The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) is the highest-ranking military officer in the Kenya Defence Forces and the principal military adviser to the President of Kenya and the National Security Council. The CDF outranks all respective heads of each service branch and has operational command authority over the service branches. He leads the meetings and coordinates the efforts of the Service Commander, comprising the CDF, the Commander of the Kenya Army and Kenya Air Force, Kenya Navy and the Commandant of Military Intelligence. The CDF has offices in Ulinzi House.
The office is considered very important and highly prestigious, because the CDF as a body has command authority over the Armed Forces. The chain of command is from the President (as the Commander in Chief), directly to the CDF. The CDF, as a Principal Adviser, does have authority over personnel assignments and oversight over resources and personnel allocated to the commands within the respective services. The Chairman may also transmit communications to the service commanders from the President. He also performs all other functions as assigned from time to time by the President. The CDF may also allocate those duties and responsibilities to other officers under his name. Retired Air Force General Julius Waweru Karangi was the outgoing CDF. Gen. Karangi's tenure came to an end on May 4th 2015, and President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Commander in Chief, has promoted the then Vice Chief of Defence Forces, Lt. Gen. Samson J Mwathethe who is now a full General to be the next Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) effective May 4th 2015 and his Deputy will be Lt. Gen Kasaon who until his appoint was the Kenya Army Commander. Within months of British Brigadier A.J. Hardy handing over command of the Kenya Army to Brigadier Joseph Ndolo on 1 December 1966, British influence was underlined with the appointment of Major General Bernard Penfold as Chief of the General Staff, a new position as senior officer of the entire armed forces. Ndolo succeeded Penfold as Chief of General Staff in 1969, but was retired on 24 June 1971 after being implicated in a coup plot allegedly organised by Joseph Owino. The service chiefs thereafter reported directly to the Minister of Defence, James Gichuru. The post of Chief of the General Staff was only filled again seven years later when Daniel arap Moi moved Lieutenant General Jackson Mulinge from Army Commander to CGS in November 1978. Mahamoud Mohamed succeeded Mulinge in 1986, and was CGS until 1996. Mohamed was succeeded by General Daudi Tonje, CGS 1996-2000. (Hornsby 554)
- Hornsby, Charles (2012). Kenya: A History Since Independence. London/New York: I. B. Tauris. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-84885-886-2.
- Hornsby, 228-229.
- Hornsby, 335-6.
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