KDF Soldiers : We are always alert but good relations with locals help

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In between sentry duties, looking for a strategic position to make a phone call to family, the Kenyan soldier spends time either in a chapel, mosque, jogging, playing football or in a make shift gym.

And holding firmly onto machine guns, some soldiers tend to chicken gifted to them by locals while dogs trail the Armoured Personnel Carrier leaving the camp for an operation.

At the Kismayu International Airport Forward Operating Base (FOB), some ingenious troops have constructed a cage for four huge turtles found loitering in the wilderness. The four pets have become an attraction for anyone visiting the Officer’s Mess at the base.

Every soldier regardless of rank must have his government issue Mark 4, AK 47 or G3 rifle wherever they go, including the mess or when whiling away time when not on sentry duties.

Private Caleb Chege says anyone approaching the camp must identify themselves with the latest password or risk being sprayed with bullets.

“I ensure that anyone approaching must identify themselves three hundred metres away. This is because allowing locals into the camp is risky,” he says.

A garden of Neem trees in Dhobley planted by previous six teams that have served in Amisom also serves as a recreational spot for the soldiers.

Soldiers look out for each other and are literally a brothers’ keeper.

Troops on sentries’ duty spend their time behind elevated Hesco sand bags from where they scan the shrubs surrounding the camp for enemies.

Unlike in military barracks back home, alcohol consumption while off duty in FOBs is strictly prohibited. 

After the deadly El Adde attack by Al Shabaab, all FOBs are surrounded by five feet deep and three feet wide trenches to stop the enemy from accessing the camp with any Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices. 

Tabda FOB Commander Moses Masese says he has struck a rapport with key Somali elders in the areas who alert them of strange activities and share intelligence to make life easier for troops.

“Participating in the renovation of mosques, madrasas and classes has helped us pacify the area apart from organising regular medical camps. We encounter challenges like language barrier but we have officers who help in translation. You are okay if you have good relations with locals,” he says.

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