John Malan Sawe: Top soldier who helped to quash 1982 coup attempt

Lieutenant-General (rtd) John Malan Sawe.

Lieutenant-General (rtd) John Malan Sawe, then commander of the Kenya Air Force, mobilised loyalist forces to contain the uprising.  His decisive and swift action, alongside support from key military and government officials, helped contain the coup within hours.

He successful worked to counter the coup attempt that had been organised by Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka.

Kenya Army

Born on November 26, 1943, at Elgoyo Marakwet, he served in influential leadership positions within the Kenya Army from 1986 to 2000 when he retired.

He served as the Chief of General Staff, which is the highest ranking position in KDF, from 1993 to 2000.

Malan is credited for serving the country selflessly and with a lot of dedication. 

Besides, he played a notable role in shaping the operations and structure of the Kenyan Army during his time. Particularly, he oversaw the structural alignment and operational readiness of the Kenyan military forces.

His leadership was pivotal in professionalising the Kenyan military. He was widely admired for his commitment, discipline and integrity to service.

Peacekeeping missions

Under Malan’s leadership, the military engaged in international peacekeeping missions, contributing to security and stability efforts across the African continent.

After his retirement from the military, the then President Daniel Moi appointed him as  Kenya’s ambassador to Israel. This made him the first Kenyan ambassador to the Jewish nation. He served for two years before he was moved to Canada as a high commissioner. He held this position for two years before he officially retired from public service. 

Malan passed away on July 15, 2016.


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