What you need to know:
- Tuwei was recently elected as the World Athletics Vice President during the federation’s Congress in Budapest, Hungary, just before the World Athletics Championships kicked off, elevating him to the highest position by a Kenyan in an international federation
- Tuwei assumed the Athletics Kenya office as President in 2015 when he took over from the late Isaiah Kiplagat who had stepped aside
- Tuwei represented the military in Athletics Kenya and during that time, many athletes who used to do well hailed from the disciplined forces
When the high ranking army men pulled the sparkling clean Land Rover 110 outside the defense headquarters on Monday, November 29, 2010, to bid farewell to their Commander, as it is the tradition of the Kenya Defense forces, what many of them might not have known is that they were pulling him to a new career all together.
After an illustrious 39 years of service that saw him rise through the ranks to become the Commander of the Kenya Army, Lieutenant General (now retired) Jackson Kiprono Tuwei, was returning to civilian life.
One would think that having achieved such a rare feat, the second highest ranking military official in the country, Tuwei would retire to a quiet life in the village, like most if his peers would do.
But, as the military saying goes, a rank never retires and Tuwei was not yet done serving his country.
He went straight into a new role he had aligned himself with while in school where he would compete in the sprints.
In fact, he also competed while in secondary school in the decathlon up to the national level.
While still at the military, he joined athletics and even became Chairman in charge of the military athletics, an affiliate of Athletics Kenya, and the love for sport saw him given a role at the inaugural Africa Military Games.
Tuwei was recently elected as the World Athletics Vice President during the federation’s Congress in Budapest, Hungary, just before the World Athletics Championships kicked off, elevating him to the highest position by a Kenyan in an international federation.
Tuwei, who is also the Confederation of Africa Athletics Senior Vice President, garnered 104 votes while former Colombian sprinter, Ximena Restrepo, got 154 votes, also being elected in the same position.
The other two VPs were former Indian sprinter Adille Sumariwalla who got 115 votes with former Spanish triple jumper Raul Chapado getting 119 votes.
Tuwei says he vied for the Vice President’s position because Kenya has always done extremely well in athletics since the early 1960’s and he thought Kenya and Africa needed a voice in the World Athletics family.
“I wanted Kenya and Africa as a whole to have representation in the world body. It was a long process and there was a panel that had been tasked to follow the applications process which was in six stages and by the time we went to the Budapest games, I had cleared four stages,” he narrated in an exclusive interview with Nation Sport at his Kesses home in Uasin Gishu County.
“Those who had applied for the President’s or Vice President’s position had to face the panel and give out their thoughts and why they were vying for that position, which I did successfully,” said Tuwei who was among the eight candidates vying for that position.
In a colourful thanksgiving service held at his Lelmolok home in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County, on Saturday his long-time service friend, the legendary Lieutenant General (Rtd) Daniel Opande, congratulated Tuwei for extending his service to the country even in his retirement.
Tuwei assumed the Athletics Kenya office as President in 2015 when he took over from the late Isaiah Kiplagat who had stepped aside.
For Tuwei, it has been an exciting journey both in the military and athletics field.
Born in Mosoriot, Nandi County, he joined Mosoriot Primary School before moving to another powerhouse in athletics, Kosirai High School, in Nandi County.
He would proceed to join Machakos Technical School where graduated in 1972.
While still in school, he was employed by pineapple processors Kenya Canners in Thika and in March, 1973, he saw an advertisement where recruits and service men were required at the Armed Forces then.
“Those days we didn’t have to apply like now and you were supposed to present yourself at Lanet Training College where I went and did a vigorous training that lasted for two weeks and I was fortunate enough to get a chance and join the discipline forces,” Tuwei narrated.
The course was short and he graduated in December that year along with some of the cadets from Malawi who had done extremely well. He was voted the best cadet.
“As a cadet, I was commissioned as one of the best and I was posted to Lanet 3KR (Third Kenya Rifles) Barracks where I started working in the unit as a platoon commander and rose through the ranks up to the position of Major,” he said.
It was while at his base in Nakuru, that the 1982 military coup unfolded on August 1.
As the highest ranking officer in Lanet at the time, he was immediately asked to gather his men and travel to Nairobi to go and quell the unrest.
He went and reported to General Mahmoud Mohammed who led the loyalist team in Nairobi.
“I met General Mohammed at the Voice of Kenya (now KBC) where they had already brought in veteran radio presenter Leonard Mambo Mbotela to come and announce that the coup had already been quashed,” he recalled.
He was then ordered to head to the Eastleigh air base where he brought back normalcy, taking stock of personnel and equipment available and also missing after the coup plotters from the air force fled.
He would eventually work for 13 years at Eastleigh, rising to base commander at what is now the Moi Air Base.
“I was then sent to the Royal College of Defence studies at the United Kingdom in 1995 where I underwent a one year course before coming back to Kenya,” he narrated.
In 1996, he came back to Kenya where he was taken back to the Kenya Army and posted in Nanyuki as a Brigade Commander for two years before he was promoted to Major General and posted back to the Armed Forces Training College (AFTC) as a Commandant and at the same time in the in-charge of the Western Command.
While at the AFTC, he had been asked by the then Chief of General Staff, General Joseph Kibwana, to see if Kenya could join the International Sports Military Council (CISM), an organisation that brings all the militaries in the world together through sports.
“I went to Turkey to represent Kenya and I made sure that we joined the body, and I was voted in as the chair in Kenya and eventually the East and Central Africa region. That is when we brought for the first time the Africa Military Games in Nairobi which was staged for two weeks,” added Tuwei.
He was later transferred to Kahawa Barracks in Nairobi and after some few years, he was sent back to AFTC where he was promoted after two years to Lieutenant General and posted to the National Defence College in Karen, Nairobi, where he worked for three years before he was appointed as the Army Commander, a position he held until he retired in 2010.
Tuwei represented the military in Athletics Kenya and during that time, many athletes who used to do well hailed from the disciplined forces.
“During that period we had good athletes who represented the country well in various events globally and we managed to recruit a good number including the current National Olympics Committee of Kenya President, Lt Colonel Dr. Paul Tergat, who did exceptionally well,” said Tuwei.
Tergat Saturday acknowledged Tuwei’s role in shaping his career while congratulating him for the World Athletics position.
“Today, we celebrate the achievements Tuwei has achieved because being in such an office is a celebration in the athletics world. This a good representation both in Kenya and Africa and he has set a good example to the athletics fraternity,” said Tergat.
“It has been a long journey and exciting at the same time and I’m glad because when we sent our bid to host the World Athletics Under-18 Championships, we were given the rights and we staged the event successfully with the government supporting us,” Tuwei spoke about Kenya’s ability to host major championships.
“We wanted to climb further and we won the rights to hold the World Athletics Under-20 Championships which were held in 2021 during the Coronavirus pandemic period, and which went on well,” said the President.
Tuwei believes that Kenya can still host the senior World Championship after missing a chance to host the 2025 edition which was awarded to Tokyo.
“We might have missed the chance, but I believe we can still host it in 2029. We are going to bid again because Kenya has always been voted for as an athletics powerhouse,” he added.
Saturday’s thanksgiving service for Tuwei also attended by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba, Governors Stephen Sang (Nandi), Jonathan Bii (Uasin Gishu), Principal Secretaries Peter Tum (Sports), Belio Kipsang (Education) and Chris Kiptoo (Treasury), Members of Parliament Dan Wanyama (Webuye), Julius Rutto and other top officials and military officer, led by Deputy Army Commander, Major General David Tarus.
World champions, past and present, were also in attendance, led by Faith Kipyegon, Mary Moraa, David Rudisha, Milcah Chemos, Benjamin Limo, Vivian Cheruiyot, Alfred Kirwa Yego, Janeth Jepkosgei and multiple London Marathon champion Mary Keitany.
“God has been good to me and I want to thank those who have been with me through this journey because it has been full of blessings,” Tuwei said.
He is confident Kenyan athletes will continue to shine internationally, urging the upcoming generation and elite athletes to always run clean.
“One challenge that has come up during my tenure is the doping menace which has ruined our country’s name.
“We are glad because the government of Kenya has availed some funds to fight it and we have to win the fight.
“The Anti-doping Agency of Kenya has increased tests and we shall be able to see more positive results but it is good because we are going to clean the sport,” said Tuwei.
His last-born daughter, Hildah Chebet Tuwei, hailed his father for the role he has played as a family man and at the same time serving the nation.
“I want to congratulate my father for recently being elected to the world body. I know it is not easy, but he really deserved it because he has always supported the community and it was through his sacrifice.
“He has brought people together always and we are happy as a family for what he has achieved,” said Chebet.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang congratulated Tuwei for the far he has reached in terms of athletics leadership.
He also challenged the sporting leadership, led by the Sports CS Namwamba, on the need to crack the whip on agents who are ruining the sport through aiding doping.
Also speaking at Saturday’s ceremony, Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii said that North Rift region needs a modern stadium which has been the same song for the last 10 years.
Sports CS Ababu Namwamba hailed Tuwei for the rich history he has adding that through Kenya Literature Bureau, Tuwei’s story shall be published for the world to know what kind of a leader Kenya has.
“We are proud of Tuwei and when he told me that he wanted to vie for the position (World Athletics Vice President), I asked him to go for it with full determination and we are happy because he represents Kenya at the global stage,” said Namwamba.
Namwamba also thanked Tuwei for leading the country as the first federation to sign the climate action plan saying that he has always spearheaded the process and the world is following on his footsteps.