National Defence University’s role in shaping Kenya’s strategic leadership assets

The newly inaugurated National Defence University marks an important milestone

In Summary

•Strategic leadership entails the process of taking deliberate measures to promote national interests.

•Creating strategic leaders helps a country define and advance its interests more effectively.

The Kenya Defence Forces’ National Defence College.
The Kenya Defence Forces’ National Defence College.
Image: FILE

States invest in strategic leadership at policy and institutional levels as part of their political, economic, social and security goals. For Kenya to continue to exert and expand her influence in Africa and beyond, and achieve national development objectives, there is need to strengthen our strategic leadership capacity.  

Basically, strategic leadership entails the process of taking deliberate measures to promote national interests. Creating strategic leaders helps a country define and advance its interests more effectively when engaging with other nations.

From an economic perspective, this will be pronounced through increased trade and investment flows. From a security angle, it means a more secure nation capable of dealing decisively with internal and external threats. Politically, its voice will be more articulate on international issues of concern to her people.

The newly inaugurated National Defence University – Kenya (NDU-K), marks an important milestone not just from a military or security perspective, but also in terms of developing the strategic leadership assets the country needs to advance its national and international agenda.

When granting the institution’s charter in May, President Kenyatta said that apart from broad matters of national security and defence, the National Defence University will also help develop “a critical mass of strategic level administrators and policy makers within the Government of Kenya, Africa and beyond.”

This broad mandate of training “strategic leaders” makes it a vital national institution in terms of advancing Kenya’s interests at regional, continental and global levels.

I see NDU-K’s role at two crucial levels. First is to develop a cadre of strategic leaders to sharpen Kenya’s national development, security, defence and foreign policies in the 21st Century. These are people who bring highly innovative thinking infused with rich administrative and policy experience in solving modern day challenges.

The University should strive to develop strategic leaders from among individuals with military and civilian backgrounds, possessed of a sound grasp of Kenya’s present and future strategic interests, and are therefore capable of crafting innovative strategies to articulate and prosecute the same on the local and global fronts.

With Kenya pursuing an increasingly visible geopolitical and foreign policy posture, there will be an even greater need for diplomats guided by a doctrine of strategic leadership, whose main focus will be to position and defend the country robustly in the context of rapidly evolving global political dynamics where national interests and alliances keep shifting.   

Secondly, NDU-K is well-placed to play an instrumental role in managing the interplay between security and development. Security is an enabler of national development. There can be no sustainable development without security. Hence the need to integrate security and development in national policies. Therefore, NDU-K should prioritize programs that strengthen contemporary approaches emphasizing human security as a core pillar of national security.

The UN Commission on Human Security defines human security as “creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.”

This holistic approach requires a strategic mindset that balances security needs of individuals and communities with the human need for economic and social fulfilment. For instance, national government administrators, whose daily job involves handling security and development matters at the local level, need specialized training to equip them with strategic skills to play this dual role more effectively.  

This approach works well, as an example, when tackling insecurity in areas that are marginalized or lagging in development, as it addresses social and economic grievances that fuel violence and instability, such as lack of access to resources.

By tying security to development, administrators and policymakers are able to develop sustainable solutions to community problems, thus achieving long-term peace especially in conflict-prone areas.

In a nutshell, NDU-K is uniquely placed to re-define our approach to issues of critical national interest through developing the right strategic leadership assets.

Mr. Murumba is CEO, Impulso Kenya Limited.  [email protected]