We gather here today, on this 8th day of May 2020, to bid fare thee well to a distinguished admiral that has served our motherland with distinction and admirable dedication.
I am honoured to be part of this beautiful, and memorable, ceremony for a respected colleague, turned great friend that is transitioning from a sterling military career spanning over 42 years, with a perfect finish. When we are all on the starting block of our careers, everyone is energetic, full of promise, dreams, and anticipation to scale the height of career.
But it is at the finish line that we determine the winners and standard bearers. General Samson J.Mwathethe, yours is a perfect finish. As you near a well-deserved hard-earned retirement, I on behalf of the Ministry of Defence and on my own behalf as a Kenyan, thank you most sincerely for four decades of incredible service to the Republic of Kenya. Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in expressing our gratitude to General Mwathethe.
On 30th April 2020, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces of Kenya, in line with our deepening democratic credentials, made promotions and appointments that ushered in a change of guard in the High Command of our defence forces. With this came a confirmation of a total number of 138 senior and general officers to higher responsibilities.
I congratulate everyone has received a promotion and new appointment and look forward to your full commitment in contributing to the admired professionalism of the Kenya Defence Forces.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, I had the opportunity together with General Mwathethe to confer ranks on newly promoted General Officers.
The occasion presented an opportunity to appreciate the elaborate military tradition on the investiture of ranks. On Monday, we shall witness the taking of the oath of office by the top echelons of the KDF. And this elaborate appointment and handover process, ladies and Gentlemen, is unfolding amidst a number of ongoing emergencies that are confronting our nation – be it COVID 19, the floods and the locusts invasion. In spite of these calamities, this process is going on seamlessly, is made possible and anchored on firm traditions that have taken root in this most distinguished institution.
Driven by clear rules and procedures, under clear strategic guidance from the Commander in Chief, predictability and stability has and is assured at the KDF. In other places and other times, this process would have been fraught with uncertainty and even overflowing into instability. For this enduring tradition, we thank the foresight of those that came before –who laid this firm foundation for a great force and those that have been initiated in the tradition, practiced and protected it. It is a brand that has become another jewel on the crown of the KDF, that reaffirms our democratic tradition as a country, and that has become a reference point for many countries across the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am reminded of the discussions around the table earlier this week as generals recalled their professional journeys –different experiences but all signposted by critical attributes defined by Commitment to the KDF and colleagues, loyalty to country, brilliant performance, deep experience and readiness to serve our motherland. What struck me was the observations about General Mwathethe shared. In one instance a commander observed – “I have learnt a lot from you Sir, especially in what you do not say…” But a standing attribute of this great general has to do with the depth of his wisdom and what I term the human touch – reaching out to a person because they are a person.
Beyond the flashiness and bravado of the Navy – which runs very deep in General Mwathethe – somehow no matter what the subject it will connect to the sea! But beyond this depth of the greater earth, you find a man that I have come to respect deeply. Mwathethe is a true gentle giant. A calm purposeful person that even in the midst of a crisis leaves one reassured – because all will be well as he would calmly and assuringly put it. And indeed, it does turn out well.
I had the privilege of serving across from Vice CDF Lt. General Mwathethe, as the PS MOD – and from then I began to enjoy sharing in his deep humanity, and became a beneficiary of this in various forms. In many decisions a central plant was the effect on the troops as people. But I also benefited from these great jokes – most of them deep, very deep. Even after transitioning MOD that first time, I stayed on his list of those that were remembered for the jokes and consultations and I hope I will continue to have the privilege of receiving the deep jokes – even of terrible circumstances, because they lighten the work that we must all do.
On the work front, General Mwathethe is marked by a deep sense of duty – to country, to our security and most of all, to our men and women, who get up every day, adorn the KDF uniform and put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. There cannot be greater motivation for troops anywhere more than knowing that your commander has back. Your sense of responsibility to your troops is profound. So today, I want to pay tribute to a remarkable public servant, we celebrate the principles for which you served and for which our nation stands.
I believe the career path of Mwathethe offers many lessons especially to young Kenyans, fundamental of these is that public service is an honourable calling; that we can pass our country, or institutions, better and stronger, to those who follow behind us.
In the last five years you have steered the Kenya Defence Forces steady, achieving remarkable success. Under your watch and stewardship KDF has transformed significantly in stature and capability enhancement. As stated by the Commander in Chief, on 30th April, 2020, during your tenure, we have, “seen significant expansion in our military and enviable improvement in defence capability of our forces; thus giving Kenyans confidence that their borders are well protected from any external aggression.”
This was coupled with focused attention on the enhancement of welfare of serving, retired and families of the KDF fraternity. I am glad to point out your stewardship leading to the approval by the Defence Council of a policy framework on the establishment of a Compensation and Welfare Scheme. Commissioned in 2018, the Compensation and Welfare System, through its devolved centres addresses the challenges faced by KDF personnel and their dependants through the provision of a variety of services.
Further to this an ultra-modern Special Treatment Centre is currently under construction at Lang’ata and is on course to be completed this year. The facility is the largest psycho-socio health facility in Kenya and will deal with cross-training of war heroes, and offer psychological counseling and psycho-socio healthcare to those dealing with combat stress.
You have also driven the development of a number of policy and strategy documents, which are strengthening the orientation of the Ministry of Defence.
In this regard, H.E. the President launched the National Defence Policy together with the Gender Policy in 2017.
The National Defence Policy forms a basis on which KDF strategies are anchored while the Gender Policy adopts the global best practice, in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security.
Reference and implementation of these policy documents will positively impact our future as a professional military.
I thank you most sincerely for supporting gender mainstreaming in KDF where for the first time we have a number of women officers who have been promoted to serve in senior positions. I am delighted that we in this cohort have the first woman spokesperson of the KDF and look forward to working with Col. Zipporah Kioko.
You have also led the team, together with the civilian side to finalise a number of other critical policy documents: The Ratification of Energy Management and Environmental Conservation Policy, the Defence Industrialization Policy, Peace Support Operations Policy and the Military Land Use Policy, among others. As you know all these policies have been processed through the Defence Council and await full implementation. I have no doubt that together they will offer the desired direction in the management of the ministry’s affairs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
General Mwathethe did not contribute only in the MOD or security sector alone. Under the Big-Four-Agenda, on 14th October 2018, KDF launched a food processing factory in Gilgil which will contribute to the realization of food security in Kenya.
The factory demonstrates the potential in advancing research and development in KDF. Our research and development has also created a number of others innovations that will improve mission effectiveness and contribute to the national aspirations for development.
As many of you are aware, General Mwathethe is the Chair of the Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee. In this capacity, Kenya hosted the first Global Conference on Sustainable Blue Economy in November 2018 which attracted thousands of participants from around the world. The success of this committee is already evident, we have re- established the Kenya National Shipping Line, the Coast Guard has been stood and now the development of the Kenya Navy Slipway is underway. All these developments make Kenya a game changer in the regional maritime industry – setting us apart from anyone else. Congratulations!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I personally have walked a long journey with General Mwathethe, from the MOD, to when I went to Interior and MFA and now back to the MOD; from the time we formed multi-agency teams to fight terror groups that threatened our security and the well-being of our people, to the strengthening of our institutions through rigorous training and mentoring of the soldier. Throughout this time you provided much needed strategic stewardship and unmatched accountability.
General, it is impossible to exhaust your contribution to the Ministry of Defence in one seating but, I assure you that, the impact of your leadership will continue to manifest in various areas. As we bid you farewell a quote by Gen MacArthur on leadership comes to mind:
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to take this opportunity to also salute our next CDF, General Robert Kibochi, who has subscribed to the same life of service. I have no doubt that his credentials stand him in good stead to lead our forces with clear vision and a steady hand. He takes over at a time of great change in the security environment in our region and the globe. We have in the last few weeks witnessed unpredicted trends with enormous implications for the security of our nation.
Kenya is battling the outbreak of Covid-19, desert locust invasion, natural and humanitarian calamities and the threat posed by terror groups. In all these, the people of Kenya look to the Ministry of Defence and to the Kenyan soldier for support, relief, protection and assurance. But to take the mantle from a firm place. Congratulations on the great affirmation of confidence of the Commander in Chief in you and your team.
I am confident that you as the CDF, and the other top commanders starting with VCDF Lt Gen Mghalu and the Service Commanders –you have what it takes to execute our mandate – to defend and protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our motherland. I look forward to working with you as you build on the solid foundation laid by your distinguished predecessors to provide leadership that manages the current and emerging security threats.
I am also sure that I speak for the entire of the civilian side of the MOD administration, starting with the CAS, the PS and other officers, we shall offer you our full support as you take over and I do wish you all the very best.
Finally, to the CDF, this is your day, and I take this opportunity to once again officially thank you most sincerely for your service as I wish you good sails in your next endeavours.
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