By Vitalis Kimutai
When Kenya Army Senior Sergeant Alfred Cheruiyot Ngetich bid farewell to his family after burying his mother seven years ago, all looked fine for him.
However, weeks later, they realised that there was a strange twist to their farewell. It was the last time they were to see him in many years to come.
It was in June 2005 when Ngetich travelled to Gilgil barracks where he was based before proceeding to Kapenguria to join his colleagues who were on assignment.But despite having been seen off by two soldiers in Nakuru as he boarded a bus to the North Rift region, it is claimed that he did not report on duty as expected. Besides, his colleagues say he has never been to any military camp since then and has not communicated with fellow millitary officers or his seniors.
“We escorted him to the Nakuru bus stage and he boarded an Eldoret Express bus destined for Kapenguria where his colleagues in the second brigade (5KA) unit under the Western Command had camped,” an officer who escorted him revealed.
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He said the missing soldier was in good spirits on the day of departure and that they were shocked to later learn that he did not re-join his colleagues.Ngetich, who was attached to the Gilgil Regional Hospital, a military facility, is said to have been due to be garlanded as a Warrant Officer II, a promotion he had clinched a few days earlier.
Ngetich was employed in 2000 and was married to Agnes Jepkorir Koskey from Kambi ya Moto, Baringo County with whom he had two daughters.
Ngetich attended Tenwek Primary School where he sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 1987 before joining Tenwek High School for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 1991.After high school he enrolled at School of Nursing at Tenwek Mission Hospital in 1994 where he obtained a Diploma (Kenya Registered Community Health Nurse). He served at the hospital for some time before being enlisted in the military as a specialist.
Ngetich, said to be a man of very few words, is the eighth born child of Mzee Taita Mitei and the late Ruth Mitei of Chebunge village, Bomet Central Division, Bomet County.
“Despite numerous inquiries, no information has been forthcoming from the military. We have searched for him in various parts of the country where he was said to have been seen, but all in vain,” Mitei says.
Mitei says he learnt of his son’s mysterious disappearance from Ngetich’s wife who sought to know whether he had communicated with the other family members.
“His wife was in Gilgil with the children. She called trying to find out if Alfred had been home as he had been reported missing from his workplace,” Mitei says.
He says the family was surprised and shocked by the news as he had no known prior problem with anyone.
“He used to come home regularly and had not indicated he had any issue that was disturbing him. His seniors have not contacted us officially over the disappearance and some of his colleagues have only claimed he is being treated as a deserter,” Mitei says.
The family has extended the search to Isiolo where he previously served, Nakuru, Gilgil, Eldoret, Kapenguria and Nairobi. However, they haven’t received any information that would lead them to him.
“Some people have claimed to have met him in Nairobi shortly after he dissapeared,but when we pursued the leads we met a dead end,” Ernest Ngetich, his younger brother says.
He adds: “It has been a very agonising search. We have been groping in the dark not knowing what we will come up with.”
Mr Dickson Langat, a cousin to Ngetich says that there had been claims that Ngetich had gone to Sudan to work for a Non-Governmental Organisation, but no Kenyan serving there had reported meeting him.
“Some people also claimed that he had joined the United Nations (UN) as a security officer, but inquiries have revealed that he had not been enlisted as a security officer in the organisation,” Langat says.
Mr Weldon Koech, an uncle to the missing soldier who is also a retired military officer, says it was curious that the Department of Defence (DoD) had not contacted the family or the local administration.
“The procedure demands that when a soldier is reported to be absent without leave, the military contacts the local Provincial Administration (district officer and area chief). But in this case, that has not happened,” Koech notes.
Koech says his efforts to get an explanation from DoD have hit a brick wall forcing them to highlight their predicament in the media.The family believes that Ngetich is alive and are ever optimistic that he will re-unite with his family.
They are asking whoever has information about the missing soldier to contact the family through Ernest Ngetich on 0722748703.