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Families of soldiers who perished in Somalia say seeking benefits has been a frustrating affair

Sunday, October 06, 2013

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Days have turned into months since some Kenya Defences Forces soldiers died in the line of duty in Somalia but their families are yet to be compensated.

After losing their loved ones during Operation Linda Nchi mission to root out al-Shabaab militants, the families of the deceased soldiers are accusing the government of abandoning them.

Several family members who spoke to The Standard on Sunday told of their frustrations and anguish as they chase their departed kin’s compensation even as they try to come to terms with their deaths.

Relatives of 26-year-old Private Jasper Onguso who died as KDF tried to capture the strategic port city of Kismayu say they have made countless trips to the forces offices in Eldoret and Nairobi in vain.

“My father who stays in Nyamira has been frequenting the KDF offices, chasing the payments but with little success,” the deceased’s brother Benson Onguso said.

Benson says his brother who had served in the military for four years and eight months was the first born in a family of 10 and used to assist his parents financially.

Onguso was the last KDF soldier to be killed before the Kenyan forces captured Kismayu after targeting the town for months.

Being the oldest in the family, Benson says Onguso used to play a major role in assisting his ageing parents paying school fees for his siblings.

“We have not received any financial assistance from the authorities besides the coffin they bought and transport services during the burial,” he added.

According to Benson, his brother was entitled to a pension of Sh480,000 and insurance compensation of Sh4.2 million.

The family says despite being asked to open a bank account and providing necessary details to the KDF officials to facilitate the compensation, the family is yet to receive any money. They continue making trips to the bank to check if the money has been deposited.

“My father has made trips to the bank till the teller knows him by face. They no longer wait for him to ask but as soon as they see him they politely tell him bado (not yet) and he just leaves,” said Benson.  

He said his father, who is a primary school teacher in Nyamira, is finding it difficult making countless trips to Eldoret and Nairobi seeking the payment.

A student

“We have been receiving information that some of the soldiers were compensated, but for us the wait continues and it is sad when the work of gallant sons of this country is not appreciated,” he said.

The process of compensation is shrouded in mystery, which has left the kin of departed soldiers in darkness and at the mercy of senior military officers.

Though the burial of the departed soldiers is usually a high profile event with the deceased being accorded full military honours most families are left to fend on their own afterwards.

For the family of Evans Ng’etich, a Lieutenant with KDF killed by al Shabaab militants, they have been pursuing his compensation 18 months after his death.

Ngetich, then aged 26, was killed in January last year following an ambush laid by the militants between Belesc Qoucani and Tabda in Somalia.

By the time of his death he was number four troop commander and had served for only four years.

Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, the soldier’s father Philip Lang’at voiced his frustration over the government’s delay in settling the matter.

Lang’at, a primary school teacher in Bomet, decried that the Department of Defence had taken the family round in circles and had reneged on all promises it made earlier.

The father said the family had been making numerous visits to Nairobi to follow up the issue but nothing had been forthcoming.

During their last visit there, he was told the money was being ‘processed’, a standard response he has received for the past one year.

“The response is always that they are processing. It seems I will die as they continue to process,” said Lang’at.

He said that despite his son being among the first casualties during the KDF’s onslaught in Somalia, and even holding a senior rank, the family had nothing to show for his death.

“As the family we are disturbed that the government has ignored us despite our son losing his life while defending the country against the al-Shabaab terrorists,’’ said Mr Lang’at.

“The prospects of compensation have been elusive despite the family filling in the requisite form and forwarding it to the relevant authorities. We are traumatised and are on the verge of giving up,’’ he said.

Before joining the military in early 2007, the fallen soldier had scored a straight A in KCSE and had been admitted to University of Nairobi to pursue a degree course in Electrical Engineering.

His father said the son, who was set to marry had been a pillar in his family and had been paying school fees for his sibling.

A relative of one of the soldiers who died in a plane crash while preparing for the Somali mission said though they had been compensated the payment process was opaque.

“We were paid but we don’t know how much we were supposed to get as we were only asked to sign the forms after receiving the money,” the woman said.

She said the payment is long and hindered by bureaucracies within the forces which subjects dependants of the deceased to suffering.

The KDF has been praised for its professionalism and was in the forefront in tackling terrorists during the recent Westgate attack where six soldiers lost their lives.


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