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Major General Fatuma Ahmed: Kenya’s first female air force commander

Image source, Kenya Defense Forces/X

Screenshot, Major General Fatuma Ahmed has had other firsts

  • Author, Basillioh Rukanga
  • Role, BBC News, Nairobi

Kenyan President William Ruto appointed the first female air force commander.

Major General Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed becomes the first woman in Kenyan history to head one of the military services.

She was appointed along with other leaders, including a new head of the armed forces, following the death of the military chief and others in a helicopter crash last month.

General Charles Kahariri was promoted to fill the vacant position.

Major General Ahmed has previously held other firsts in the male-dominated military leadership: she was the first woman to rise to the rank of brigadier and major general.

She joined the military in 1983, serving in the Women’s Service Corps, an all-female outfit that operated as a separate entity from the other branches of the defense forces.

They were an auxiliary service that offered support functions such as administrative, logistical, medical and communications tasks.

The unit was disbanded in 1999 and only then were its members allowed to join the major military services: the navy, air force and army.

Co-opting the unit provided more opportunities for women to participate in military duties and also allowed women like Major General Ahmed to rise through the ranks.

Her promotion has been seen as an achievement in promoting gender equality in the armed forces.

In 2018, when she was promoted to major general, then-President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was counting on her “to be a positive role model for the women of this country.”

“Show them that there are no limits for women,” the president said.

Major General Ahmed has previously said that he was inspired to join the army by an uncle who was in the army, admiring his discipline and hard work which “shaped my life from a very early stage”.

She said some members of her family discouraged her from joining the forces: “they said ‘that’s not a profession for women,'” she told Citizen TV in 2018.

“But I was determined to make a difference in my life,” she said.

Image source, Getty Images/BBC