Kibochi leaves big boots to fill as Ogolla takes charge

Gen Francis Ogolla and Gen Robert Kibochi

Incoming Chief of the Defence Forces Gen Francis Ogolla (right) receives the KDF flag from the outgoing CDF Gen Robert Kibochi during the change of guard ceremony held at Ulinizi Sports Complex in Langata, Nairobi yesterday.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

New Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Francis Ogolla has his work cut out as he takes command of the military, having to build on a stellar legacy of his predecessor as well as tackle internal and external conflicts.

General Ogolla’s in-tray as he takes over command contains kinetic missions in conflict zones within the country’s borders as well as conflicts in neighbouring countries where Kenya Defence Forces are active.

Even with his 39-year stint at the Kenya Defence Forces, Gen Ogolla has big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Gen Robert Kibochi (Rtd), retires after 44 years of military service.

It is his impressive record as CDF however that his successor has to emulate, if not build on.

Under his philosophy — Sharpening the Arrowhead —Gen Kibochi focused on improving the skillset of soldiers as well as providing resources.

This, he said, he managed to achieve in his seven preset goals as CDF, which mainly involved equipping soldiers with skills and knowledge in modern warfare.

“These are areas I set out as my objectives as CDF and I have managed to achieve them,” Gen Kibochi said.

He leaves behind a track record of setting up learning institution for the military, among them the National Defence University and cyber security training centre as well as setting up a healthcare system for soldiers.

His tenure also saw KDF earn a high professional reputation, and more deployment within the Eastern Africa region.

The biggest role entrusted to the KDF was the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The deployment is aimed to quell violence in Eastern DRC.

This is one of the key active missions that Gen Ogolla will be taking over as CDF, with some controversy and resistance of KDF’s presence already being felt.

The DRC deployment came as a result of the East Africa’s Community vote to support DRC in the fight against rebel groups in the country.

At the same time, KDF is still actively involved in Somalia in a war against Al Shabaab and terrorism.

The mission, initially dubbed Operation Linda Nchi, was initially launched in 2011.

As Gen Ogolla takes over, the mission objective has changed to supporting Somali troops and regime as Amisom readies for its exit from the country.

Operation Linda Nchi in itself presented threat to the country’s security, with Al Shabaab staging retaliatory attacks on Kenya. Gen Kibochi’s tenure witnessed arguably the least number of attacks since Operation Linda Nchi was launched, and this is a record Gen Ogolla will be expected to maintain.

As part of its counterterrorism mandate, KDF is also actively involved in Operation Linda Boni, an operation meant to tackle home grown terrorism in Lamu County’s Boni Forest which has been used as a safe haven by Al Shabaab.

“I am aware of the evolving national and global security threat in this volatile, complex and dynamic security environment. However, I am confident in our men and women in uniform to protect our nation under the clarion call of Ulinzi Daima,” Gen Ogolla said.

Away from defence from external threats, Gen Ogolla will oversee the ongoing Operation Maliza Uhalifu, a joint operation between the National Police Service and KDF against bandits in the North Rift region.

Gen Ogolla takes over as the controversial operation is underway and is expected to ensure a harmonious relationship with local police who are leading it.

Already, there has been some friction between the two security organs regarding the operation and tactics.

Outgoing CDF Gen Kibochi and Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale yesterday insisted that KDF maintain operational harmony in the operation.

“KDF is part of the ongoing Operation Maliza Uhalifu and we expect that they will continue to provide operational support and work together with other local authorities in securing our nation,” CS Duale said.

CDF Gen Ogolla takes over at a time when several neighbouring countries are expecting civil and military strife, among them Uganda and Ethiopia.

CS Duale said KDF will be ready to intervene in peace missions whenever called upon as the situation continues to unfold in Sudan.

“KDF has been involved in evacuation of Kenyans from Sudan and we will continue to support wherever we can,” he said.

Following his appointment by President William Ruto last week, Gen Ogolla officially took over as the eleventh CDF from Gen Kibochi who proceeds to retirement.

Gen Kibochi bid farewell to KDF in a colourful ceremony at the Ulinzi Sports Complex where he received a 21-gun salute from the Kenya Navy.

He was also accorded retirement gifts by the military and defence ministry comprising high grade cows, furniture, a piano and two bicycles.

In his last moment as CDF, Gen Kibochi was led out of the Department of Defence headquarters in a traditional ceremony which involves senior military officers pulling him with ropes atop a military vehicle from the DOD headquarters.