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Kenya Chief of Defence Forces succession stirs the military

Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Julius Karangi

Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Julius Karangi

Corruption cartels linked to the infamous Anglo-Leasing financial scandals are reportedly scheming hard to regain lost ground and secure high-level military related contracts. This comes at a time when the current Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Julius Karangi may be headed for retirement at the end of the year. Karangi’s term as CDF was to expire in December last year.

However, the military rules allow for a two-year extension. Retired President Kibaki extended his term for a year to allow for a smooth transition of power in the March election. Kibaki’s successor – President Uhuru Kenyatta – had the option to extend or not to, Karangi’s term for another one year.

The underground operatives previously known for influencing security-related procurement deals at both the Department of Defence (DoD) and the Internal Security dockets at the Office of the President, are understood to be re- positioning themselves just in case Karangi goes at the end of the year. Should that happen, they hope to put a spanner in the works and take advantage of the transition to a new CDF to recover lost ground.

The wheeler-dealers are clinging on hope that the new CDF – that is if Karangi’s term isn’t extended – could be a person they can do business with. Sources in the know say Karangi is a very unpopular figure among the wheel-dealers mainly for the reason that his first task on taking over at the DoD was to seal loop-holes exploited by corruption cartels.

He was able to do so specifically because he had a direct ear of the President, something his predecessors may not have enjoyed, hence they were susceptible to bullying by well-connected wheeler-dealers. Informed sources further dis- close that the same corruption cartels, backed by an influential Central Kenya woman political activist who is now elected MP, were hell-bent on blocking Karangi’s appointment three years ago but Kibaki stood with him.

The retired president and Karangi have been close friends for many years. Karangi is also unpopular on an- other front. It is during his watch that Kenyan troops marched into Somalia to crush the al Shabaab as well as put a stop to thriving piracy trade at the East African coastline.

That, too, came with its own set of “enemies” – specifically beneficiaries of piracy, drug-trafficking and money-laundering that benefitted from a lawless Somalia under al Shaabab. Karangi too, has to contend with “enemies within” because of his overzealousness in instilling discipline within the military. Under his watch, dozens of military personnel had to face consequences on matters of indiscipline ranging from corruption, laziness, to rou- tine discipline such as clothing and socialisation.

It was Karangi together with then Minister for Defence Mohammed Yusuf Haji (now Garissa Senator) who strongly convinced former President Kibaki that KDF enter Somalia and tackle al Shabab and the pirates in their backyard.Their argument was that peace in the East African region could only be achieved if the Somalia-based al-Shabaab terror group and the pirates along the Indian Ocean were decimated, an argument the President quickly bought.

Sources who talked to The People Saturday said: “KDF’s entry into Somalia denied the pirates a lifeline. Here at home he has streamlined DoD’s procurement system and succeeded in keeping off strangers and busybodies. You can therefore understand why they want him out of the way quickly. He is a stumbling block to their lucrative busi- nesses.” According to the source, anti-Karangi forces have embarked on a smear campaign using sections of the media, politicians and other security-related arms of government to besmirch his name and image.

They are also, says the source, targeting other senior military officers likely to replace Karangi. A retired senior military officer interviewed seems to be in the know about the goings-on at the KDF in regard to Karangi succession. He says: “Why would the internationally acclaimed achievements of KDF be swept under the carpet while turning the public’s mind on trivial issues that bear little or no relevance at all on the serious security challenges facing the country?”

He says that having been kept out of business for a considerable time now, the former pirates and the Anglo-leasing cartels have found a compelling reason to regroup and hope to gain inner traction as Karangi makes his exit. They are really desperate to have “someone they can work with comfortably as was the case before”, says a source in the know. Of Karangi, the source says: “Building on the foundations laid by his predecessors, I can tell you for sure that he has sealed many, if not all, loopholes these merchants were exploiting to have a say in the way DoD purchased its equipment.

With all those avenues having been closed, the corrupt elements are not happy. So are the pirates who have been completely wiped out of the waters of the Indian Ocean by KDF. They are now hitting back. They want Karangi out of the way as quickly as possible,” he said. He further opined: “We suspect these forces think they can influ- ence the appointment of Karangi’s successor.

In our assessment, they would want a person they can be able to control or manipulate so that the lockers of corruption at the procurement section at DoD are unlocked for them once again.” Another high-ranking officer at the DoD told us: “To their credit, these busybodies have successfully managed to manipulate the media and some politicians to divert national attention from the serious security situation facing this country today.

National attention has now been placed on how KDF soldiers allegedly went to steal from a supermarket in the wake of the unfortunate Westgate terror attack. Attention has effectively been diverted from what should be the concern of all Kenyans today. That is the state of the country’s overall security situation at the moment.” Under Karangi’s watch, KDF has risen in ratings to be ranked the 6th best military institution in Africa and 46th in the world.

We established that senior KDF officials highly suspected that some highly placed government officers working in cahoots with corrupt cartels manipulated sections of the media and the political class to make KDF the fall guy in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall.

We reliably established that during the four-day Westgate saga, some highly placed officials expressed displeasure at the media briefs released by military spokespersons Col Emmanuel Chirchir and Col Cyrus Oguna to brief the public on the situation as it unfolded allegedly because “State House was not happy about it.” However, officers at DoD doubted it because General Karangi was literally operating from State House where he had to give the President almost hourly briefs on what was going on at Westgate.

Why would State House com- municate to the DoD through ci- vilians at the OP when the head of the military was in constant touch with the Commander-in-Chief, they wondered. In the same light is seen a report recently released by Synovate poll- sters which had put the military as the most corrupt arm of the govern- ment without giving data to back the same. Says a source at DoD: “In absence of data and facts to back the claim by the so-called opinion poll, we can only suspect it to be part of the wider scheme to discredit the military at this critical point of tran- sition within.”

-The People

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