The heads of the United Nations and the African Union Commission on Tuesday announced the appointment of Lt-Gen Leonard Muriuki Ngondi as commander of the joint UN-AU force in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Lt-Gen Ngondi currently serves as commandant of Kenya’s National Defence College.
He commanded the Kenyan Army from 2015 to 2016.
The 57-year-old native of Kirinyaga County “has had a distinguished career with the Kenyan Defence Forces, spanning over 39 years”, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
Lt-Gen Ngondi takes charge of a force that includes nearly 20,000 uniformed personnel, with an annual budget of more than $1 billion (Sh104bn).
The UN Security Council voted in June to gradually reduce the force, known as Unamid, by at least 30 per cent beginning next year.
That move reflects the view that the 14-year-long conflict in Darfur has become less intense.
Human rights groups objected to the cutback however, warning that fighting continues in Darfur and that many parts of the region will be left without international observers as the UN-AU force is scaled down.
Lt-Gen Ngondi succeeds Rwandan Lt-Gen Frank Mushyo Kamanzi as Unamid force commander.
This will not be Lt-Gen Ngondi’s first stint as a UN force commander.
He headed the military contingent of the UN Mission in Liberia in 2012 and led the Kenyan battalion assigned to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone in 2000.
A graduate of the Kenyan National Defence College and Defence Staff College, Lt-Gen Ngondi holds a bachelor’s degree in human and social studies from the University of South Africa and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in international studies at the University of Nairobi.
He is married with three children.