KDF: Here’s All You Need to Know About Military Ranks

The Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) serve as Kenya’s first line of defense against external threats. 

Drawing from Kenya’s history as a former  colony, the KDF’s rank structure closely mirrors that of the British Army. 

The hierarchical structure plays a crucial role in indicating an officer’s level of expertise, responsibilities, and authority, guiding KDF servicemen in upholding top-tier discipline and respect as they serve the country.

A photo of the Ulinzi Main Gate House at the Defence Headquarters in Nairobi commissioned on February 15, 2023



“Each level of leadership has a significant role in the total KDF mission,” the KDF says in a statement.

The KDF consists of three sister services: the Kenya Airforce, Kenya Army, and Kenya Navy. Promotion within the KDF is solely based on merit, irrespective of one’s service affiliation.

“The KDF has a meritocracy system where one has to pass promotional examinations, be disciplined, and have integrity to be considered for the next rank,” reads a KDF dispatch. 

The nation’s security force employs a distinct two-tier system, comprising Officers and Service Members. 

Officers occupy the top echelon of the hierarchy and receive a commission, a formal document of appointment, from the Commander-in-Chief, who is the President. 

In contrast, service members are enlisted soldiers who do not hold a commission and consequently do not assume high-ranking command positions.

The lowest rank among officers is that of a Second lieutenant (2LT) attained upon commissioning from the Kenya Military Academy while the highest rank is that of a General, (four-star).

Kenyans.co.ke dives deep and takes a look into the top five highest-ranking officers within the KDF.


At any given time, there can be only one four-star general serving as the Chief of the Defense Forces. 

The current Chief of Defense is General Francis Ogolla.

The rank of General represents the highest attainable position in the military, and officers at this rank hold top leadership positions.

General Francis Omondi Ogolla and the Chief of the Defence Forces



Lieutenant General

Below the rank of General, the Lieutenant General holds a prominent position within the KDF hierarchy

Lieutenant Generals play a pivotal role in strategic decision-making and are tasked with commanding the army corps, consisting of three army divisions that comprise up to 60,000 soldiers.

Major General

The Major General, as the third-ranking officer with a 2-star rank, commands a division that comprises multiple brigades typically consisting 6,000 soldiers.


A Brigadier holds a rank superior to that of a Colonel but is junior to a Major General. In alignment with the title, a Brigadier commands a brigade, which consists of multiple battalions, with each battalion typically comprised of hundreds of soldiers.


Colonels, though not holding field command positions, occupy the lowest tier among staff ranks. 

They fulfill the role of staff officers, bridging the gap between battalion and brigade-level field commands. 

Colonels also play a pivotal role as senior operational advisors to higher-ranking officers.

Lieutenant Colonel

Lieutenant Colonels, positioned below Colonels, oversee 4 to 5 sub-units, each comprising roughly 600 soldiers. 

It’s worth noting that Lieutenant Colonels have a limited tenure, typically serving in their positions for a duration of two years.

Officers marching during a past national event with arms produced at KOFC



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