The pain of last year’s Al-Shaabab attack at El-Adde in Somalia returned to haunt a family in Western after their son, long perceived dead in the deadly assault, resurfaced on an online video.
The family of Snr Private Alfred Ndanyi Kilasi were Friday heartbroken but hopeful after they saw the face of their emaciated son, who had been taken hostage during the attack that left more than 100 of his colleagues killed, pleading for help.
They had given up and were planning traditional rituals performed for people who disappear without trace.
Miracles still happen
Friday, his relatives and neighbours at Vigina village in Majengo, Vihiga County went down on their knees to pray after learning he was still alive.
In the brief video, Kilasi is dressed in the Kenya Defence Forces combat uniform and looking shaken and tired.
“Please, Mr President and the Kenyan people, kindly try all you can to get out of this place. I have been in captivity since January 15, 2016 when our camp was overran at El-Adde,” he says in the video posted by Al-Shaabab and labelled El-Adde Prisoners of War.
He went on: “I am pleading for help from the people of Kenya. Kindly listen to our cries.”
The soldiers’ wife Jackline Anindo, a small scale trader, is clearly shaken by this twist of events.
“I am dying with anxiety because I am not sure whether or not they will release him unharmed. We trust in God that all will be well,” she said.
She said her children aged between three and nine have never stopped asking about their father.
“I spoke to him on January 14, a day to the attack. He told me they were fine and promised to come home soon,” said Jackline.
‘We miss you daddy’
In the video, preceded by a short Islamic prayer, Kilasi, says he was born in 1987 and joined the Kenya Defence Forces in 2010 at the 9th Riffles battalion at the Moi barracks Eldoret.
At one point, Kilasi appears to break down: “Please countrymen, we are suffering in Somalia. Where are our leaders? Where are you Kenyans, we are suffering.”
It was not immediately clear whether his use of the word “We” meant that there were other Kenyan prisoners of war also being held by the terror group.
He added: “This is an election year. Please try and rescue us so that we can join our families. We have been going through stress. We are pleading with our President. Please do something.”
Kilasi’s father, a retired university lecturer and civil servant Dr Epainitus Fundi Kilasi, 84, his wife Nifreda 76, and the soldier’s wife, broke down and wept when they first saw the video.
The family had long given up on ever seeing Kilasi alive.
When they failed to find the body of their son at the Forces Memorial Hospital and the mortuary soon after the attack, they lost hope.
They knew he had been burnt to ashes or buried in the many shallow graves in the war torn jungle.
“I even went to the Forces Memorial hospital to give my blood sample for a DNA test to help identify my son’s body. But they found nothing,” said Dr KIlasi.
Dr Kilasi who has been ailing for the past one year, told the Saturday Standard that although the video shocked him, it renewed his strength and faith in God.
“I have been bedridden ever since the El-Adde attack. I have gone through hell. I have been bedridden but today, I found the strength to walk and pray,” said the retired don.
He added: “I am sending a special appeal to the Commander of the Kenya Defence Forces, President Uhuru Kenyatta to help rescue my son from Al-Shaabab”.
He asked the President to order the release of Al-Shaabab militants being held in Kenyan jails if that could appease the terror group to release his son.
“In Nigeria, President Muhammad Buhari released Boko Haram militants in exchange with the freedom of more than 80 school girls who had been in captivity. Let us do the same for the sake of my son,” he said.
Dr Kilasi said last year, he wrote to President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, the Chief of the Defence Forces, Samson Mwathethe about his son but has not received any response.
Villagers flocked Dr Kilasi’s home soon after hearing news that his son was still alive.
Ministry of Defence spokesman, Bogita Ongeri said they were aware of the video and Kilasi’s appeals.
“We are consulting before issuing a statement,” said Ongeri.