Kenya names new defence chief after deadly chopper crash

Charles Muriu Kahariri being decorated as Defence Chief by Kenyan President William Ruto

Kenyan President William Ruto on Thursday named Charles Muriu Kahariri as defence chief after the death of his predecessor in a helicopter crash.

He replaces Francis Omondi Ogolla who was among 10 military officers killed when their chopper went down in a remote area of northwestern Kenya on April 18.

Kahariri had previously served as deputy to Ogolla, 62, who had been Chief of Defence Forces for a year and was about to mark 40 years of military service.

A former Kenya Navy deputy commander, Kahariri joined the Kenya Defence Forces in April 1987, rising through the ranks during “his illustrious career spanning over three decades”, according to a defence ministry profile.

The married father of three was involved in Kenya’s cross-border incursion into Somalia in 2011 to flush out Al-Shabaab insurgents.

The offensive followed the abduction of four foreigners, including two Spanish aid workers, from a giant refugee camp near the border.

Kahariri served as the maritime component commander during that military campaign codenamed “Operation Linda Nchi” — “Protect the Country” in Swahili.

The graduate of the US Naval War College was the task force commander of the operation that captured the Al-Shabaab bastion of Kismayo, a key port which served as a “commercial hub” for the Islamists.

The promotion of Kahariri to the defence chief post and the rank of general was among several appointments announced by Ruto.

He also named Major General Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed as commander of the Kenya Air Force, the first woman in the nation’s history to hold the position.

She replaces John Mugaravai Omenda who was promoted to Vice Chief of the Defence Forces and the rank of lieutenant general.

Major General Paul Owuor Otieno was also named commander of the navy.

Under Kenyan military regulations, there is only one four-star general at any given time, with the president — a civilian — being a five-star general as the commander-in-chief.