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Daudi Tonje: General Who Introduced Law Guiding Promotion & Retirement of KDF Officers

Kenya boasts one of the best militaries in the region. This can be attributed to the number of soldiers, strength of artillery and military technology. However, major success in the force can be attributed to reforms in critical personnel operations at the Department of Defence.

Retired General Daudi Rerimoi Arap Chepkonga Tonje is famed for revolutionising the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). He served as the Chief of the General Staff – now Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) – between 1996 and 2001.

CDF is the highest-ranking military officer – serving as the principal military adviser to the President of Kenya and the National Security Council (NSC). The CDF outranks and holds operational command authority over the three service branches.

The visionary military man established the “Tonje Rules” which guide the promotion, appointment, and continuous training of officers. The laws also stipulate the criteria for enlistment, commissioning, and promotion from one level to another.

File image of General (rtd) Daudi Tonje. |Courtesy| MoD|
File image of General (rtd) Daudi Tonje. |Courtesy| MoD|

Background & Education

General (rtd) Tonje enlisted in the army in 1962 and trained as a cadet at Hifford Barracks, Lanet, then as the first direct-entry African cadet.

He was posted to the 11th KAR battalion. It was disbanded in 1964 after a section of soldiers protested poor pay for African soldiers.


Another of Tonje’s most notable achievements was the disbandment of the Women Service Corps – allowing for women to be included in other mainstream ranks.

Initially, female soldiers were not allowed to marry, on argument that they could not balance family and service. General Tonje put an end to this, further ensuring that promotions were based on academic merit.

The retired general set up the Defence College during his tenure. He also established the Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme.

Under his reign as Chief of Defence, Tonje ensured that senior military officials possessed university education.

Tonje Rules

The minimum recruitment age for the military is 18. According to the Tonje rules, if an officer fails to make captain by age 37, he or she retires.

Captains are promoted to Major depending on their performance or vacancies available. Majors should attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the age of 42 – failure to do so, they exit the service.

Lieutenant Colonels retire at 45 years. Full colonels are required to attain promotion to Brigadier by age 48, failure to which they exit the military. Brigadiers serve till the age of 52 and if not promoted to Major General by then – they too exit the force.

Major Generals retire at age 52. Lieutenant Generals retire at the age of 58 or serve for a period not more than four years – whichever comes prior.

Lieutenant General promoted to full general – CDF serves till the age of 62 or a period not more than 4 years.

The CDF is rotational between the three arms of Defence; the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

Since implementation, Kenya has witnessed smooth leadership transitions at the KDF; from General Tonje to General Kibwana of the Kenya Navy, to General Kianga of the Kenya Army, to General Karangi from the Kenya Air Force, to General Mwathethe of the Kenya Navy, to General Kibochi of the Kenya Army who was succeeded by the late General Ogolla of the Kenya Air Force.