Kenya Army

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Kenyan Army
Jeshi la Ardhi la Kenya
Seal of the Kenya Army.png
Coat of arms of the Kenya Army
Country Kenya
Part ofFlag of the Kenya Defence Forces.svg Kenya Defence Forces
Command HeadquartersNairobi, Kenya
Equipment186 main battle tanks (primarily Vickers), a few thousand military vehicles, 78 helicopters
EngagementsSecond World War (as King's African Rifles)
Shifta War (1963–67)
Mount Elgon insurgency (2005-08)
Operation Linda Nchi (2011–12) and African Union Mission in Somalia (2012–present)
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Uhuru Kenyatta
CommanderLt. Gen Robert Kibochi
FlagFlag of the Kenyan Army.png

The Kenya Army is the land arm of the Kenya Defence Forces.


The origin of the present day Kenya Army may be traced from the King's African Rifles of British colonial forces.[1] The reasons that necessitated the recruitment and formation of troops that preceded the King's African Rifles and in essence the Kenya Army are as many as they are varied. It will be difficult to analyse them without tracing the events that were unfolding in the East African region during the last quarter of the 19th Century. This period was characterised by active involvement of the British in the enforcement of abolition of slave trade in East Africa.

During the same period other European nations were also developing spheres of influence in Africa. In this rivalry 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. It is out of this that the first indigenous land forces in Kenya can be traced.

In 1873 the Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Barghash, signed the final treaty to abolish slave trade in all his dominions. The task of enforcing the abolition was vested on the British Royal Navy Fleet under Admiral Freeman Tie.

In 1877 a Royal Navy Officer, Lt Lloyd Matthews, serving on HMS London formed a small force of 300 Zanzibaris for the purpose of combating the slave trade. During the following year Lt 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 British Africa Company was granted a royal charter and was charged with the responsibility of administering British East Africa on the liens 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. Then British Consul in Zanzibar at the time, 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 Capt 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.

Peacekeeping missions and other conflicts[edit]

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 for Peace Support Operations in the volatile Middle East after the 1973 Israeli/Arab war. Though Kenya acceded to the UN request, the troops were not deployed due to various logistical constraints.

The first comprehensive participation of the Kenya Army in Peace Support Operations was in 1979, when the Commonwealth requested the Republic of Kenya to contribute troops for a peace mission in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The country was emerging from a liberation war waged against the regime of Ian Smith which had unilaterally declared independence from the British.

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,[1] Kenya has contributed military observers, staff officers, civilian police monitors, and infantry troops to various missions.[2] The level of participation has also included force commanders, chief military observers, and chiefs of staff to the following UN and AU missions:

  • UNOMIL (Liberia) – Force Commander and Chief Military Observer
  • UNUMOZ (Mozambique) – Chief Military Observer
  • UNTAG (Namibia) – Deputy Force Commander
  • UNPROFOR (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) – Chief Military Observer
  • UNMOP (Croatia) – Chief Military Observer
  • AMISOM (Somalia)

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:

  • Kenya Army Infantry
  • Kenya Army Paratroopers
  • Kenya Army Armour
  • Kenya Army Artillery
  • Kenya Army Engineers
  • 50 Air Cavalry Battalion (50 ACB)

Kenya Army services:

  • Kenya Army Ordnance Corps (KAOC)
  • Kenya Army Corps of Transport
  • Kenya Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (KAEME)
  • Kenya Army Corps of Signal (KACS)
  • Military police Corps
  • Kenya Army Education Corps
  • Medical Battalion
  • Defence Forces Constabulary (DFC)


  1. ^ a b "Ministry of Defence – Kenya". Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Peacekeeping Operations". Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-04-25.