Remarkable History And Evolution Of The Kenya Defence Forces

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The armed force of the Republic of Kenya is now commonly referred to as the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). It comprises of three services; the Kenya Army, Kenya Navy and Kenya Air Force.

The President of Kenya is the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. The present KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) was established under Article 241 of the 2010 Kenyan constitution and is governed by the Kenya Defence Force Act of 2012.

The origin of KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) can be traced back to the last quarter of the 19th Century when efforts for the slave trade abolishment were at their peak. They hail from the King’s African Rifles which were formed to protect the British’s East Africa Protectorate whose main base was in Mombasa.

In 1902, the 3 King’s African Rifles (3 KAR) based in Mombasa moved to Nairobi and were joined by 5 KAR to help in curbing those that were resisting the British rule including fighting the Mau Mau rebellion. 3 KAR and 5 KAR transformed into Kenya Military Forces on the night of Independence after the Independent Kenya Government took power laying the foundation of the present-day Kenya Defence Forces.  1964 saw the creation of the Kenya Air Force and Kenya Navy following the transition after independence.

At independence, the Ministry of Defence (Kenya Defence Forces) 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.

Read also: What You Need To Understand About National Defence University-Kenya

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In 1968, an Act of Parliament repealed Chapter 198 which had created the Kenya Military Forces and replaced it with Chapter 199 of the Laws of Kenya creating the Kenya Armed Forces.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 OF dEFENCE (Kenya Defence Forces) has changed names since independence through Executive Orders of the President that spell out the names of Ministries. It has been referred to as:

  1. Internal Security and Defence (1963-1978)
  2. The Department of Defence (DoD) (1978-2000)
  3. The Ministry of Provincial Administration and National Security (2003-2005)
  4. The Ministry of State for Defence (2000-2003)
  5. The Ministry Of Defence (2006- current)

The Current Kenya Defence Forces


The Ministry of Defence is comprised of the Kenya Army, the Kenya Air Force, the Kenya Navy, the Defence Forces Constabulary and the Civilian Staff.

Vision of KDF

To be a premier, credible and mission-capable force deeply rooted in professionalism

Primary Mandate of KDF (Kenya Defence Forces)


Secondary Mandate of KDF

To assist and cooperate with other authorities in situations of emergency or disaster and restore peace in any part of Kenya affected by unrest or instability as assigned.

Commitment of KDF

The Ministry of Defence is committed to defending and protecting the people of the Republic of Kenya and their property against external aggression and also in providing support to the Civil Authority as per the Law.

The Core Values of KDF

  1. Apolitical: The Defence Forces will steer clear of politics and will remain steadfastly apolitical.
  2. The Civil Prerogative: The Defence Forces shall always subordinate itself to democratic Civil Authority and exemplify civility in all its dealings with the people of Kenya.
  3. Loyalty and Commitment: The Defence Forces will uphold its loyalty and commitment to the Commander–in–Chief and the people of Kenya through the chain of command.
  4. Patriotism: The staff of the Ministry of Defence shall always be patriotic to the Government and the people of Kenya.
  5. Professionalism: Service delivery will be based on the highest professional standards and will be blind to gender, ethnicity, race, or any other consideration.
  6. Integrity: The staff of the Ministry of Defence will carry out their duties with the highest integrity and in accordance with the laid down rules and regulations.
  7. Reliability: The Defence Forces pledges to be a reliable partner in attending to the needs of the nation, its people, and the general public at large.
  8. Knowledge: The Ministry of Defence will pursue knowledge for its staff and endeavour to integrate new technology into its operations and management process.
  9. Confidentiality: The staff of the Ministry of Defence will maintain high standards of confidentiality of the data and information in its possession strictly adhering to the need-to-know principle.
  10. Fairness: The Ministry of Defence will ensure fairness in all its activities, especially in hiring, development, and discipline of personnel which will be undertaken with utmost impartiality.
Kenya Defence Forces

The obligations of KDF to Citizens of Kenya

  1. The Ministry of Defence provides public good in a way of collective security. Our commitment is to offer this service promptly and unreservedly.
  2. The Ministry of Defence will render services without any discrimination regardless of one’s race, ethnic background, religion, gender, status, or otherwise.
  3. The recruitment process into the Ministry will be conducted in a transparent manner, strictly in accordance with merit and stated eligibility, criteria as advertised in both the print and the electronic media.
  4. Procurement of goods and services by the Ministry including disposal of assets will be transparent and in accordance with the law, procedures, and regulations. The Ministry will also comply with the 30 per cent presidential directive of the Ministry’s procurement budget for the youth, women, and disabled.
  5. The Ministry will only pay for goods received and services rendered in accordance with our contractual obligations.
  6. The Ministry pledges to effect payments for goods and services rendered within 30 days of receipt of legitimate bills and invoices and convey the same to the merchants and suppliers by the quickest means possible.

READ: Our History

Clients’ Rights and Obligations

Your rights and obligations as our clients are:

  1. Defence services are free but whenever the fee is payable, an official receipt will be issued.
  2. It is your right to receive a response to a written enquiry within 14 days, orally within 10 minutes and telephone within 3 rings
  3. It is your right to be heard expeditiously and for your concerns to be attended to in the shortest time possible.
  4. It is your right to demand timely and quality services
  5. You are expected to desist from any acts of corruption, fraud, fitina (misinformation), or any other undesirable conduct, failure to which punitive action may be taken against you in accordance with the law.

Since its independence KDF has been to 44 peacekeeping Missions and has deployed 44,000 peacekeepers around the world.

Barry Ipapo

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Barry Ipapo

Security professional || Law and Governance Enthusiast || Technologist
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