Fatuma Ahmed makes history to become first woman brigadier in Kenya Defence Forces

Fatuma Ahmed, the first woman brigadier of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF)
Fatuma Ahmed, the first woman brigadier of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF)

On October 31, 2000 when the landmark United Nations Security Resolution 1325 was passed, it indicated the importance of having more women appointed to positions of decision making in relation to peace and security.

The Security Resolution 1325 stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all peace and security efforts

It’s against this background that more and more women are being appointed to positions of decision making within national defence forces.

The latest women to benefit from this is Fatuma Ahmed who has been appointed the first woman brigadier of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the advice of the Defence Council chaired by Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, who is also Cabinet Secretary for Defence.

Ahmed has served for 32 years and was the first woman to be appointed to the high level rank in Kenya’s military. She will also take over as the managing director of the Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme.

Ahmed enlisted in Kenya Defence Force in 1983 and served under the women service corps until the unit was integrated into the main military structure.

“Notable achievements in her 32 years of serving include Battalion Second Command, staff auditor and personnel records, staff officer 1, personnel and administration, colonel personnel at the Kenya Air Force headquarters and managing director of the Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme,” says a statement from Kenya Defence Forces.

Even before the changes were made public, Ahmed was still the highest ranking female officer in the Defence Forces as a Colonel and was in charge of personnel at the Kenya Air Force headquarters.

These changes are the first under the leadership of Kenya’s Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe.

Journey

Ahmed is a graduate of the National Defence College and the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies. She also holds a Diploma from Catholic University.

Ahmed was commissioned as the second lieutenant in 1985 and posted to the Air Force. Her new appointment means she is in the line of succession as Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and may make it to the top.

As a Muslim and an ethnic Somali, her rise in KDF demonstrates that there are no barriers on the basis of gender, origin and religion in the Kenyan military.

A press release by National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) stated: “By appointing Brigadier Fatuma Ahmed, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta has yet again demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the promotion of gender equality and inclusion of men, women and marginalized groups and communities in the management of our community affairs.”

Challenge

NGEC also urged other institutions to draw inspiration from Brigadier Fatuma’s appointment and ensure they bring on board women to serve in key decision making organs.

In the 14th Anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 that urges consultation of women, women from the security sector were able to gather and discuss their issues with a view to improve their participation and contribution in security matters and share their perspectives, challenges, and recommendations to the Government of Kenya representatives, led by the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Ambassador Raychelle Omamo.

Ambassador Omamo in a newsletter released by the UN women in January 2015 about the Kenya Open Day 2014 — Partnerships for peace — implementation of UNSCR 1325 said: “This is the time to take off! The Ministry of Defence and I, a woman in this government, are here to support you all. Therefore, let us come up with concrete ideas and be solution oriented to the issues we face as women in the security sector.”

This were not just words as Kenya has witnessed this words come to action.

The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya also applauded President Uhuru for appointing Ahmed. “The appointment is a bold and great step towards promoting women’s leadership in Kenya,” said Christine Ochieng Executive Director FIDA Kenya in a statement. “FIDA Kenya applauds the President for making history not only in Kenya’s military but also in women’s leadership. This is a tacit acknowledgment of the President’s belief that women are able and capable.”

Ahmed in a recent interview with the media said that her brother pleaded with her not to join the military on the basis of her gender and religion. “My brother pleaded with me not to join the military but upon my appointment as the first woman brigadier, they were all delighted and are happy for me.”

She attributed her success to being loyal, patriotic to the country, commitment, focus and above all humility and servant leadership.