend the term of military chief by one year in case of war or political uncertainties.
Those in pole position are Lt-Gen Robert Kibochi, the vice-chief of defence forces, and Lt-Gen Leonard Ngondi, the force commander of the AU-UN Hybrid (Unamid) Operation in strife-torn Darfur in Sudan, two respected military commanders who enlisted the same year.
It remains unclear whether the latter will be considered for the position because he is seen as being in the “superpool”, a term referring to those serving in military assignments abroad and who are normally not considered during regular promotions.
Then there are Lt-Gen Walter Raria, the Kenya Army commander, and Lt-Gen Johnstone Ondieki, the former force commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), who left the mission unceremoniously.
But ideally, Lt General Kibochi stands a good chance to succeed General Samson Mwathethe given that he's currently the most senior Army man in the military. But Lt General Leonard Ngondi's reported interest could slow down the replacement process given his experience in the military.
While the two joined the force together in 1979, Ngondi was first to rapidly rise through the ranks, servicing as UN Force Commander in Liberia before serving as Commander, Kenya Army. He was also in charge of lucrative National Defense College. But his deployment to Sudan could hinder his ambitions.
For Lt General Walter Raria, he was recently promoted to replace Lt General Kibochi as Army Commander, with the latter promoted to deputise Mwathethe. His chances are however minimal. Lt General Ondieki's appointment to Turkey as Kenyan envoy technically rules him out.
Even as NDC explores between Kibochi and Ngondi, the former could have a slight edge given that he's still actively involved in Kenya. His education also is said to be exemplary given that he holds master's degree.
The next Chief of Defense Forces, just like retired Air Force man General Julius Karangi, will oversee transition in president in 2022. Karangi was in charge in 2013. According to Tonje Rules, CDF retires upon attaining 64 years or after serving four years in the position, depending which comes first.
Also, the position is held on a rotational basis among the three forces that constitute KDF. Mwathethe is a Navy man and had replaced Karangi of Air Force. This means the next boss will come from the Army.