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Hero KDF serviceman who lost limbs in Somalia soldiers on

Tuesday August 20 2019

Kenya Defence Forces

Ex-Kenya Defence Forces soldier Edwin Wekoba leads a delegation to Kasarani Stadium during the start of the East African Military Games on August 13, 2019. He counsels other soldiers. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ELVIS ONDIEKI
By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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Senior Private Edwin Wekoba enjoyed leading soldiers to battle.

He was thrilled by the frontline, driving a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) armoured personnel carrier as he took orders from his commander.

Everything was fine until one morning in 2017, when his battalion from Gilgil was pursuing militants at Taraka, Somalia.

As usual, he was driving the point car — a term used to refer to the foremost armoured personnel carrier (APC).

As he drove to take position while under attack by gunmen, the APC ran over an explosive. The impact was loud; the aftermath heart-wrenching.

That is the back story of the soldier in KDF uniform, who last week led delegations to Kasarani Stadium during the start of the East African Military Games.

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Holding the East African Community flag high as he drove his electric wheelchair, Mr Wekoba cut the figure of a man at the pinnacle.

COUNSELLOR

Photos of Mr Wekoba’s gallant entry to Kasarani were shared on the KDF Facebook page, receiving compliments from far and wide. “Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.” “It’s very encouraging to see such highly-spirited servicemen still serving,” commented Al-Amin.

Kamau wrote: “Our heroes of war! We are proud of you, bro Edwin. May the almighty God bless you abundantly.”

Given what Mr Wekoba has gone through since the 2017 incident, no praise thrown his way can be too lavish.

This is a soldier who bled so profusely that his kidneys failed before they were later revived; stayed in the ICU for three months then went through the emotional roller-coaster that comes with realising you have lost your legs forever.

A soldier who, after accepting himself, did not turn his back on the military and is today involved in offering motivation and counselling to other soldiers.

In an interview with Nation at the Gilgil base, Mr Wekoba revisited that morning that changed his life.

AIR STRIKES

The attack happened during the second stint in Somalia for the corporal who joined the army in 2009.

On the day he sustained injuries, he was on the frontline as usual. “I used to drive the tank that was the point car in every raid we went to, because I was confident in my work,” said Mr Wekoba.

The attackers, who had laid ambush, started exchanging fire with the convoy at around 9.30am.

Inside the ill-fated APC with Mr Wekoba was Corporal Edward Magondu. Mr Magondu recalled that they managed to kill the trigger man leading the fire exchange from the attackers.

At this time, Mr Wekoba had not probably realised how badly he was injured. The fight lasted about an hour, during which aerial reinforcements came.

“The troop commander asked for an aeroplane. When it came, air strikes began. We fought hard and killed a lot of the enemies,” said Mr Magondu.

“Then an aeroplane began evacuating us. We were taken to Wajir, then got a plane that transported us to Nairobi,” he added.

RECOVERY

After Wajir, Mr Wekoba lost consciousness and would wake up at the Kenya Defence Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.

That is where he spent three months in the ICU before he was transferred to the general ward.

At the ward, as his memory returned each passing day, the reality started dawning on him. He had lost both legs and bitterness set in.

There were times he would rip off the needles connected to his veins. He would also tear away the bandages on his amputated legs. This created a need for counselling.

Day by day, he recovered. He now lives a contented soldier at the Gilgil base with his wife and two children.

He recently received a Silver Star of Kenya award from President Kenyatta for his act of valour.