KDF deserve better treatment after service to country

By Editorial

After a series of abductions of foreign aid workers and tourists on the border with war-torn Somalia by the Al-Shabaab militia group, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) were called upon to put a halt to this aggression within our borders.

This was the genesis of the operation Linda Nchi that saw the KDF soldiers deployed in Somalia on October 16, 2011 to annihilate the Al-Shabaab threat. Assisted by the Somali army, they were later joined by the Ethiopian forces.

This being Kenya’s first ever military operation, came at a cost both in terms of human life and military equipment.

SEE ALSO :KDF soldier killed, corpse burnt

Needless to say, the economy has been weighed down by the cost of financing the incursion.

In the first 100 days of the operation, Kenyan forces suffered the loss of 15 of their colleagues and by the time the war was peaking, the figure had risen to 27.

There are others who suffered injuries as well. There are those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional problems and sometimes, substance and alcohol abuse.

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The number of the maimed, unable to ever work again is equally high. Army spokesperson, Colonel Cyrus Oguna said the officers “stood between the Al-Shabaab bullet and the Kenyan citizens. We are proud of them.”

Indeed we are, because things have changed for the better in Somalia. It is stable despite the sporadic outbreak of gunfire and detonating bombs and IEDs.

SEE ALSO :KDF soldiers beat up Likoni residents

KDF boots were on the ground where some of the most-trained and well-equipped armies had watched from a distance as terror cells mutated. It was a moment of national pride as the soldiers matched on Kismayu.

Yet a feature story on the lives of soldiers after Operation Linda Nchi in this newspaper today, paints a different picture. There is evidence that there is very little that the Government has done to appreciate the sacrifices of these brave men. Wherever soldiers that fought in Somalia are found, what comes through are tales of neglect and abandonment.

The despondency felt by many of the families that lost their sons, fathers and husbands has not been assuaged by the Government through the token payment of compensation to mitigate the economic hardships that they go through.

The Government has abandoned the officers and their families at their hour of need. Long-term Government support of those who lost their breadwinners in the line of duty like getting the children through schooling is a responsibility the Government should not avoid since soldiers as a matter of policy, don’t get life insurance.

Still, in a rapidly changing world, that policy needs serious rethink.

SEE ALSO :Punish KDF soldiers behind barbaric Likoni rampage

The Government should set up trauma management centres across the country where the injured soldiers can get free psychological and psychiatric treatment for what they went through.

Another option would be to facilitate the setting up of groups where soldiers can occasionally meet to relive their experience as a way of managing stress.

The State should also consider awarding them commendations for their efforts and bravery. Resources should be deployed to ur defence forces and all those who defend us against aggression must be appreciated and taken care of in their times of need to keep the spirit of patriotism and loyalty to the country burning in them. 

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