Fatumah Gaiti Ahmed: Kenya Gets Its First Woman Air Force Commander

Major General Fatumah Gaiti Ahmed is Kenya's first woman to become an air force commander. Interestingly, her career in the Kenyan Defence Forces started by 'chance'. The trailblazing leader has several firsts to her name.

Tanya Savkoor
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Image: Kenya Defence Forces

Major General Fatumah Gaiti Ahmed made history on May 2, becoming Kenya's first woman to be appointed as an Air Force commander. Interestingly, her career in the Kenyan Defence Forces started by 'chance', when she applied to try her luck in 1983. After her appointment to the military, she helmed several crucial roles throughout her career, demonstrating unparalleled dedication and capability. In a groundbreaking move, President William Ruto appointed Ahmed as the first woman to head the Air Force. The trailblazing leader has several firsts to her name.


Maj Gen Ahmed was appointed alongside other leaders, including General Charles Kahariri to head the armed forces. The position remained vacant after the death of the military chief and others in a helicopter crash in March. 

Who Is Fatumah Gaiti Ahmed?

Born in 1965, Ahmed completed her education at Aga Khan High School in Nairobi. After her graduation in 1983, she had gone to collect her identity card when she stumbled upon a recruitment advertisement by the Kenyan Defence Forces.

Considering she was unsure about what career to pursue, Ahmed took a chance and tried her luck in the military. To her surprise, she was selected and soon became an indispensable part of the force. Speaking to the African news outlet Nation in 2015, Ahmed expressed, "It was just an opportunity that presented itself and I decided to go for it." Ahmed entered the Kenya Military Academy as an officer cadet in 1984.

After her training, she was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Kenyan Women's Service Corps. All women joining the military were immediately recruited to this Corps, which was reportedly set up to provide support services to male officers.

"It was conceptualised that the men would be free to go and fight at the front and we would remain at the rear to man the establishment," Ahmed told Nation. The women were appointed as clerks, secretaries, or nurses.


In 1999, the Women's Corps was dissolved and Ahmed was transferred to the Kenyan Air Force. Moreover, the armed forces removed arbitrary rules that restricted military women from getting married or having children. "I established a family after the dissolution of the Women's Service Corps," the mother of three told Nation. "You know what priorities to set. Our personal engagements and interests are second to the military so when duty calls, they know."

During her career, she went on to pursue a degree from the National Defence College and the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies as well as a diploma in management from Strathmore University.

Ahmed later served as deputy commander of a battalion and then became the head of personnel at the Kenyan Air Force headquarters. In 2015, she became the first woman to be elevated to the rank of Brigadier. Ahmed was also appointed managing director of the Defense Forces Medical Insurance Scheme. Then in 2018, she became the first female major general of Kenya, and now she is the first woman Air Force Commander.

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