Family still waiting for body of son killed in El Adde attack

John Muthuri holds his granddaughter Grace Mwende at their home in Karachi, Meru County, on January 5. Mr Muthuri lost his son David Muthuri during the El Adde attack in Somalia on January 15 last year. [Photo: Peter Muthomi/Standard]

It is now one year since Al Shabaab terrorists killed Kenyan soldiers in El Adde, Somalia, but the family of David Gitonga is still waiting for his body.

"I don't want to talk about it because it will only re-open old wounds. I will speak only when I see him. I am still waiting," his mother Alice Muthoni tells The Standard on Sunday.

After the attack, the family thought Gitonga's body had been positively identified and they even dug a grave at his home. But a DNA test revealed a different story and a cleansing ceremony was conducted at the graveside and it was refilled.

This week's visit to Gitonga's home in Ngindune, Tigania West, captured this grief that has refused to heal.

As the interview progressed, it became too emotional and Salesio Rino, Gitonga's father requested that the family be excused from talking about their son, a father of two, "because his mother has not recovered, and she will only cry if the issue is brought up".

Rino also did not wish to comment about whether they were compensated or not, but he said they were still in communication with the government over the issue.

At Muriri in the semi-arid Tigania East, Teresia Mwiti, the widow of Alex Josphat who also died in the attack, said she has not come to terms with the death of her husband. She was left with five children.

Teresia, a primary school teacher, said it has not been easy since her husband died. Three of her children are in boarding school, with the first born now a Form Two student, while the last born is in nursery.

"It has not been easy for us. My parents and in-laws have helped us to cope but it is not the same. My late husband and I met for the first time in 1996 and got married in 2000, he was a responsible person who cared for the family and his country," Teresia said. To help them cope, she said they have been undergoing counselling sessions.

 "They (counsellors) are not through with us," she said a tearfully, as her son clung to her. She said they were still waiting for the government to give them assistance it had promised.

"At first we heard that the government was to give Sh5 million, but later heard that it was the African Union that was going to do something for us. We are still waiting for the government to do something because it has been rough for us," said Teresia.

She said they deserve better given that her husband paid the ultimate price while serving the country.

"My husband sacrificed himself to secure the country. Even Sh5 million is little, considering that the children need an education and other needs. I am overburdened and sometimes rely on my elderly parents to give us food," she said.

Tough as it maybe, Teresia said she hangs on to hope.

A 20-minute drive from Ngundune is Karachi, Tigania East, the home of John Muthuri whose son David Muthuri died in the heinous attack. Born in 1982, David left behind a wife and four children, two in secondary school.

The third born, a girl is in Standard Seven, while the last born, also a girl, is in nursery school.

"I live with three of the children, while my son's widow lives with the first born. We share the responsibility. It has been tough for us and we have to work hard to make ends meet," Muthuri said.

"My son had worked in Somalia for two years. He had previously gone there and come back, but he died on his second call of duty there."

David's sister, Gladys, remembers the events of last year that led to confirmation that her brother was no more.

"We were watching TV when news of the attack in Somalia broke. I called one of my brothers who had also seen it. We called my brother's phone and it was answered by people speaking in a language we thought was Somali and who we assumed were Al Shabaab terrorists," Gladys said.

A long, agonising wait followed and eventually David was confirmed to be one of the casualties.

The family travelled to Nairobi and positively identified the body and brought it back for burial. But compensation has been elusive.

"We were assured that we would be supported. We are still waiting and pursuing it," Muthuri said.

The exact number of soldiers killed in the attack was never disclosed.