As his peers graduated in the passing out parade of cadets at the Kenya Military Academy in Lanet, Nakuru County, last month, Cadet Officer Roy Munene was missing.
His mother Mary Amatu would have wanted to celebrate her son’s graduation on November 30 but instead, she spent the day in a meeting with the officer in charge of the search team tasked with finding the missing officer.
Mr Munene, 25, disappeared on September 24, when the soldiers went to train on Mt Kenya as their programme, which began in 2014, drew to a close.
His mother has been to the Department of Defence headquarters and the Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki over the past two and a half months to inquire about his whereabouts.
Ms Amatu recalled that the last time she spoke to Munene, he told her about the training they would be attending on Mt Kenya the next day.
“This was his last training before graduation. That was on September 23, and he said he was not allowed to carry his phone during the training that lasted more than a month,” she said.
Four days later she received a call from a man who identified himself as a military officer. He asked whether Munene had come back home.
“He said my son had been missing for three days and they were looking for him. This puzzled me and I wondered why it would take them days to begin the search,” said Amatu.
The officer also told her that Munene had disappeared without his uniform or gun.
Amatu does not understand why Munene, who had trained for two years, would want to run away when he had so much to look forward to as he was about to graduate.
Amatu and her son had seen each other briefly at the Forces Memorial Hospital in August, when he was treated for an injured back and a broken arm. She said the injuries were sustained during training.
“My son has been through so much - he has broken bones from the training and now I have to contend with the fact that he is missing,” she said.
According to Amatu, Munene had told her how he was injured and said the training had taken a toll on him. But he had promised to soldier on and finish the training.
“He was sending money back home and was also more than ready to start helping with his sisters’ school fees. I had placed all my hopes in this boy since his father died in 2012.”
According to Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesman David Obonyo, the cadet officer went missing while training on Mt Kenya on September 24.
“Search teams were deployed in the area and have been there ever since. The family was informed by defence headquarters of the occurrence and have been kept abreast ever since, the latest being last week, when a senior KDF officer in charge of the search gave a briefing on the developments,” said Col Obonyo.
He also assured the family that the search was ongoing and that KDF was doing everything possible to resolve the matter. Meanwhile, Amatu worries that each day that passes makes it harder to find him. She asked that the military would not punish him for being absent without official leave, which would help in the search.
“Maybe he is out there and fears that he will be branded a deserter. I think they need to exhaust every measure,” she said.