Our History


At independence, the Ministry of Defence was referred to as the Ministry of Internal Security and Defence. The Ministry of Internal Security and Defence encompassed the military, police and prison. During this period, there were only 21 civilians spread over the Kenya Army, the Kenya Air Force, the Kenya Navy, the Kenya Police and Prisons.

After independence in 1963, an Act of Parliament (KMF Act-Cap 198), created the Kenya Military Forces and the following year in 1964 Prisons and Police were transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs. In 1966, the Police Department was further transferred from the Home Affairs docket to the Office of the President.

In 1968 an Act of Parliament repealed Chapter 198 which had created the Kenya Military Forces and replaced it with Chapter 199 of the Laws of Kenya creating the Kenya Armed Forces. Defence remained as the Ministry of Defence until 1980.

The Ministry has changed names since independence through Executive Orders of the President that spells out names of Ministry’s. It has been referred to as:

  • Internal Security and Defence (1963-1978)
  • The Department of Defence (DoD) (1978-2000)
  • The Ministry of Provincial Administration and National Security (2003-2005)
    • The Ministry of State for Defence (2000-2003)
    • The Ministry Of Defence (2006- current)

Former Presidents of the Republic of Kenya and Commander – in – Chief of the Defence Forces.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta:

1st President of Kenya (1964 – 1978)

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the President of Kenya from independence in 1963 to his death in 1978, serving first as Prime Minister (1963–64) and then as President (1964–78).

Kenyatta was a well-educated intellectual who authored several books, and is remembered as a Pan-Africanist.

He is also the father of Kenya’s fourth and current President, Uhuru Kenyatta.

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi

2nd President of the Republic of Kenya (1978 – 2002)

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi served as the second President of Kenya from 1978 to 2002. Prior to 1978, he served as the third Vice President of Kenya from 1967 to 1978.

Moi was popularly known to Kenyans as “Nyayo”, a Swahili word for “footsteps”, as he often said he was following in the footsteps of the first President. He also earned the sobriquet “Professor of Politics”.

Mwai Kibaki

3rd President of the Republic of Kenya (2002 – 2013)

Mwai Kibaki was the third President of Kenya, serving from December 2002 to April 2013. He was previously Vice-President of Kenya for ten years from 1978 to 1988 under President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi. He also held cabinet ministerial positions in the Kenyatta and Moi governments, including a widely acclaimed stint as Minister for Finance (1969–1981) under Kenyatta, and Minister for Home Affairs (1982–1988) and Minister for Health (1988–1991) under Moi.

Former Ministry of Defence Cabinet Ministers/Secretaries

Dr Munyua Waiyaki

Dr. Munyua Waiyaki was elected as a member of parliament for North-Eastern Nairobi Currently Kasarani constituency in 1963.

He was later appointed the Parliamentary Secretary (Assistant Minister) in the PM’s office in charge of Internal Security and Defence.

During his tenure , Dr. Waiyaki spent most of the  time with the Prime Minister (Mzee Jomo Kenyatta) discussing the answers he (Waiyaki) would give on the PM’s behalf in the House of Representatives in regards to Shifta war which was a major security concern at the time.

He also handled the Mau Mau issue with the objective of ensuring that freedom fighters left the forest since Kenya had attained independence, an assignment the Prime minister followed keenly.

Later in his career, Dr. Waiyaki was appointed Kenya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs where he was tasked by the Prime Minister to pursued US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger into authorizing sale of F5 fighter jets to Kenya , an aircraft simulator and train those who would operate them.

Dr. Njoroge Mungai, M.D. EGH 1965-1966

In independent Kenya, Njoroge Mungai would serve first as Minister for Health in which capacity he established Kenya’s first medical school.

He was later moved to the Defense Ministry and it was during his tenure at the ministry that the Shifta War between Kenya and Somalia broke out. He led a mediation team to Kinshasa which resulted in the Arusha Accords of 1967, bringing a close to the conflict.

But he would gain fame during his term as Minister for Foreign Affairs. An astute diplomat, he successfully lobbied to have the United Nations Environmental Programme headquartered in Nairobi. He further successfully lobbied the OAU to supply arms to forces fighting the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the Portuguese colonial regime in Mozambique.

Kenya also had a seat on the Security Council during his tenure and he was instrumental in pushing for sanctions against South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.

Hon. James Gichuru

James Gichuru was Kenya’s first Finance minister after independence.

He was also know to be at the centre of talks between Kenyan and British officials on the take-over of one million acres of mixed farmland owned by Europeans to resettle landless Kenyans.

He was later appointed Minister for Defence during President Kenyatta tenure. President Moi retained him briefly  when he took over from President Kenyatta in 1978

The Ministry of Defence was renamed the Department of Defence (DoD) between 1978- 2000.
It was under Provincial administration and National security which was headed by Godfry Gitahi Kariuki and Nahashon Kanyi Waithaka

Hon. Amb. Julius L. Ole Sunkuli, EGH, EBS

Hon. Julius Sunkuli 2000-2003

Julius Lekakeny Sunkuli was a member of parliament for Kilgoris Constituency in the National Assembly of Kenya between 1997-2002.

Sunkuli was appointed Cabinet Minister in newly formed Ministry of State for Defence in 2000 where he served for three years during President Moi’s administration.

It was during Sunkuli’s tenure that Kenyan troops serving in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) were attacked by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group led by Foday Saybana Sankoh. The rebel group was supported by Charles Taylor-led National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in the 11-year-long Sierra Leone Civil War.

Sunkuli led Kenya’s delegation consisting of Kenya’s parliamentary Defence and Foreign relations committee that ensured the release of the Kenyan soldiers who had been captured by the  rebel group in Sierra Leone.

Hon Christopher Ndarathi Murungaru

Minister of State for Provincial Administration & National Security

He was the MP for Kieni constituency. He was appointed the  Minister for National Security during the NARC Government.

During his tenure, Defence was amalgamated with Internal security.

Hon. James Njenga Karume

Kenyan Minister of Defense, The Hon. Njenga Karume

Hon. Mohamed Yusuf Haji

Mohamed Yusuf Haji is a Kenyan politician.

He was the Minister of Defence of Kenya from 2008 to 2013, and briefly served as its acting Minister of Internal Security and Provincial Affairs in 2012.

He has served in the Senate of Kenya since 2013.

Ambassador Raychelle Omamo SC, EGH

Ambassador Raychelle Awuor Omamo is the current Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya. Prior to her appointment she served as Cabinet Secretary of Defence and Chairperson of the Defence Council between April, 2013 and January, 2020.
Ambassador Omamo is a lawyer by profession having received her training at the University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom and at the Kenya School of Law. She is a Senior Counsel and as a practitioner was elected Chairperson of the Law Society of Kenya and the Vice President of the East Africa Law Society. She was also the recipient of the ICJ (K) Jurist of Year award in 2002.

Ambassador Omamo has served on a number of Kenya Government taskforces and commissions related to the advancement of the rule of law such as the Task Force on Landlord and Tenant Law; the Task Force on the Establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and as Counsel to the Ndung’u Commission.

Ministry of Defence Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF) History

General Bernard Penfold (1966-1969)

Major-General Robert Bernard Penfold CB LVO was a British Army officer who commanded South East District.

Major General Bernard Penfold, who has died aged 98, had an adventurous career in the Army and then played a leading part in an ambitious project to provide Hong Kong with a new racecourse from reclaimed land.

On retiring from the Army in 1972, Penfold became the first general manager of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (RHKJC). Racing played an important role in the social life of the metropolis but the track at Happy Valley was cramped and lacked the facilities essential for a top-rate international venue.

In 1974, under Penfold’s leadership, work began to construct a course on a purpose-built site at Sha Tin in the New Territories. Millions of tons of soil were moved to 260 acres of land reclaimed from the Shing Mun River Channel.

That it was finished on time in 1978 was largely due to his vision and drive. It has a capacity of 80,000 and is home to some of the world’s top thoroughbreds. Penfold Park, in the centre of the course, was laid out to his design and was named in his honour.

Robert Bernard Penfold was born on December 19 1916 at St Neots, Cambridgeshire, and was educated at Wellington College and Sandhurst. Always known as Bernard, he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment in 1936 before transferring to the Indian Army.

He saw service on the North West Frontier with the 11th Sikh Regiment and, after the outbreak of war, transferred to the Central Mediterranean Forces. He commanded a company of the 2nd Battalion in the western desert before serving as a staff officer with Persia & Iraq Force.

In 1944, he returned to 2/11 Sikhs in Greece. He then instructed at Staff College, Quetta, and, after partition, transferred to the British Army. A posting as deputy director of training and personnel at the War Office was followed by a return to regimental duties as a battery commander with 23rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery.

In 1957, Penfold moved to the Military Mission at Washington DC. For his service as GSO1, he was appointed LVO at the end of his tour. Command of 6th Battalion King’s African Rifles in Tanganyika followed in 1959. He took great trouble to understand the history of the people of Tanganyika and, in particular, the tensions that could arise if the tribal components of the battalion became unbalanced. To the Askari, Penfold was Bwana Kali (Colonel Fierce) .

In 1964, he was promoted to brigadier and posted to Aden as security adviser during the Radfan campaign. Two years later, President Jomo Kenyatta appointed him chief of staff of the Kenya Defence Forces. He was appointed CB in 1969.

Penfold went on to be GOC South East District before retiring from the Army in 1972 in the rank of major-general. The following year, at the outset of his stewardship at the RHKJC, racing at night began at Happy Valley and new betting products were introduced to put an end to illegal bookmaking. The club, which was granted a royal charter in 1959, reverted to its original name after the transfer of sovereignty in 1997.

In 1977, Ocean Park, a leisure facility, opened to the public. It was Penfold’s other major project . He returned from Hong Kong to England in 1980 . He settled in Hampshire, where he was a passionate golfer and gardener.

Robert Penfold married, in 1940, Ursula Gray, the daughter of an officer in the Punjab Regiment. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two daughters.

Major General Bernard Penfold, born December 19 1916, died April 22 2015

Maj-Gen Joseph Ndolo

Maj-Gen Joseph Ndolo, the first African to head the military, lasted only two years as Chief of General Staff. His reign was abruptly brought to an end after the 1971 coup attempt. He died in 1984.

Born in 1919, Maj-Gen Ndolo quickly rose through the ranks to become the first Kenyan head of the armed forces.

He had been recruited into the King’s African Rifles, and was a high-ranking officer within the newly established Kenya Army at independence.

When Ndolo was appointed Army Commander in 1966, the newly created position of Chief of Defence Staff was held by Major-General Penfold, a British officer.

Ndolo’s rise to the top was linked to the 1964 Lanet Mutiny. The mutineers had demanded, among other things, the Africanisation of the top echelons of the military.

Gen (Rtd) Jackson Mulinge (1971-1986)

Gen (Rtd) Jackson Mulinge served as the military chief for 15 years. The general, whose military education was entirely British, was the first Kenyan to receive the Queen’s commission in 1961.

Gen Mulinge was the first to hold the post of Chief of General Staff (today called Chief of Defence Forces) in 1978 and was the first to become a four-star general in 1980.

As Chief of General Staff, he helped quash the 1982 coup attempt to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi.

On leaving the military, he got elected Kathiani MP and later joined the Cabinet, variously as Land and Health minister.
He died in 2014 aged 91.

Gen (Rtd) Mohamud Haji Mohamed Barrow (1986-1996)

As deputy army commander, Mahmoud Mohammed led the operation that crushed the 1982 coup attempt, changing the course of Kenya’s history. Recapturing Voice of Kenya, the national broadcaster, from rebel soldiers was a major step in suffocating the coup plotters.

A soldier with modest education, he started his career as an infantryman private, the army’s lowest rank, and rose through the ranks to head the military. No other man has achieved such a feat in the history of Kenya’s military. His academic credentials are the lowest compared to other generals, but his contribution as the head of the military was significant.

Today, he runs businesses in Garissa and Nairobi.

Gen (Rtd) Daudi Tonje

Gen (Rtd) Daudi Tonje, one of the celebrated KDF officers, carried out a revolution in the military. During his tenure, there was the highest number of reforms that included the disbandment of the Women Service Corps, leading to the inclusion of women in the mainstream military ranks, establishment of the Defence Staff College and the Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme. General Tonje also introduced term limits for military officers.
It is Gen Tonje who ended the pay parades in which soldiers had to line up when receiving salaries. Instead, he introduced the payment of salaries through bank accounts.
In 1962, he was enlisted to the army and trained as a cadet at Hifford Barracks, Lanet, then as the first direct-entry African cadet.
After his training, he was posted to the 11th KAR battalion, which was disbanded in 1964 after some soldiers staged a mutiny over poor pay for African soldiers.
Gen Tonje is a goat farmer at his countryside home in Baringo County.

Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana

Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana was in the first batch of 10 African officers and servicemen recruited to the Navy in 1964. The officers were sent to the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, UK, for studies.
In 2000, he became the first Navy officer to occupy the office of the Chief of General Staff.
He oversaw the smooth transition of power from President Moi’s Kanu regime to triumphant opposition Narc candidate Mwai Kibaki after the 2002 General Election.
Gen (Rtd) Kibwana is the Kenya Ports Authority board chairman.

Gen (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga

General (RTD) Jeremiah Mutinda Kianga ‘EGH’ ‘CBS’ ‘ndc’ (K) ‘cgsc'(USA), was born on 26 April 1950 in Makueni District. He went to Machakos Secondary School which he completed in 1970. He joined the military in April 1971 and after two years cadet training at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, he was commissioned and posted to the 5th Kenya Rifles as a Platoon Commander in 1973 where he did regimental duty up to 1975.

General Kianga has been trained in Kenya, the United Kingdom (UK), India and the United States of America, where he obtained a Masters degree in Military Arts and Science from Kansas University.

He served on the Directing Staff at the Army Staff College, UK and Defence Staff College Kenya. He also served as Defence Advisor in Uganda and Chief of Military Intelligence at Defence headquarters. In December 1999, as a Major General, he was appointed General Officer Commanding Eastern Command then Deputy Army Commander and thereafter served as Assistant Chief of General Staff-in-charge of Personnel and Logistics at Defence Heaquarters.

On March 2003 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed Commander, Kenya Army from where he has been promoted to General and appointed CGS, taking over from General (Retired) J R E Kibwana.

Gen (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga, who was considered a strict disciplinarian and a general introduced the bachelor’s degree in military science for all officers.
The degree, which started in collaboration with Egerton University for all military officers, was part of the Defence Forces Continuous Education Programme. It was later taken over by Kenyatta University.

General Jeremiah Mutinda Kianga retired on August 12th 2011 after over 40 years of soldiering.

He is the chairman of Kenya Railways Corporation.

Gen (Rtd) Julius Waweru Karangi (2011-to 2015)

Gen (Rtd) Julius Waweru Karangi will be remembered as the Chief of Defence Forces who led Kenyan troops to war, the first time in the country’s history.

Under his command, the KDF was deployed in October 2011 to fight Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia who had been making cross-border attacks. “Gen Karangi is probably the most extraordinary man I have ever met. A general who led Kenya successfully into battle,” The then Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo praised the retired General during his handing-over ceremony.

He joined Kenya Air Force in 1973 and after Cadet training in UK, he was commissioned as an officer in 1974.

After qualifying as a Flight Navigator in October 1975 in the Royal Air Force in England, he was posted to Flying Wing Kenya Air Force where he worked as a Navigator.

In 1995 he became Commander of Kenya Air Force Base, Moi Air Base and then in 1997, he was appointed Commander of the Kenya Air Force Logistics Command.

In 2000to 2003 he was promoted to the position of Commandant Defence Staff College, Karen rank of Major General, after which he was appointed before he was made Commander of the Kenya Air-force between 2003-2005
In August 2005, Karangi was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and Vice Chief of Defence Forces, Defence Headquarters.

And then On 13 July 2011 he was promoted to the rank of General and appointed the position of Chief of Defence Forces.

Gen (Rtd) Karangi is the chairman of the National Social Security Fund board of trustees

Gen (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe

He was born in the coastal town of Malindi, Kilifi County, in 1958 . He attended Shimo la Tewa Primary School, in Malindi and Sacret Heart High School, in Mombasa.

In 1978, he joined the Kenya Navy and was sent to the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom (UK). After graduation, he was commissioned as a Seaman, in 1980.

Over the years, Samson Mwathethe has undertaken courses at national and international institutions, including (a) an International Sub-Lieutenants Course in the UK (b) an International Principal Warfare Ordinance Course (IPWO), in the UK (c) a Missiles Study Course in Italy (d) a course at Royal Naval College, Greenwich (e) a Defence Resource Management Course at the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, California, United States and (f) a course at the National Defence College, Kenya

In 1991, he served as a United Nations military observer in Kuwait/Iraq and in Yugoslavia, the following year. He is a decorated military officer with the Distinguished Conduct Order (DCO) and Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) medals