The ultimate measure of a soldier is to stand firm when it counts most. And no moment can count more than when a man in uniform pays the ultimate price and defends the realm with his life. With guts. With honour. With glory. For the flag. For the republic. For freedom. For peace.
They left the comfort of their homes and the love of family for the hardship of the barracks. They bade farewell to their loved ones, hoping that it would only be a matter of time before they come back home to those for whom their hearts beat.
Instead of a familiar knock on the door, wives have been left with an unfamiliar loneliness; their dreams shattered forever. Sons have within them an incomprehensible longing for fathers whose absence can only be explained by an eternal memorial of brass boots, a rifle and a helmet located at Moi Barracks Eldoret. On it, brass strips with names of the departed. A fitting statue for our gallant soldiers.
This was not in the script when, oozing patriotism, different companies within the Kenya Defence Forces took oath to serve and protect so that you and I can live free. It was a dangerous, yet necessary choice, which they made on behalf of the rest of the nation. Their mission? To keep Kenya safe by stabilising Somalia.
And then El Adde happened. Exactly one month ago tomorrow morning.
To the generals, the bloody January 15, 2016 attack was a setback in the push to stabilise Somalia; a push to secure Kenya. To the families of the fallen, the day is synonymous with death. To Kenyans it is everything between grief and fear. The civilised world grieves with Kenya.
A month later, tears continue to flow. The pain of losing a loved one bites deeper. Families across the country continue to nurse and endure anguish. Those who received bodies of their kin watch as the flowers on the fresh graves wither. Those who don’t know the fate of their kin watch from a distance; in fear that it might just be a matter of time before a military truck carrying a flag-draped casket pulls up in the compound, bringing a kin to rest.
Yet within others, hope runs supreme; always looking out for that hint of good news. Always on speed dial hoping for a familiar voice at the other side of the line. Hoping that their loved ones survived the attack and for over a month they have been somewhere safe away from the murderous claws of terrorists.
Long after the politicians and government officials made their speeches; long after they retreated behind walled and gated compounds; long after friends moved on, these families continue to cling on fading hope amid a sea of despair; they continue to grieve and mourn, nursing unimaginable anguish.
The secrecy and red-tape in the military has made it difficult to get the full details of the troops who died that fateful day. Kenyans, even with the progressive Constitution that emphasises transparency, still do not know how many soldiers died in that dawn raid. We may never know.
But one thing is for sure; the soldiers who died, those who were maimed and those whose fate we may never know … they all paid the price for our collective safety.
“The soldiers affected by the attack are a company size force,” Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said in the aftermath of the attack. She did not give further details. In the military, a company is a unit, typically consisting of between 80 and 250 soldiers and usually commanded by a major or a captain.
But, the lack of details did not stop The Standard on Sunday from attending burials countrywide – from Mombasa to Baringo, from Homa Bay to Siaya, from Kakamega to Nandi, from Kajiado to Narok. Our team of journalists has mourned with grieving families, and painfully put together a list of the Kenyan heroes who died defending the country’s sovereignty or those still missing a month after the attack.
As we mourn, the nation remains unbowed and thankful for that ultimate sacrifice the soldiers gave for our freedom, for our security, for our safety. For them we have nothing but gratitude. And on this day of love, all we wish for is that their memories forever stay with us.
Families and relatives who are yet to find their kin are encouraged to share the details with us for the next special edition.
Compiled by Daniel Wesangula, Alphonce Shiundu , Alex Wakhisi, Silah Koskei, Michael Olinga, David Ochami, James Omoro, Isaiah Gwengi, Steve Mkawale, Vincent Mabatuk, Joseph Kipsang’, Peterson Githaiga, Boniface Gikandi and Frank Ngige
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