PHYLLIS MUSASIA

By PHYLLIS MUSASIA
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He had it all— his dream military job, a wife and children, a supportive family and generally, self-sufficiency, which was only a subject of envy to his peers.

Then his employer, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), sent him on a peace and restoration mission in Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Yet, Second Lieutenant John Njoroge’s own life has never experienced peace since he returned from the war-torn county last year.

He developed a mental condition, lost his job, his wife left with their child, and is now forcefully confined at home.

To his family, Njoroge who was once the pillar, has turned violent, profane, abusive, arrogant.

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Once, he stabbed his own brother and now his mother says it is “risky to be around him”.

His father, Peter Mwangi, said his son always showed commitment and dedication in his work and was never late to attended to him, his mother, wife and siblings.

“We always came first in his plans, and a few months after his commissioning, he built us a house. He was our source of hope, great expectations and he supported us financially whenever we called on him. That changed,” narrated the frustrated Mwangi.

Joyce Wangari Mwangi, the mother of John

Joyce Wangari Mwangi, the mother of John Njoroge. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The battle on second lieutenant’s mind started with the battle of Kulbiyow.

He was among the 250 Kenyan and Somali soldiers who were stationed at the base that was attacked by Al-Shabaab on January 27, 2017.

That night, Al-Shabaab forces moved into the Amison base around midnight.

The soldiers at the base responded by firing mortars and artillery at the militants in a bombardment that lasted 50 minutes and the commanders believed that they had repulsed the attackers.

Twenty minutes later though, an explosive-laden truck that was driven by an Al-Shabaab suicide bomber into the base burst into flames.

A brutal and confusing gunfight began and a second car bomb was activated by the militants, then a third one.

The battle lasted for close to an hour and left tens of soldiers dead.

Al-Shabaab was quick to claim responsibility and claimed that it had killed 67 soldiers in total. 

Some soldiers were lucky to survive and one of them was 2Lieut Njoroge.

The aftermath of the battle, Second Lieut Njoroge’s family claims, was a disturbed son.

Second Lieutenant John Njoroge

Second Lieutenant John Njoroge. PHOTO | COURTESY

They believe their son could not handle the traumatic event and needed the support of his employer and his family.

They believe that their son was mistaken when he needed help and then fired.

The red flag was raised during the 2017 elections, when Njoroge arrived at their home in Njoro, clad in ceremonial attire. His parents say, that is the day they started questioning the soundness of their second born child’s mind.

“We noticed a change in his character when he returned. He narrated the Kulbiyow ordeal with bitterness, horror, disgust and fear. Then slowly, he became an alcoholic,” his mother Joyce Wangare said adding that by then, he was attached to the 20th Parachute Battalion based at the Kenyatta Barracks in Gilgil.

“He badly fought everyone who came near him and I was not spared too. His father, would be his most target until we all got worried.”

Second Lieut Njoroge’s Vehicle— a Subaru—is being held at Ronda Police Post and the police say they can only release it after proof of ownership and upon payment of Sh7,000 being charges for breakdown services.

The police said they found the vehicle dumped along the road late last year in Kaptembwa after Njoroge abandoned it, with all doors closed.

The family believes their son acted that way because of his depression tendencies.

In a letter addressed to KDF Para 20 dated March 30, the family desperately asked the forces to help their son to undergo treatment, claiming that the change in behaviour pointed at a man in need of help.

In the letter, Njoroge’s relatives also questioned why even after reporting the concerns to KDF in 2018, he was transferred to Nairobi instead of being helped to seek counselling and treatment for what they suspected to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

His family alleged that the Kenya Defence Forces had initially promised to take him to Defence Forces Memorial Hospital.

“He went to Nairobi without a phone and a friend of his who is a police officer is the one who called us to tell us that our son was loitering in the streets of Nairobi. He said Njoroge was spotted wearing one shoe. We sent him fare and he travelled home in Nakuru,” the letter reads in part.

When he arrived, the letter went on, is when the manifestation of the strange behaviour was noticed.

After stabbing his brother twice, poured hot cooking oil on his sister, threatening to hack his father and constantly threatening to eliminate his wife, his wife sought refuge at the Njoro Police Station from where, her parents later fetched her and their child.

Njoroge’s father says that his son has since wrecked down their house window glasses and that the family has made constant reports to the police station in Njoro and also to the military.

When no help came, Mr Mwangi says, the family placed the family land on sale and now, its title deed is in the hands of loan lenders in Nakuru town.

The Military Science degree holder was commissioned as an officer at the Kenya Military Academy, Lanet, in 2014, after he scored an A- in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination.

Mr Mwangi told the Nation that his son always showed commitment and dedication in his work and wondered why the KDF has not helped him when he needs them the most.

“We are at loss. This is someone who valued his family,” distraught Mwangi said.

Njoroge’s siblings Moses Mbaki and Lucy Nyambura said plans for them to continue with their studies suddenly came to a halt after their brother’s fate twisted.

Mbaki, Njoroge’s last-born brother, told the Nation that despite completing his high school studies last year, he couldn’t proceed since all the focus was shifted to his elder brother’s treatment.

Lucy said her brother was always helpful and quick to respond to distress calls.

“My prayer is that he gets well soon,” she said.

The ordeal puts KDF on the spot over how the Kenyan military treats their soldiers after they are affected by traumatic events after onslaughts in peace missions.

The Nation’s efforts get a comment from KDF communication office have not been successful.

KDF Spokesperson Colonel Paul Njuguna said is need for a face-to-face discussion on the issue.