Former Kenya Defence Force officer Jacob Ng’etich has taken up the role of a water vendor in Kericho County after he was dismissed from service. The dismissal was issued to Ng’etich by KDF upon his return from representing the military in athletics.
Having dedicated 14 years to military service, Ng’etich now begins his day at dawn, traveling to a local stream 5km from the Sigowet trading centre, which is situated within the Soin/Sigowet constituency.
Ng’etich relies on an old motorcycle, a generous gift from a friend, to transport the water. He sells 20-litre jerry cans of water to the town’s residents, charging Sh15 for each.
Little do they know that their cherished water vendor is more than just a hardworking hustler; he’s a former soldier who, under normal circumstances, would have been defending the nation against internal and external threats.
“I transport eight jerry cans of water per trip, which earns me Sh250. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to support my family of seven children,” Ng’etich said.
The former soldier began his military journey as a serviceman on May 4, 1990, only to face dismissal on August 8, 2004.
Ngetich expressed his dismay that his military background has become a burden, as potential employers often hesitate to hire him once they discover his past.
“I once secured a job as a watchman, but the moment the building owner learned of my former military status, he dismissed me without explanation,” he says.
10th Engineering Battalion
Before his dismissal, on November 17, 1990, he had been assigned to the 10th Engineering Battalion in Nanyuki, where he further honed his combat engineering skills, achieving a Class One certification as a mines and explosive disposal expert.
Ng’etich, also a paratrooper, explains that his athletic pursuits became the catalyst for his army troubles.
“In 1999, I was granted permission to participate in various athletic camps. I joined one in Kapsabet county and later took part in the Kampala International Marathon, representing the armed forces and securing a sixth place,” he said.
Upon his return to the 10th Engineering Battalion in Nanyuki, Ng’etich was informed that he had been marked as absent from work and subsequently confined to the guard room. The following day, he faced a dismissal, despite his efforts to defend himself.
After dedicating 14 years and 70 days to his country, Ng’etich, born in Kaplamai location in Trans Nzoia county in 1969, left the army with only the clothes on his back.
He received no payment for his work benefits, leaving him in distress.
“I broke the news to my wife about my dismissal from the army, and she fell ill due to stress. The termination of my service has become a sentence of hardship for my family and me. I did not deserve this fate,” he said.
Ng’etich’s dream of rejoining the army has led him to participate in cadet recruitment exercises over the years, hoping the military would reconsider his plight.
“However, each time recruitment officers spot the word ‘dismissed’ on my Kenya Armed Forces Certificate of Service, they turn me away. Yet, I had devoted my heart and soul to serving in the army,” he said.
Ng’etich questioned the rationale behind the military investing considerable resources in his training, only to dismiss him unfairly.
In his Kenya Armed Forces Certificate of Service, Ng’etich’s conduct is described as fair. It states, “Throughout his employment, Sapper Jacob Kemeli Ngetich was hardworking, though he was dismissed from service. He is recommended for employment by any willing employer.”
However, during the interview, Ng’etich said this recommendation had not translated into practical opportunities, despite his commitment to upholding law and order.
He argued that while he possesses the skills to handle a gun and other military expertise, he has not engaged in any criminal activities for the sake of his family.
With tears in his eyes, Ng’etich appealed to President William Ruto, the commander in chief of the armed forces, to rescue him.
“Prominent Kenyans, especially politicians who were denied justice and their rights by the former regime, now enjoy their freedom. I implore the president to consider the plea of a former soldier like me.”