Winnie Adipo, a Kenyan woman currently serving in the US Air Force at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, recently opened up about her past experiences attempting to join the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). In a candid interview published on Tuesday, July 18, Adipo shared that she faced numerous setbacks in her pursuit of joining the KDF due to rampant nepotism within the institution.
Despite her unwavering determination, Adipo was rejected on four separate occasions. She revealed that unemployment rates were alarmingly high in the country, and military recruiters often favored their relatives or individuals willing to offer substantial bribes.
During her fourth attempt, Adipo was asked to pay a bribe that exceeded her means. Coming from a humble background with a father who worked as a high school agricultural teacher and a mother who served as a nurse, she simply could not afford to comply. Regrettably, this marked the end of her dream.
Adipo expressed that this unsuccessful endeavor dealt a heavy blow to her longstanding aspiration of serving her country. From a young age, she had attended the annual military fair in Mombasa multiple times, gaining a deep understanding of the significance of military service and developing a strong desire to join.
However, in 2016, Adipo’s dream finally materialized when she was recruited by the United States Air Force. Nonetheless, her journey to success was not without its challenges.
In 2015, she received an email approving her admission to the US Diversity Visa Program. Following this, she traveled to Tacoma, Washington in October of the same year. After months of struggling to gather the necessary documents, Adipo fortuitously struck up a conversation with a driver who was taking her for routine social security applications. This driver happened to have connections to a military recruiter, which ultimately facilitated her recruitment process.
She joined the US Air Force as a health service management specialist in the medical wing and gradually worked her way up to the position of staff sergeant.
The issue of bribery during the recruitment process is not limited to the KDF. The annual recruitment of National Police Service (NPS) officers in Kenya is also plagued by allegations of corruption. There have been reports of senior military officials demanding bribes ranging from Ksh200,000 to Ksh400,000 for cadet positions.
In March 2021, the KDF faced scrutiny over allegations of widespread bribery during that year’s recruitment drive. The Vice Chief of the Defence Forces at the time, Levi Mghalu, and the former Defence Principal Secretary, Ibrahim Mohammed, were called to appear before a Parliamentary Committee to address these allegations.
However, in July 2021, the Defence Cabinet Secretary at the time, Monica Juma, dismissed the bribery claims, asserting that they were merely propagated by individuals who had been unsuccessful in securing recruitment during the drive.