Army chief quits over conspiracy

Monday 19th August, 2013 on The Daily Nation

What could have driven Maj-Gen Ndolo and his co-conspirators to think of toppling Kenyatta? In June 1971, 13 men were tried and jailed for conspiracy to overthrow the government of Jomo Kenyatta. They were a collection of civilians and soldiers.

Although he was not among those in the dock, Maj-Gen Joseph Ndolo, the head of the military, was said to have been the man behind the plot and the one designated as president had it succeeded. Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa was caught in the web and was forced out of office but was also not charged.

Maj-Gen Ndolo, the first African Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), quietly resigned from office shortly after his co-conspirators were jailed. Born in 1919, Maj-Gen Ndolo had been recruited into the King’s African Rifles, and at independence, he was a high ranking officer within the newly-established Kenya Army.

When he was appointed army commander in 1966, the newly-created position of Chief of Defence Staff was held by Major-General Penfold, a British officer. Ndolo’s rise to the top was linked to the 1964 Lanet mutiny.

The mutineers had demanded, among other things, the Africanisation of the top echelons of the military. “Although Kenyatta retained a British general as army commander–in-chief for two more years, by the end of 1964, Africans held all of the executive positions in frontline units,” Timothy Parsons writes in Military Unrest And National Amnesia In Kenya.

Ndolo was the president of the military tribunal that tried the 1964 mutineers.

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