By Phil Wesonga
The only criteria is you have to be Lieutenant General. And it is the president as CiC who decides who gets promoted. For most of these career soldiers, the furthest they can go is Maj-General, as Otieno’s case aptly proves it!
No so long ago, Lt. General Opande, a Luo, was swiftly retired after spending years overseas in government instigated UN appointments. Opande is perhaps Kenya’s (and East Africa’s) most feted and honoured military officer. He was primed to be Chief of DF but that never made it. Instead, semi illiterate junior officers like Mahmoud and Sumbeiywo were given commander and CGS positions by KANU government. Opande was to be placed in the retirement dustbin by Kenya government even as West African governments showered him with awards and honorary citizenship.
Actually, one cannot equate Gen Opande’s achievements with those of Gen Karangi; the difference is like day and night. Opande brought lasting peace to war torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc, but here in Somalia, you and I know that apart from charcoal, smuggling, poaching and needless bloodshed, nothing else is happening.
Back to the subject, another Luo, Maj Gen Awita who was retired as Navy commander at 55 but unlike General Kianga who was swiftly appointed Chairman of Kenya Railways and is now overseeing implementation of the multi-billion Standard Gauge Railway project, Awita was never given any state appointment and is presently looking after his cows at a farm somewhere in Western.
Another technically experienced Maj Gen Agoi, a Luhya, who gallantly led the rescue efforts following the 1998 terror attack on US embassy in Nairobi also similarly faced early retirement, and was then was lucky to land a diplomatic appointment. Not much is heard about him in recent days.
The just retired Maj Otieno, a Luo, is an experienced jet fighter pilot and highly trained military logistician whose career progression was borne by by tax payers. That technical know-how is now going to the village. Perhaps the UN or some other military can offer him a position, I dont know.
Yet, amidst all this, those who led in fumbling and blundering in the Westgate siege continue to serve in plum positions. Those who failed to act on intelligence of the impending mall attack, some of them approaching 70 years old are still serving in key positions in the state security apparatus.
At times, you just have to bow your head in shame for being called a Kenyan!