Kenya: Soldiers return from Somalia to a hero’s welcome
Nairobi [Radio RBC] The first group of 400 Kenya Defence Forces soldiers returned to the country on Saturday, almost a year after they were deployed to Somalia to fight the al-Shabaab militia group.
And they were immediately branded “warriors” by their superiors. They joined a long list of soldiers who have put their lives on the line to protect their country.
Having already captured 100,000 square miles of enemy territory and liberated thousands of residents in various towns from the ragtag militia, each of the soldiers will be awarded a special medal by President Kibaki, with October 14 to be designated “Kenya Defence Forces Day”.
According to Army Commander Lieutenant-General Joseph Kasaon, this date will not only be remembered as the day Kenya went to war for the first time in many years, but will also pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.
But those who have returned have not left a vacuum, as their replacements are already on the ground, plotting how to execute the fall of the strategic sea port of Kismayu — the last major stronghold of the militants. (Read: Troops step up Kismayu attack plans)
“Each of you will be given the medal … you have earned it. We want you to be proud of it … the country is indeed proud of you,” said Lt-Gen Kasaon at a ceremony to welcome the troops back home at the Langata Barracks in Nairobi.
Military Spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna said the country has lost 22 soldiers since the war began. (Read: Five Kenyans killed in war on Al-Shabaab)
The army chief said the soldiers will be given a week to “remove the dust” gathered from the battlefront in Somalia, after which they will be required to return to their respective bases and be debriefed on their experiences, discuss lessons learnt and suggest ways to improve the mission.
“But remember that our mission there is far from being achieved. We have just given you a small break to oil your guns and look forward to the next assignment,” said the army commander, who donated three cows for the soldiers to feast on.
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He said that for a long time, the Kenyan military has not been undertaking its core mission of protecting the country’s territory.
“We had been focusing on our secondary missions that are disaster management and maintenance of peace … but when our enemy provoked us, we said enough is enough and had to defend our country,” he said.
“That’s why on October 14 last year we crossed the border and pursued the enemy right to his doorstep.
We did a good job. We have now joined the Amisom (African Union Mission on Somalia).”
Lt-Gen Kasaon added that as their commander, he was proud of the soldiers.
“Being a soldier is a calling. It is not like many other professions,” he said. “We have brought immense changes in Somalia. People have started reviving their stalled businesses, while others have gone back to their farms to till their land. Their lives have returned to normal. I’m sure they will also have a new government in place very soon, which will help bring back stability to the once lawless country. This would not have been possible without the KDF soldiers.”
He added that despite what the naysayers had said, the soldiers had proved their mettle.
“There were doubting Thomases who said we shall not succeed in this mission … well, we shall not give them an answer yet … our work is there to be seen.”
Source: Daily Nation