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Lessons learnt as country celebrates fallen KDF heroes' sacrifice

By INVESTIGATIONS DESK | January 16th 2017
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) . (Photo: Courtesy)

Why reported intelligence about an impeding attack was not acted upon is among the burning questions a year since the attack on a Kenya military camp in Somalia.

Yesterday marked one year since gallant soldiers from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) paid with their life to defend the country at El Adde.

The January 15 attack saw at least 210 men killed, badly wounded or go missing.

As the country marks one year since the KDF soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice, there are some lessons that must have been learnt.

The need for accurate and actionable intelligence reports remains one of the biggest assets the country must perfect to protect its men from Al Shabaab. It is still unclear what exactly Major Geoffrey Obwoge, the commanding office at El Adde knew or and didn't about the impeding attack that cost him and his men their lives.

This would help establish whether or not indeed the men had been forewarned or were victims of betrayal in enemy land.

Survivors and families of victims are also wondering why if information was shared, as claimed, it was not swiftly acted upon.

"We really hope we can get answers on this. Why he decided to keep so calm. Was he protecting us or was he not aware of the intelligence?" a survivor said.

There are also multiple lessons on how troops rehearse coordination points, defensive positions, and procedures to adopt in case of attack.

This was after it emerged there might have been a major breakdown in defensive procedures that reportedly saw as many as 20 KDF troops escape the base in two trucks early on in the battle.

Securing communication networks is also an important lesson.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) may not have put in place solid back-up to deal with the communication challenge after Al Shabaab attacked and destroyed the local Hormuud telecommunications tower. This cut communication, weakening their defence position.

The best practice in the military suggests any communication towers beyond the control of the base must be considered expendable and not relied on.

A report by the International Peace Institute says that the destruction of this tower would not have been a problem if Amisom had had a secure military communications system, but it did not.

The other lesson is the need for solid relations between KDF and the Somali National Army (SNA) as well as the local population.

This is after it emerged that SNA soldiers based at El Adde took off way before the attack happened instead of standing to fight along their Amisom colleagues.


The need to have liaison personnel embedded in each other's camps or another forum to allow them share intelligence accurately are necessary to eliminate suspicion that KDF can be betrayed by the people they are helping.

Al Shabaab attackers knew exactly when to attack, picking rotations and they must have received this information to be able to plan and execute the attack from someone who knew what was happening in the El Adde camp.

To be able to carry out the attack, Al Shabaab must have somehow conducted a reconnaissance survey and surveillance of the El Adde base during their planning of the attack.

It is not clear whether the attack was ever detected and if so, how Amisom planned to handle it.

It is still not clear just how big the attacking Al Shabaab force was to help determine if the gallant KDF soldiers were overrun because they were heavily outnumbered.

The biggest challenge for the military is how to deal with families of soldiers who have not been accounted-for.

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