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The Kenya Army is the land arm of the Kenya Defence Forces. The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are the armed forces of the Republic of Kenya. They are made up of the Kenya Army, Kenya Navy, and Kenya Air Force. The current KDF was established, and its composition stipulated, in Article 241 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya; it is governed by the KDF Act of 2012.
The origin of the present day Kenya Army lie with the British Army‘s King’s African Rifles. Tracing the events that were unfolding in East Africa during the last quarter of the 19th Century is important because the British actively enforced the abolition of the slave trade in East Africa. During the same period other European nations were also developing spheres of influence in Africa. The British established the Imperial British East Africa Company to take care of its interests. As these interests developed and expanded, there was need to create a more formidable force to safeguard these interests and expansion, and thus the first British land forces in Kenya were created.
In June 1873 the Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash bin Said of Zanzibar, signed the final treaty to abolish slave trade throughout his territories. Enforcing the abolition became the task of the Royal Navy; within three weeks Admiral Arthur Cumming, Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, arrived at Zanzibar. In 1877 a Royal Navy officer, Lieutenant Lloyd Matthews, serving on HMS London formed a small force of 300 Zanzibaris to combat the slave trade. In 1878 Lieutenant Matthews was given leave to serve under the Sultan who appointed him Brigadier General in command of the newly established force. By 1880 the force had grown to 1300 men who were all armed with Snider rifles donated to the Sultan by the British Government.
On 8 September 1888 the Imperial British East Africa Company was granted a royal charter and was charged with the responsibility of administering British East Africa on the lines of a Crown colony. In 1893 the three-year contract with the Indian contingent came to an end. During the same period the company was experiencing serious financial problems that had led to the abandonment of Uganda and Jubaland in fact, the company could barely police the coast. The then British Consul in Zanzibar, Sir Arthur Hardinge, notified the Foreign Office of his intention of taking over East Africa from the company. The British government accepted. On 1 July 1895 a British protectorate was declared over all the areas previously administered by the company. The company troops were subsequently reorganized under Captain Hatch.
In August 1895 the British government sanctioned the establishment of a force composed of 300 Punjabi, 300 Swahili, 100 Sudanese, and 200 soldiers from various ethnic groups in the region. This force was renamed the East African Rifles and was formed from the former IBEA force in Mombasa (Fort Jesus). As the King’s African Rifles, the force fought against the Mau Mau rebels under the command of British officers and on the side of loyalist Kenyans and those who advocated a peaceful transition to independence, such as Jomo Kenyatta.
In addition to the primary role of the defense of the Republic of Kenya and the secondary role of aid to civil authority, the Kenya Army has participated and continues to participate in international Peace Support Operations. Peace Support Operations within the Kenya Army can be traced back to 1973 when the United Nations requested Kenya to contribute forces to UNEF II which was to separate Israel and the Arab states after the October War. Though Kenya acceded to the UN request, the troops were not deployed due to various logistical constraints.
The first participation of the Kenya Army in Peace Support Operations was in 1979, when the Commonwealth requested the Republic of Kenya to contribute troops for the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The Monitoring Force supervised the arrival and cantonment of the rebel Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) forces, and included 51 Kenya Army personnel under Colonel Jack Munyao who ran one of the 14 Assembly Points.
Subsequently, the Kenya Army contributed officers towards peace support operations in Chad in 1982 on the request of the Organization of African Unity. Kenya has consistently participated in the United Nations Peace-Keeping operations since 1989 when she sent military observers and an infantry battalion to Namibia. Kenya has ranked number 6 out of the 90 countries who contribute military and civilian police to the UN operations.
Since 1989, Kenya has contributed military observers, staff officers, civilian police monitors, and infantry troops to various missions. The level of participation has also included force commanders, chief military observers, and chiefs of staff to the following UN and African Union missions:
To date, Kenyan United Nations peacekeepers have served in 16 different countries in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Asia. The period of deployment of the personnel has varied from mission to mission, in accordance with the complexities of each conflict situation. Missions have ranged from one to eight years.
The Kenya Army is made up of various formations and services.
Kenya Army Formations
- 2 Brigade
- 3rd Kenya Rifles. This is Kenya’s oldest unit which dates back to the 1880s. They are based in Lanet, Nakuru. Their Colour is red and their motto is ‘Red Scarlets’
- 5th Kenya Rifles. Based in Gilgil, their colour is Dark Blue. Their unit motto is ‘Fighting Five’
- 9 Kenya Rifles – Moi Barracks, Eldoret. Their colour is Orange. Their unit motto is ‘Orangers fire and war machines’. Winner of end-year foot and drill competition 2020.
- 21 Transport Company
- 22 Field Workshop
- 23 Ordnance Company
- 4 Brigade
- 1st Kenya Rifles. Based in Nanyuki, Their motto is ‘Green Fire’ and their colour is Green.
- 7 Kenya Rifles – Langata Barracks, Nairobi. Their colour is Maroon and their unit motto is ‘Maroon Commandoes’ and ‘Man to man I am the best’
- 15 Kenya Rifles. Formed in the early 1990s. It has been based in the coastal region of the country. currently housed at Mariakani Barracks. Their colour is Blue and the unit motto is ‘Stay High’.
- 41 Transport Company
- 42 Field Workshop
- 43 Ordnance Company
- 6 Brigade – formed by 2010 – relocated from Embakasi to Modika Barracks, Garissa.
- 17 Kenya Rifles – Formed in 2011 and in late 2018 stationed at Modika. They are known as the ‘Desert Rangers’ and their colour is purple. They initially used desert brown as their colour, which was changed to new, purple colours during the 2018 Jamhuri Day ceremonies.
- 19 Kenya Rifles – Nyali Barracks. Also known as the ‘Ash Warriors’. Their unit colour is Ash Grey.
- 21 Kenya Rifles – Mariakani Barracks.
- 61 Transport Company
- 62 Field Workshop
- 63 Ordnance Company
- 8 Brigade
- 23 MIB (Mechanised Infantry Battalion)
- 25 MIB (Mechanised Infantry Battalion)
- 27 MIB (Mechanised Infantry Battalion)
- 110 Brigade
- 112 Brigade
- Ranger Regiment
- 20 Parachute Battalion
- 30 Battalion
- 40 Ranger Strike Force Battalion
- Special Operations Training School (SOTS)
- Kenya Army Artillery Brigade
- Kenya Army Armoured Brigade
- 76 Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB)
- 78 Tank Battalion
- 81 Tank Battalion
- 86 Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB)
- 91 Tank Battalion
- School Of Armour
- Kenya Army Engineers Brigade
- 10 Engineers Battalion
- 12 Engineers Battalion
- School of Combat Engineering (SOCE)
- Kenya Army Corps of Signals (KACS)
- AHQ Signal Battalion
- School of Signals
Kenya Army services
This Corps mainly deals with maintenance of motor and mechanical equipment that is used in the Kenya Army. It is based at Kahawa Garrison along Thika Road.
- Workshop Battalion
- School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (SEME)
- Military Police Corps (MPC) – based at the Defence Headquarters along Lenana Road Nairobi
- 1 MP battalion
- 2 MP battalion
- School of Military Police (SOMP)
- Kenya Army Medical Corps (KAMC)
- Kenya Army Corps of Education (KACE)
- Defence Forces Constabulary (DFC)