President Uhuru Kenyatta will extend the term of the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Samson Mwathethe by a year.
Already, there are no signs of ceremonies associated with imminent departure of the KDF chief which show he is not retiring yet.
According to sources, if Mwathethe was leaving the service, he would have embarked on visits to service command stations to bid them farewell.
The KDF Act says a CDF, his deputy and service commanders shall serve a single term of four years or retire upon attaining the mandatory retirement age.
But the Act also says the President may, on the recommendation of the National Defence Council, extend the CDF’s term for a period not exceeding one year in times of war or emergencies like political uncertainty.
Mwathethe, a naval officer, was named the CDF on April 17, 2015, replacing Gen Julius Karangi from Kenya Air Force. This now gives the seat automatically to Kenya Army, going by tradition.
Top on the list of those to succeed Mwathethe are his vice Lt Gen Robert Kibochi, Army Commander Lt Gen Walter Raria and Lt Gen Leonard Ngondi, the force commander of the AU-UN Hybrid operation in Darfur, Sudan.
Under the Tonje rules, the position of the CDF is rotated among the three services – Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force and Kenya Navy. The rules, by Retired Chief of General Staff Gen Daudi Tonje, have steered appointments in KDF.
There is silent lobbying among those hoping to take over from Mwathethe.
The new CDF will oversee the transition from the Kenyatta presidency in 2022. And according to the Somalia transition plan, KDF is supposed to withdraw its troops from the war-torn country by 2021, which the new military boss will also oversee.
The KDF Act also says, in appointing the CDF, the President shall take into account the service, seniority, military and formal civil education, the possession of a degree from a university and military and security experience.
Mwathethe has held various command positions as the VCDF, Navy Commander, Deputy Navy Commander and Navy logistics commander.
He joined the Navy in 1978 as a seaman. He trained in the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in the UK alongside King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Lt-Gen Kibochi, who enlisted in the military on May 18, 1979, from where he started his career at the Signals Battalion at Kahawa garrison, is the most likely candidate to replace Mwathethe either now or after one year if his term is extended.
Following closely is the battle-hardened Lt-Gen Ngondi, who served as commandant of the National Defence College and force commander for the UN mission in Liberia before his appointment to the Unamid operation in Darfur.
To show his trust with him, Uhuru picked Mwathethe as the chairman of the Blue Economy committee last year because he knew Cabinet Secretaries were not equal to the task.
Like most of his predecessors, Mwathethe aspires to leave behind a good legacy.
His immediate predecessor General Julius Karangi, is credited for conquering Kismayu, the hot bed of Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.
For General Jeremiah Kianga, he managed post -election violence in 2008 besides helping to crash Sabaot Land Defense Forces, which had become a menace in Mt Elgon. Gen Daudi Tonje is credited with military revolution under the popular Tonje Rules.
In the book Kenya Navy: A 50-year Voyage, which was published in his early months as CDF, Gen Mwathethe promised to get the “bad guys” — in reference to Al-Shabaab terrorists but in January 2016, Al-Shabaab militants crashed into a Kenyan military camp killing close to 200 soldiers. The El Adde attack remains the worst single casualty ever suffered by KDF.
A year later, in January 2017, at least 60 troops were killed in yet another attack on KDF in the Somalia town of Kolbiyow in an Al-Shabaab attack. Once again, the terrorists’ tactics were similar — a vehicle full of explosives followed by fighters.
While Mwathethe promised to crash the militants, still again, at least 21 people were killed in January 2019 at DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi. Accounts published by the police shows suspects made entry to Kenya via Somalia, yet again putting Mwathethe’s leadership into scrutiny.
Three weeks ago, Al-Shabaab militants crossed from Somalia and abducted two Cuban doctors working in Mandera.