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Minister of State in charge of Defence

The Ministry of Defence is committed to defending and protecting the people of the Republic of Kenya and their property against external aggression and also in providing support to the Civil Authority as per the Law. The Ministry mandate is to defend and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kenya; assist and cooperate with other authorities in situations of emergency or disaster, and report to the National Assembly whenever deployed in such circumstances and may be deployed to restore peace in any part of Kenya affected by unrest or instability only with the approval of the National Assembly.

The Constitution provides that the president "shall be the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the republic." The president is prohibited from holding any office in the "naval, military, or air force." Over a period of nearly 20 years after independence, the government pursued a variety of policies designed to ensure the loyal subordination of the military to political authority, and before the surprising coup attempt in August 1982 it appeared to have been successful.

In contrast to the situation in many other new nations where leaders quickly expanded their armed forces for reasons of security or prestige, the Kenyan government consciously limited the size of its armed forces and thus their potential to influence national politics and drain resources from the economy. The military did expand manpower tripled in size in the decade after independence to 7,500 and doubled again in the six years after that because of the threats on Kenya's borders but its growth and command structure were carefully controlled by the political authorities.

By retaining the British military in a major command, technical, and training role in the Kenyan armed forces into the 1970s, the apolitical traditions and standards of professionalism of the British army may have been reinforced among the Kenyans. Additionally, the British presence at all levels of the military represented a powerful force backing the Kenyan government and the status quo. Since the completion of Kenyanization the British, by mutual agreement with the Kenyan government, maintained a military presence in Kenya, usually in the form of frequent battalion-size maneuvers.

The government moved to balance its desire for an effective military institution and its need to maintain control over the armed forces by modifying the high command. In 1966, during the period of the shifta conflict and after the establishment of the air force and the navy, a centralized high command was established to improve efficiency and coordination among the services. As chief of the Defence Staff, a British major general commanded the combined services and served as the country's ranking military officer until replaced in 1969 by a Kenyan, Major General J.M. Ndolo.

The disadvantages of the centralized military command were highlighted in 1971 when nine men having military connections pleaded guilty to being part of a plot to overthrow the government. Although not formally tried for participation in the affair, Ndolo was accused of involvement and was dismissed from the service. The government decided not to replace him with a new chief of the Defence Staff, apparently feeling that government security was enhanced when all interservice coordination was observed by civilians.

As a result, during most of the 1970s the Ministry of Defence was an amorphous organization; the service commanders came under the direct operational control of the president. The army commander was the highest ranking officer and also acted as the senior military adviser to the president, but he did not have any operational responsibilities beyond his own service.

The practical limitations of this system became apparent, given the expansion of all three services in the 1970s, joint training, and the increased possibility of military conflict with neighboring states. Thus, after Moi assumed the presidency in 1978, the high command was again restructured.

In order to increase military efficiency while maintaining civilian control, Moi reestablished the centralized high command but abolished the Ministry of Defence and brought defense matters directly under the authority of the Office of the President. The new Department of Defence dealt mostly with administrative and logistical matters. Responsibility for military operations was placed under the command of the newly formed General Staff, which reported directly to the president.

The political authority over the Defence Headquarters is vested in the Minister of State in charge of Defence. The Constitution refers to him as the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Defence. All directives and instructions are issued on his behalf, thereby extending political control over the defence forces in their day to day functions.

The Secretary organises his responsibilities over the Defence Headquarters through the Defence Council, Whose members are:

  • The Secretary as the chairperson.
  • The Chief of the Defence Forces.
  • The three commanders of the Defence Forces
  • The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence.

The duties and responsibilities of the Defence Council are overall policy, control and super-vision of the Defence Forces; and performance of any other functions prescribed by national legislation.

Military command and control of the Defence Forces is vested in the Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF). He is the highest representative of the Defence Forces and the Chief Military Adviser to the Government. He is responsible to the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Defence, or, if need be, to the Commander-in-Chief for:

  • Development and implementation of overall concept of military defence;
  • Education and training of the defence forces;
  • Military planning; and
  • Day to day administration of the Defence Forces.

Command and control of the Army, the Air force and the Navy are exercised by the Service Commanders who are appointed by the Commander-in-Chief. The Service Commanders are responsible to the CDF for operational readiness of the individual services and the development and implementation of an overall concept of military defence.

The Councils members are:

  • The Cabinet Secretary responsible for defence, who is the chairperson;
  • The Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces;
  • The three commanders of the defence forces; and
  • The Principal Secretary in the Ministry responsible for Defence.

The Ministry of State for Defence is part of the Office of the President. The President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, appoints senior military officers such as the Chief of the Defence Forces, the nations top soldier, and service commanders. The Minister of State for Defence, as Cabinet Secretary presides over the Defence Council.

The Cabinet Secretary shall

  • be the principal adviser to the President on matters relating to defence policy;
  • ensure the development of the defence policy;
  • advise the President and National Assembly on any matter relating to the Defence Forces;
  • perform such functions, in particular those necessary for the control and administration of the Defence Forces, as may be delegated to the Cabinet Secretary, by the President over the Defence Forces; or Parliament over the Ministry;
  • be appraised of the construction and maintenance of all Defence Forces establishments and works;
  • where appropriate, commission research relating to the defence of Kenya;
  • monitor compliance with policies and directions issued to the Chief of the Defence Forces and report thereon to the President and Parliament;
  • submit an annual report, in writing, to the President and Parliament on the expenditures, work, and accomplishments of the Ministry during the period covered by the report, together with
    • a report by the Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces on each Service of the Defence Forces indicating the expenditures, work and accomplishments of the Service;
    • itemized statements showing the utilization, savings of public funds, and the eliminations of unnecessary duplications;
    • such recommendations as he or she may consider appropriate; and
    • any other lawful function as may be assigned to the Cabinet Secretary by the President or any other written law.

The Ministry of Defence is at Ulinzi House off Lenana Road in Nairobi. The Ministry is headed by the Cabinet Secretary who is responsible to the President and Commander in Chief on matters of policy. The Cabinet Secretary is appointed by the President and chairs the Defence Council which is responsible for the overall control and direction of the Kenya Defence Forces. Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF) is the professional head of the three Kenya Defence Forces Services and the Principal Military Advisor to the Commander in Chief. He is also responsible for the control, direction and general superintendence of the Defence Forces. The Principal Secretary is the accounting and authorized officer on financial and administration matters of the Ministry of Defence. He/she is also personally accountable to Parliament for the expenditures of all public moneys provided for the Ministry of Defence.

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