When Al-Shabaab militants ambushed a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) platoon earlier this year, the insurgents’ trap could have seen the annihilation of the 25 to 50 men.
But one soldier, Senior Sergeant Ali Guyo, risked his own life to scuttle the plans.
On Monday, during the 8th KDF Day celebrations, Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo and Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe honoured the senior sergeant alongside 13 others for their commendable service.
“Senior Sergeant Guyo is being recognised for his courage and initiative by single-handedly firing platoon mortar, hence disrupting the Al-Shabaab flow,” Kenya Army Commander Lt-Gen Walter Raria read a citation in honour of the soldier.
The ceremony also saw Francis Onyiso, one of the country’s uncelebrated football legends, finally honoured.
Mr Onyiso, a sergeant in the military, played a key role in the famous 1-1 draw with Nigeria’s Super Eagles in 1997.
“Sergeant Onyiso is being recognised for his sporting prowess and his contributions to the growth of football as a sport within KDF and nationally, where he has participated in numerous winning matches both as a player for Ulinzi Football Club and the national team Harambee Stars,” his citation read.
“[These soldiers] go where we cannot go. This is the day when we say thank you to them. We must never stop recognising and remembering their efforts,” Ms Omamo said during the event held at Lang’ata Barracks.
This year’s event, themed “Towards sustainable welfare for the Kenya Defence fraternity”, saw Gen Mwathethe stipulate efforts that the government has taken to help KDF personnel who have suffered injuries and families of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“We have now [adopted] measures to ensure that there is prompt compensation to personnel affected in their line of duty by ensuring the benefits are paid within a maximum of 30 days after making the claims,” Gen Mwathethe announced.
The compensation claims are now being handled by 69 newly-opened welfare centres spread across various military formations, units and bases around the country.
“The welfare centres aim to address the challenges faced by serving and retired service personnel, those with disabilities, families and dependants of deceased,” Gen Mwathethe said. “They are the point of contact and provide cross-service support.”
During the event, KDF personnel who have worked tirelessly to heal the wounds of soldiers injured in the African Union Mission (Amisom) in Somalia were also recognised.
Lt-Col Obadiah Yator, a clinical psychologist, was recognised for his “contribution in the management of combat stress and the mental health of service personnel affected by trauma from operations in El Adde and Kolbiyow in Somalia as well as the victims of the Karai tragedy in November 2016.”
Over 40 individuals were burnt to death in a night of horror following an accident on the Nairobi-Naivasha road in Karai, when a lorry carrying flammable material burst into flames causing multiple vehicle collisions.
Warrant Officer 1 Boniface Mayenda was honoured for his “immense contribution to the psychological support of troops involved in operations in Somalia, especially (for being) instrumental in assisting the survivors and families of the El Adde victims”.
Sergeant Rhodah Munanga was recognised for her devotion and mentorship for her peers in the welfare and compensation efforts that have immensely contributed to the efficiency of the army welfare programmes.
Sergeant David Ndung’u was recognised for his work on environmental conservation; Sergeant Saitoni for being instrumental in counselling patients and families, especially those with terminal illness, and Sergeant Nick Abaka for being an accomplished boxer who has been the national team captain for over 10 years.
“He (Abaka) has recorded 420 wins in over 480 fights, both nationally and internationally,” his citation reads.
Corporal Emily Ngii was recognised for her athletics prowess that has seen her win gold in walking races in national and Africa Games Championships, and Private Benjamin Kigen for winning gold in 3,000m in national and Africa Games Championships.
Soldiers and officers who led the team that delivered Kenya’s humanitarian assistance to Mozambique following cyclone Idai in March 2019 were also recognised.