Court martial jails four soldiers for life, two others to face fate today

A court martial sitting at Kenya Navy, Mtongwe Base, has sentenced four soldiers to life imprisonment after finding them guilty of deserting duty during wartime, sparking fear and anxiety among 20 others facing the same charge.

On the same line of charges, two military courts will this morning deliver judgement on Egesa Ketole and Gabriel Kiriga who have been in military detention at the base since February facing desertion charges.

According to military sources, Mr Ketole will appear before judge advocate Elizabeth Macharia who is also the Kwale senior principal magistrate while Mr Kiriga will be before judge advocate Joyce Gandani, the Mombasa senior principal magistrate.

A judge advocate guides the court martial judges (military) with the proceedings as per the law.

The conviction brings to five the number of former servicemen and officers who left the military in 2007 and 2008 to work for US security firms in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.

The military detained them early this year when they formally reported at the base to collect terminal documents.

They claim to have been tricked into the hands of their jailers and argue they had lawfully resigned from the Force. The military, however, claims they deserted the force in wartime.

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 The public and media are barred from the three trials.

guilty as charged

According to their lawyer Michael Mwanyale, Leonard Kitombe, Moses Simiyu Nyongesa, John Mutua and Samuel Malombe were sentenced to life imprisonment after the court martial, chaired by judge advocate Elizabeth Usui assisted by a panel of soldiers found them guilty of desertion.

A source at the court said after Ms Usui summed up the prosecution evidence, she asked the panel to determine if the charges had been 'proven beyond any reasonable doubt', to which the panel answered; "the cases have been proved as charged," and the sentenced was passed.

Yesterday Mwanyale told The Standard that his clients will appeal against the sentences saying their fundamental rights have been infringed.

The four have been booked at Shimo la Tewa prison where they are to serve their sentences.
The Court Martial verdict has sent a chilling message to the soldiers in service over how serious an offence it is to desert the military.

The conviction comes barely two months after a senior officer Lieutenant Jeffery Pepela was sentenced to life imprisonment by another court martial presided over by judge advocate Joyce Gandani.

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