Final salute: Kibochi’s military career ends 

Chief of Defence Forces Robert Kibochi during the Kenya Defence Forces Day at Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki

Chief of Defence Forces Robert Kibochi during the Kenya Defence Forces Day at Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki on October 14, 2022.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

In line with traditions, the outgoing Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Robert Kibochi will today be escorted out of the Ministry of Defence headquarters in a ceremonial vehicle pulled by senior military officers as Gen Francis Ogolla takes over.

The final ceremony will take place at the tail end of an eventful day that will mark the end of an illustrious military career spanning four decades. He has spent three of these years at the helm of the military, focused on the transformation of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) into a mission-ready force. 

Under his philosophy—Sharpening the Arrowhead—Gen Kibochi was keen on ensuring soldiers are adequately skilled and well-resourced. He often referred to the philosophy as he bid farewell to troops leaving the country for missions in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and different parts of the country.

Insiders say Gen Kibochi, who made history when he became the first non-infantry officer to be appointed CDF in May 2020, is proud to be leaving behind a professional and accountable force with working systems in place.

He also retires after successfully overseeing a largely peaceful but tough electioneering period that led to the election of the inauguration of President William Ruto.

Gen Kibochi enlisted in the army as a young cadet officer in 1979 after which he was posted to the signals battalion. He later rose through the ranks to serve as the Commander of the Kenyan Contingent at the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone from 2000 to 2001; Commander Corps of Signals; Commander Kenya Army and Vice Chief of Defence Forces under Gen (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe.

He took over the leadership mantle at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic and as Kenya was shaking off the dust of some of the major terror attacks like the Dusit Complex the year before and the attack on the American military base in Manda Bay, Lamu County.

Decreased terror attacks

During his term, the country experienced arguably the least number of terror attacks as the military joined forces with other security agencies to address threats and foil attacks.

It is also under his leadership that the military’s efforts to open up to the public went a notch higher with the setting up of the Strategic Communications Unit that runs a weekly bulletin.

In keeping with “Sharpening the arrowhead”, the outgoing CDF also oversaw the improvement of health services by initiating the construction of a level six hospital in Kabete Barracks and regional level four hospitals in Lanet Barracks, Kahawa Garrison, Isiolo and Eldoret barracks.

The Defence Forces Memorial Hospital was also upgraded to level five status and a wellness centre was established at Lang’ata barracks to cater to the soldiers’ mental well-being. Gen Kibochi said the centre was borne out of KDF’s experiences in Somalia.

Additionally, he oversaw the launch of a Sh7.5 billion public-private housing project targeting to construct 2,340 units in Roysambu (Nairobi) in the first phase and thereafter across the country on KDF land to address housing shortage for officers.

It is also during his tenure that Manda base was elevated into a full military base, the National Defence University was established and awarded a charter, and a shipbuilding and repair company—Kenya Shipyards Limited—was established.

Known for being firm and keeping to deadlines, Gen Kibochi oversaw the military’s involvement in major national projects including the rehabilitation of the Nairobi-Nanyuki and Nairobi-Kisumu metre gauge railways, construction of Uhuru Gardens National Museum and Monument and the revival of the Kenya Meet Commission.

Asked whether KDF was overstepping its mandate in taking up civilian duties, he said the constitution allows them to assist and cooperate with other authorities.

“When we got to KMC, Sh600 million was used to refurbish the entity within four months and today KMC is supplying all security agencies with meat across the entire country. It is also benefiting farmers who bring their cattle in that within 72 hours, they are paid their dues. Isn’t it something that KDF should be congratulated on instead of being vilified that we are becoming interventionists?” he said in a 2021 interview.

Gen Kibochi may, like his predecessors, land a civilian position following his retirement, but in the meantime, he will likely spend time at his ranch in Nakuru.