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Kenya - Military Doctrine

Arising from the national values and principles set out in the new Constitution, Kenya has set out a foreign policy containing a clear set of objectives that she has defined and endeavours to achieve to ensure maximum protection and promotion of the national interest. Security and defence policy is an integral part ofthis foreign policy.

National interests in general may be summarised as follows:

  1. Acceptable degree of independence.
  2. Integrity of national territory.
  3. Traditional life style.
  4. Fundamental institutions.
  5. Value and honor.

Survival of the state in peace and freedom within the national territory is the supreme interest and the primary objective of foreign policy is to ensure this survival. Thus, foreign policy objectives include:

  1. Preservation of Kenyas freedom, her political identity and the institutions that form the foundation of freedom and political identity.
  2. Protection of Kenyas territory, her citizens and its vital interests from armed attack.
  3. Fostering a regional and international order supportive of the national interests through cooperation relationships.
  4. Protection of Kenyas markets to maintain national productive capacity and the nations economic well being.

The primary objective of Kenyas security and defence policy is the maintenance of peace by:

  1. Ruling out the threat or use force as a means of settling disputes between states.
  2. Promoting cooperation between states.
  3. Achieving a stable balance of forces at the lowest possible level to ensure security.

Kenyas defence policy is determined by the countrys national interest as defined by the Constitution. It is articulated by its people and shaped by the countrys political leadership. The policy guarantees the nations independence and national dignity.

The policy fosters economic interests and activities. It is designed to guard the national political boundaries against both internal and external armed aggression. Importantly the defence policy encompasses the historical, political, social and economic interests that the nation harbors.

The Defence Forces, therefore, could be used to influence threat as is perceived across the borders or otherwise. Consequently, the forces are configured to counter aggression, or better still, to deter potential adversaries from launching any attack by ensuring the outcome is acceptable. Modernising and updating of the forces to cater for contingencies is essential and an ongoing programme across all services.

In the 1990s, KDF was engaged in peacekeeping and support operations in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Southern Sudan, DRC, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Croatia and East Timor. It contributed troops and military observers to UN and AU sponsored missions totaling over 10,000 soldiers, observers and staff officers Worldwide. The most internationally prominent peacekeeper KDF has ever produced was Gen Daniel Opande, who was the Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone, amongst other high profile engagements.

Kenyas defence policy is derived from the need to defend itself against any external aggression. However, it is now recognised that the threat to a countrys stability can also be internal. The mission of a nations security and defence organisation is to ensure security by effectively implementing the nations policies on security and defence.

Military power is the surest means of protecting the national interest, for justice without force is impotent. Economic and political power are imperiled without the military power to back them up and a well heeled military organisation is a source of pride, prestige and respect for the nation.

The security and defence forces of a nation are the final guarantee for the nations territorial integrity and other interests. The forces are designed and structured with two principal objectives in mind:

  • Ensure national security by deterring war and other forms of violent conflict involving the nation.
  • Should deterrence fail, resolve the conflict on terms most favorable to the nation.

Security and defense policy dictates that the forces should be held in operational readiness and their organisation, equipment and procedures for exercising command and control should be tailored towards meeting the role and missions of the forces in peacetime, national emergency or crisis and in war.

Operation Linda Nchi

The Kenya Defence Forces launched an incursion into Somalia in October, 2011. The campaign, code-named Operation Linda Nchi, had as its primary objective the annihilation of the grave threat posed to Kenyas territorial integrity and particularly its tourist industry by the Somali Islamist militia known as Al Shabaab.

It was the first armed campaign that Kenya had launched outside its borders since independence in 1963. In keeping with the principles, values and objectives laid out in the constitution, the Kenya Defence Forces transformed the mission from one of purely national self- defence to one of a multi-national security campaign by bringing in the African Union and giving Amisom, the AUs military arm, the lead role.

In military doctrine, the primary role of defending the country against external aggression includes deterring potential enemies from breaching the nations sovereignty, thus averting the necessity of going to war. In the 50 years of Kenyas independence, Kenyas military has crossed another countrys borders in anger only once and that was in 2011 when Operation Linda Nchi was launched to pursue the rag tag Somali militia, Al Shabaab.

The forces should be organized and deployed to defend national territory and other interests. However, an offensive capability is an essential component of an effective defence posture, and the force should therefore be capable of projecting power on to the territory of an adversary.

This is precisely what happened in the case of the Al Shabaab threat. After determining that containing the threat was not enough, the forces rolled across the border but only in accordance with the strict terms setforth by the Constitution which dictate parliamentary approval of the action. Importantly, the campaign had all three components in balance -land, air and sea as dictated by the defence policy.

KDFs entry into Somalia on October 2011 elicited a lot of interest at the local, sub-regional, regional and international levels. This was because in the history of independent Kenya, a 48 year period, the country had not gone to war. In fact the country was usually referred to as an island of peace in an otherwise unstable sub-region. Except for KDFs engagements in the Shifta Campaign between 1963 and 1967, and also its involvement in United Nations Peace Keeping Operations within the region and in other parts of the world, KDF had not engaged in war per se.

Fighting under the auspices of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), KDF went all the Way to rout the militia in its stronghold in the port city of Kismayu.

Kenya Defence Forces mark their Day every year on October 14. On October 14, 2012, General Julius Karangi unveiled a monument to soldiers killed in the Somalia campaign. He told his fellow military officers:

We are, as it should be, servants of our people because they trust us with their lives. Before their lives are threatened, we shall have put our lives on the line first. This is the true and sacred hallmark of a professional soldier ready at all times to pay the ultimate price for survival of the country.

At some point in our lives, we all abandon this earthly journey when death comes knocking. But to a soldier, death in defence of motherland is the ultimate honor. This is what sets us apart from other citizens. Above all, we are because the people of Kenya are.

Westgate Mall

Five KDF soldiers died and 11 were injured during the storming of the Westgate Mall in the operation to rescue civilians held hostage by terrorists. It was not the first time that KDF had had to confront the evil handiwork of terrorists; in 1998, the military was involved in a large scale rescue effort following the bomb blasts at the US Embassy in Nairobi.

As an institution, the KDF has come a long way since the long years of invisibility during which the country witnessed spectacular incidents of armed threat to civilian life Migingo, Todenyang, Al Shabaab drove Kenyans into questioning their exact role in so far as security provision was concerned.

Things are dramatically different today. With Operation Linda Nchi and the assault on the Westgate Mall, KDF is now a visible and constant presence in the discourse of public life in Kenya.

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