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List of all KDF bosses & their major milestones

The KDF has had a total of 11 bosses since independence all drawn from different service arms of the military

Rtd General Julius Karangi, Rtd General Samson Mwathethe and Rtd General Robert Kibochi

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is responsible for the defence of the Republic of Kenya and comprises three arms, the Kenya Army, the Kenya Navy, and the Kenya Air Force.

At the helm of the KDF is the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), who serves as the principal military adviser to the president and is responsible for the overall command and control of the military.

Since independence in 1963, the KDF has been led by a series of chiefs from different branches of the military. Below is a detailed list of the Chiefs of Defence Forces in Kenya, their military arms, and the years they served.


General Robert Penfold was a British soldier who was appointed by President Jomo Kenyatta to lead the Kenyan army between 1966 and 1969.

His leadership was part of the broader involvement of British officers in Kenya during the transition period from colonial rule to independence, helping to establish and train the national military forces.


General Joseph Ndolo was the first Kenyan Chief of Defence Forces after Kenya's independence. He was appointed by President Jomo Kenyatta.

Ndolo served only two years after he was implicated in a coup plot against then president, as he had been named as a possible successor.

General Jackson Mulinge succeeded General Ndolo and served as CDF for 16 years. His long tenure reflected stability and continuity in the leadership of the KDF.


Mulinge is remembered for having rescued both President Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi’s governments from coup plots.

In 1970, he crushed a coup that was being plotted by his predecessor and in 1982 he crashed the coup that was being plotted by junior airforce officers against the government of the then President Daniel Moi.


General Mahmoud Mohamed took over the position in 1986 and served until 1996. He is remembered for loyalty to President Daniel Moi at a time when his counterparts in the airforce wanted to topple the government through a coup.

General Daudi Tonje led the KDF into the new millennium and introduced reforms that improved the operational efficiency of the armed forces.

Tonje who was also the Commander of the Kenyan army between 1993 and 1996 was the defence chief who came up with reforms known as the 'Tonje rules' which among many other things sees rotational leadership in the military.


He introduced gender equality, abolished wage payments, started health insurance for the military and struggled to cater for veterans’ interests. It was General Tonje who also allowed service women to give birth while in service.

General Joseph Kibwana joined the Kenya Navy in 1964 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant on January 1, 1967.

He served in various senior ranks in the Kenya Navy and was also Chief of Military Intelligence from 1982 to 1985.


In May 1998, he became Lieutenant General and took over as the Commandant of Kenya’s National Defence College.

He became Chief of General Staff on December 1, 2000, and served until 2005.

General Joseph Kibwana served as Chief of General Staff under President Mwai Kibaki. As Chief of the General Staff he oversaw a large scale army operation in the restive Mount Elgon region after a near five year insurgency by the Sabaot Land Defence Force.


The operation was a success with the rebel forces having been militarily defeated and relative calm restored in the area.

General Julius Karangi was the first chief of defence forces to serve under the new constution under both President Mwai Kibaki's government and President Uhuru Kenyatta's government.

He played a key role in initiatives such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), where Kenyan forces made significant contributions to the fight against al-Shabaab militants.


General Samson Mwathethe served as the KDF boss between 2015 and 2020 and under his watch some of the worst attacks on KDF officers in Somalia occured.

General Mwathethe contributed greatly to the welfare of retired KDF soldiers and their families.


During his tenure, the millitary was greatly involved in the running of several goverment projects.

General Robert Kibochi is the current CDF and took over from General Mwathethe in 2020. He focused on continuing the modernisation of the KDF and enhancing its capability to address contemporary security challenges.

Kibochi was the first non-infantry officer from the Kenya Army to be appointed as CDF as a member of the Kenya Army Corps of Signals, the military personnel responsible for conveying information.


The late General Francis Ogolla was the army chief commander succeeding General Kibochi. Ogolla was appointed by President William Ruto and only served for less than a year before his life was claimed in a tragic chopper crash.


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