Dark clouds hang heavily over Gilgil Garrison.
Desperate relatives and friends of soldiers killed, injured or held captive when Al Shabaab militants launched a gun attack on their military base in Somalia thronged the facility in search of elusive answers on what actually transpired on the fateful day.
The anxious relatives were received by a team of more than 10 military personnel who had pitched tent inside the heavily guarded main gate along the Nyahururu-Gilgil road.
Visitors were thoroughly frisked before being allowed to proceed.
Fillister Odhiambo recounts, amid sobs, the numerous attempts to reach her husband of three years without success since the sad news broke out last Friday.
The mother of two was among several relatives who gave out details of their missing kin, their employment services numbers, national identification numbers and next of kin details, including telephones numbers.
“They instructed us to return home and patiently wait for further communication. It is true everybody wants to know the fate of our kin but we are under instructions not to reveal anything. His phone has been off network since Saturday. I am optimistic my sweetheart will call back because I believe he is alive and hiding somewhere within the destroyed camped,” she said.
However, Ms Odhiambo complained that the Government had taken too long to issue an official communication on the fate of the soldiers and the exact number that perished during the morning attack.
“It is four days now. My children are anxious and demanding to know the whereabouts of their father. Every news hour I am forced to switch off television because I am tired of lying to them,” she said.
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Lucy Nyambura from Naivasha said efforts to trace her brother had yielded no fruit and appealed to the State to speed up the process of recovery and save families of those affected the agony.
She said her brother left for Somalia on January 1 but was not sure on the exact day they arrived in Somalia or the camp he was attached to.
“His parents went to War Memorial in Nairobi on Sunday but they were only requested to give their telephone numbers. But we have surrendered to the Government to do whatever possible to trace him,” she said.
Ms Nyambura’s sentiments were shared by Francis Nyangau, who said his brother was moved from Gilgil to Eldoret a month ago and finally to Somalia to fight Al Shabaab.
“We are in the dark. My brother’s phone is not going through and the Government is not giving us any information that can comfort us. This suspense is not good,” said Mr Nyangau.
Yesterday, when The Standard visited Koguta village in Mbita sub-county, the family of a 26-year-old soldier based in the ill-fated Kenya Defence Forces base in Somalia said they could not reach him.
His elder brother, William Oguta, said the last time the soldier talked to the family was last Wednesday.
“I talked to him and we discussed how we could take one of our mothers for specialised treatment.
“From Sunday, his mobile phone went off and has never been picked. We have also tried to liaise with his colleagues in the service but nobody knows where he is,” said Mr Oguta.
His eldest brother, Kennedy Oguta, appealed to the Government to help them find their brother.
At Lwanda village in Kasgunga Ward, the family of 20-year-old Michael Owino is worried over their son who has gone missing in Somalia.
His father, Thomas Ojuang’, said Mr Owino went to Somalia three weeks ago.Mr Ojwang’ says they have had sleepless nights since communication between him and his son failed for the last four days.
“I communicated with him on Thursday and he assured me he was fine. We again made several attempts to call him since Friday but his phone is switched off. We have tried to get information from our relatives and friends in the service but we have not succeeded,” said a distraught Ojwang’.
Owino’s mother, Ascar Adhiambo, vividly recalls how she received a message about her son’s deployment to Somalia.
“He called and sought my opinion about going to Somalia. We told him to accept the assignment and serve Kenya well. The only thing I told him to do is to communicate with us regularly and he has been doing so till the ongoing situation,” said Ms Adhiambo.
At Moi Barracks, a few kilometres from Eldoret town, families of soldiers visited the barracks to find out the fate of their loved ones.
“When we got in they told us to leave our details behind so that they can get back to us with further information,” said a middle-aged man whose son was in Somalia at the camp that was attacked by Al Shabaab militia on Friday.
A woman who said her husband was at the ill-fated camp broke down when she was interviewed by The Standard at Kamagut centre after she had come from the barracks.
“They are not helping the situation. They have just told me to leave my contacts and they will communicate. I am sad, I don’t know if my husband is dead or still alive,” said the woman who requested anonymity.
“They should notify us without delay whether they are alive or dead. We will appreciate knowing their fate rather than leaving us in limbo,” said Samson Sirikwa, the father of a 22-year-old KDF soldier who was at El Ade-based camp.
“I have always been in communication with my son, but the last time I spoke to him was at 3pm on January 14 when he was inquiring about the progress of his house project. His phone has gone off since the attack,” he added.
Emmy Mohamed said the last time she talked with her husband, when he told her they had been deployed to Garisaa and later to El Ade in Somalia.
“We have been trying to call him since Friday when the news of the attack broke but his phone has been off.
“We have been told the officers were either killed, missing or injured and some have been evacuated to Nairobi but we do not know of his whereabouts,” ,” said Ms Mohamed.