Kenya Army Infantry
The Infantry units are the principal fighting arms of the Kenya Army. The primary mission of the Infantry formations is to fight and win land battles within area of operational responsibilities in the defence of the nation against land – based aggression, while the secondary mission is the provision of aid and support to civil authorities in the maintenance of order.
In the early 1960s 3rd, 5th, and 11th Battalions of the King's African Rifles (KAR) were based at Nanyuki, Gilgil (seemingly in the same town as a British battalion) and Nairobi (Langata) in rotation.
Timothy Parsons writes:
'..Kenyan political elites viewed the army as a potential source of political leverage. No party or ethnic group was willing to let its rivals gain a dominant position in the armed forces. As a result, veteran askaris worried that politically connected soldiers would replace them. Most of the "martial races" that eomprised the old colonial forces were not part of KANU, and many Kikuyu openly referred to the KAR as the "KADU army." In 1959, the Kalenjin, Kamba, Samburu, and Northern Frontier pastoral communities supplied approximately 77 percent of the total strength of the Kenyan KAR battalions.'
As the country prepared for independence in 1962–63 the National Assembly of Kenya passed a bill (Kenya Bills 1963) to amend the status of Kenyan military forces. Accordingly, former KAR units of them were transformed into Kenyan military forces and the newly independent Kenyan Government was legally empowered to assign names to them. This took effect from the time of the independence ceremonies, midnight, 12 December 1963. Thus 3 KAR, 5 KAR, and 11 KAR became 3 Kenya Rifles, 5 Kenya Rifles, and 11 Kenya Rifles.
Army mutinies in Tanganyika and Uganda in January 1964 set the stage for the unrest that took place within the Kenya Rifles. Faced with many of the same problems that confronted Kenyan soldiers, Tanganyikan and Ugandan soldiers won improved pay and the dismissal of expatriate British officers by threatening their newly sovereign politicians with violence. On the evening of 24 January 1964, the failure of the Kenyan Prime Minister to appear on television, where 11th Kenya Rifles junior soldiers had been expecting a televised speech and hoping for a pay rise announcement, caused the men to mutiny. Parsons says it is possible that the speech was only broadcast on the radio in the Nakuru area where Lanet Barracks, home of the battalion, was located. Kenyatta's government held two separate courts-martial for 43 soldiers.
In the aftermath of the mutiny and following courts-martial, the 11th Kenya Rifles was disbanded. A new battalion, 1st Kenya Rifles, was created entirely from 340 Lanet soldiers who had been cleared of participation in the mutiny by the Kenyan Criminal Investigations Division (CID).
- 1st Kenya Rifles Battalion – Nanyuki
- 3rd Kenya Rifles Battalion – Lanet Barracks, Nakuru
- 5th Kenya Rifles Battalion – Gilgil
- 7th Kenya Rifles Battalion – Langata Barracks, Nairobi. Formed in 1969 Previously 7 KR was located at Gilgil in a camp formerly held by British troops. The first task of the unit was to clean and repair the camp. Moved to Langata in 1973.
- 9th Kenya Rifles Battalion – formed September 1979, with in-postings from 3, 5, and 7 KR. At Moi Barracks near Eldoret town. Took part in Exercise Natural Fire.
- 15th Kenya Rifles Battalion – the Battalion, commonly abbreviated 15 KR, a.k.a. 'One five', is the seventh infantry battalion in the Kenya Army. The unit was conceived as Namibian-bound, Kenya's contingent that was on a UN peace keeping mission, c.1990. Formed 13 March 1989. On return from the mission the unit was constituted to a fully fledged infantry unit that was going to be based in the coastal city of Mombasa at the Mariakani Barracks. Located at Nyali be Mombasa.
- 17 Kenya Rifles based at Nyali Mombasa, popularly known as the 'desert Rangers' due to their unit colour being desert brown.
- 19 Kenya Rifles formed in 2013 located in Nanyuki, popularly known as the 'Ash warriors'
There are three other infantry units in the Kenya Army that are not necessarily part of the Kenya Rifles; 20 Parachute Battalion, and the two special operations units, 30 Special Forces Battalion and 40 Ranger Strike Force Battalion, part of the Ranger Regiment (RR). In addition, 50th Air Cavalry Battalion is a unique unit flying Hughes 500s which may have some airmobile infantry capability.
Lieutenant K.A Webi of the 1st Kenya Rifles who was commissioned into the Kenya Defence Forces as an army officer in May 2009 died in the line of duty on 22 January when his unit conducted a raid on al Shabaab camps in Delbiyow and Hosingow.
Another officer who was injured in the same incident and had been undergoing treatment at the hospital, Lieutenant Edward Okoyo attached to the 3rd Kenya Rifles. Also later died. He had only served for one-and-a-half years. He had been commissioned into the Kenya Defence Forces on 30 June 2010. Four AK-47 rifles, a large amount of ammunition, communication equipment and a collapsible water tank were recovered during the raid in which 11 al Shabaab fighters were reportedly killed.
Raymond Kirui, attached to 7 Kenya Rifles, and who joined the Kenya Defence Forces on 25 October 2010, died on 24 November, last year when the vehicle he and 13 other soldiers were travelling in drove over an improvised explosive device in Bulla Garaay area near Mandera. Lance Corporal Willie Njoroge attached to the 1st Kenya Rifles died during a confrontation between his unit and al Shabaab fighters in Somalia on 29 December last year. His unit had raided the al Qaeda linked insurgents base south of Beles Qooqani when he was killed. Five al Shabaab fighters were killed and many others injured during the incident. He joined he Kenya Defence Forces on 3 August 2002.
Others who have been killed are Yusuf Abdullah Korio, a private in the 15th Kenya Rifles. Korio joined the military in 1992 and died during combat on 22 December last year when during fighting between Tabda and Dhobley. Ronald Kipkemboi Kiptui, who joined the army on 29 October 2007 and was attached to the 7th Kenya Rifles, died on 3 December, last year.
- J.M. Lee, 'African Armies and Civil Order,' Studies in International Security, Institute for Strategic Studies, c.1969, 40.
- Report on the EALF and the Kenya Regiment in 1959, by GOC EAC, KNA, LF/1/210; and Central Province Recruiting Safari, by Captain N.R. Pavitt, 1963, PRO/WO/305/1651, in Parsons, 'The Lanet Incident, 2–25 January 1964: Military Unrest and National Amnesia in Kenya', International Journal of Atrican Historical Studies Vol.40, Nol (2007), 60.
- Parsons, 2007, 61–62.
- Timothy Parsons, The 1964 Army Mutinies and the Making of Modern East Africa, 120.
- Parsons, The 1964 Army Mutinies, 161.
- For more on Natural Fire, see Berman, Eric G.; Sams, Katie E. (2000). Peacekeeping In Africa : Capabilities And Culpabilities. Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. pp. 200–201. ISBN 92-9045-133-5. and Prados, 'Pentagon Games.'
- Kenya Yearbook 2010
- See further Yearbook 2010
- The Star, Fifteen soldiers killed in 100 days, 30 January 2012
- T.F. Mills, http://web.archive.org/web/20071023110441/http://www.regiments.org/regiments/africaeast/regts/ke-rifle.htm – reports 75th Battalion KR, 1980–present