Kenya MPs review forces recruitment conditions

July 29, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 – Parliament on Wednesday passed a Motion seeking to remove height restrictions for Kenyans looking to join the disciplined forces.

The Motion, introduced by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, is aimed at removing the minimum height of 5 feet 3 inches for those interested in joining the Armed Forces and Administration Police. Mr Kioni led other MPs, including Saboti’s Eugene Wamalwa, in arguing that the move was unconstitutional and discriminative.

“The issue of height has no merit in law. The height element is the one that allowed recruiting officers to practice corruption in the recruitment in the military,” he said.

Mr Wamalwa caused laughter in the House when he made reference to French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte as the ‘Little General who conquered the world.’

“He was a little man of less than 5 feet tall and as short as Napoleon was he was appointed Brigadier-General (who) led armies and his conquest across Europe, Africa and Syria making him one of the greatest generals mankind had ever seen. Napoleon conquered until the harsh winter of Russia subdued him and his army… nothing to do height,” Mr Wamalwa said.

Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode had proposed amendments to the Motion to include consideration of educational background, as well as physical and mental fitness.

Mr Ojode said: “There are instances where you can end up with someone with no educational background, however we have found out that in most countries height has never been an issue.”

The Assistant Minister cited the United Kingdom as one of the developed countries where one can be prosecuted for using a person’s physical features to discriminate during recruitment.

“The requirement was relevant during the colonial days when police were used to intimidate and pacify the natives in order to obey the authorities,” he said. “Although the requirement has been there since colonial days, I feel that it serves no useful purpose because the effectiveness of the police can be enhanced through the provision of modern equipment and technology. As a government we are supporting Mr Kioni that we don’t need the height factor.”

Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno supported the Motion saying it will end the culture of influenced recruitment. “Physical, mental fitness and commitment to serving the nation should be a priority in the recruitment, retention and promotion in our forces otherwise this height and body clauses should be deleted and replaced with other fitness criteria.”

Defence Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaiserry, who is a retired army Major-General, opposed the Motion, saying Parliament’s interference could result in a dip in professionalism.

“Don’t try to control the security forces of the country; of course not everything is in the Constitution. We must be careful to bring Motions which are for the good of the nation,” he started. “I am not saying this Motion is bad but the way it is put is bad, because it is based on the terms and conditions of service of the concerned security organ of this country.”

Mr Nkaiserry said there are basic requirements to every service adding that it will set a dangerous precedent where Motions can be brought to introduce or abolish requirements on weight or age of recruitment.


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