By: BERNARD NAMUNANE
A Bill proposes to give President Uhuru Kenyatta sweeping powers to extend the terms of top Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) chiefs by one year.
The Bill has been tabled in the National Assembly and proposes to shield the military from any form of civilian oversight, including financial accountability, except in deployment to operations.
It also proposes to remove the requirement that the defence forces should advertise all positions allocated to each county during recruitment and instead make it mandatory for “designated recruitment centres for all counties”.
The three are among a raft of changes which are proposed in the Kenya Defence Forces Bill which also seeks to do away with the requirement for the State to compensates families of soldiers, who will either be injured or die in training.
The government says the change in the law is to ensure smooth implementation.
Under the law, also known as the Tonje rules, the Chief of the Defence Forces, the vice chief and service commanders are required to serve for a single period of four years or retire upon attaining the age of 62 years — whichever comes first.
The retirement age was crafted by the then Chief of General Staff General Daudi Tonje before he left the military.
The chief of the defence forces retires at the age of 62, while lieutenant-generals and major-generals retire at 58 and 56 years, respectively unless they are promoted.
Service Commanders in the Army, Navy and Air Force could retire at a younger age, as long as they had served for four years.
The chief of defence forces and service commanders retire after four years, or after reaching the retirement age — whichever comes first.
But the Bill proposes to amend the law saying: “The President may, on the recommendation of the Defence Council, extend the term of office of the Chief of the Defence Forces, the Vice Chief of the Defence Forces or the Service Commanders for a period not exceeding one year.”
The Bill also seeks to shield the military from civilian oversight, which is now carried out by Parliament.
Parliament would lose the role of assigning the Cabinet Secretary for Defence any functions.
It also seeks to do away with the requirement for the Defence CS to report to the President and Parliament, as well as the military’s compliance with policies and directions that have been passed by the House.
The Bills proposes to remove the requirement for the Defence Cabinet Secretary to table in Parliament a yearly report on how the forces use their budget.
This means the military will spend its money out of public scrutiny, just like the National Intelligence Service.
Currently, the military is required to submit an annual report, in writing, to the President and Parliament, on the expenditure, work and accomplishment of the ministry.