Christine Nzilani, the mother of KDF soldier Leornard Maingi Kiiyo, in 2016.

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Where are our sons, husbands? Women cry out

What you need to know:

  • Families have not heard from missing KDF soldiers for years.

Christine Nzilani has lost count of the times she has broken down at the thought of her son. Every interaction with her grandchildren pricks her heart.

The hope of Leonard Kiiyo Maingi returning home is fading fast.

For five years, her grandchildren have been asking when their father will be coming back home.
Maingi, a doctor with the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), was abducted when Al-Shabaab militants attacked El Adde in one of the worst raids against Kenyan soldiers.

KDF soldier Leornard Maingi Kiiyo.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

For Ms Nzilani, the peace mission in Somalia is a cocktail of pain, misery, anxiety, uncertainty and fear.

“It is painful for I don’t know what happened to my son. We have been left guessing. I avoid meeting people because they keep asking many questions whose answers I too want,” she said.

Dr Maingi’s wife, Eunice, says the last time she heard of him was in a February 2016 in Al-Shabaab videos showing Dr Maingi pleading with President Uhuru Kenyatta to make a deal with the group and withdraw Kenyan soldiers from Somalia.

“My husband looked different. He had a bushy beard and sounded desperate. Months later, Al-Shabaab said it had killed him,” Mrs Maingi said.

Christine Nzilani (right), mother of KDF soldier Leornard Maingi Kiiyo, and Kiiyo's sister Teresia Ndunge, in 2016.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

She had three sons with him. The eldest had just completed primary school when his father, who was part of the 9th Kenya Rifles Battalion at Moi Barracks Eldoret, was captured. He has since completed high school.

“Bringing up the children without their father has not been easy. It is not about money. It is emotionally draining not to know where your loved one is. It is also difficult for the children. We miss him and I cry a lot. I have had depression,” Mrs Maingi said at her Vengea home in Tulimani, Makueni.

On August 5, 2017, just three days to the General Election, Al-Shabaab posted a video online, reportedly executing Dr Maingi, 44. The video had the caption: “Last message of Prisoner Of War Leonard Maingi Kiiyo”. It was immediately pulled down.

The families of Private Alfred Ndanyi Kilasi, Cpl Anthony Mbogo and Shardrack Yeko Ywapale have also not heard from them.

Senior Private Alfred Ndanyi Kilasi, who has been missing since January 2016 following an attack by Al-Shabaab on the KDF camp in El Adde in Somalia.

Photo credit: Derick Luvega | Nation Media Group

While the tally of the soldiers killed in the El Adde raid on January, 15, 2016 has never been made public, the government only said it was a huge number.

The Nation could not establish the number of soldiers taken as prisoners of war.

The family of Senior Private Alfred Ndanyi Kilasi in 2017.

Photo credit: Derick Luvega | Nation Media Group

Cpl Mbogo’s wife Judy Nafula told the Nation in Eldoret that his phone kept being switched on intermittently after the attack, but she never communicated with her husband.

“The callers spoke in a language I assumed was Somali. I did not understand anything. Neither did my husband’s mother nor sister,” the mother of two said.

She added that after the capture of her husband, his family turned against her. She and her children had to move from their Manyatta home in Embu to Eldoret.

Ms Mbogo said she and the corporal had a church wedding in 2014.

Ms Miriam Ywapale, the mother of Shardrack Yeko, told the Nation that families of the missing soldiers have been neglected by the KDF.

At some point, they stopped picking our calls. 

She said despite the families receiving money from the Ministry of Defence, they are not being updated on the whereabouts of the missing soldiers.

“My first born called a day after the attack and told me they had escaped from the camp that was completely destroyed. He said he was in the company of three others,” Ms Ywapale said at her home in Endebess, Trans Nzoia.

“He asked me to request KDF to go to their rescue, which I did. I have never heard from him since that day. KDF used to tell us that they are alive and that they would come back home.

At some point, they stopped picking our calls. We get depressed and need counselling but that is not happening.”

The Nation has established that the families of the soldiers signed presumption of death documents on December 28, 2018 in what the military said would facilitate the payment of lumpsum dues.

One of the certificates seen by the Nation presumes the soldier died on December 23, 2018.

All the women say is that they want regular updates on the whereabouts of their husbands and sons.

KDF has not replied to our inquiry concerning the progress of the search for the soldiers.