Brave and sharp major who led KDF to its worst ambush in Somalia
12 months ago, 13 Jan 00:15
The dreaded call came shortly after Christmas. Major Geoffrey Obwoge was needed back at work for immediate deployment. He asked no questions. There was no time. As required in his job, he swiftly bid his young family farewell and reported back to camp. After arriving at his station at Moi Barracks in Soy near Eldoret, he knew he was headed back to Somalia. Obwoge quickly assembled his team from the 9 Kenya Rifles Formation ready for the assignment. He had a deputy as second in command and three lieutenants as platoon commanders to back him up. Few days later, they were on their way to the frontline, through a stop over in Wajir. His main assignment was to relieve the previous team that was now spent and exhausted having been on the ground for a year. He was then to plan how to cover new territory and advance the KDF march into enemy land. It was the beginning of what would be the worst week by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in the seven-year battle against Al Shabaab in Somalia, a week that survivors would rather forget. There was nothing to doubt that he would deliver. At just 33, Major Obwoge was one of the first rising stars of the military. He was already being seen as an experienced soldier having been part of the team that conquered Kismayu a year earlier. He knew the terrain, or was expected to. “After he arrived, he called us and said he had arrived. They were attacked just one week later,” Elizabeth Obwoge, his mother, narrates at his home in Ogembo, Kisii County. The attack started at around 4am, January 15, 2016. The previous day, the last soldiers from the Kenya trained Somali National Army (SNA), whose camp was located 600 meters away, had left. They disappeared as soon as they learnt of the magnitude of the imminent attack. It is at the SNA camp that the first explosion went off. A decoy. Al Shabaab wanted to pull out KDF soldiers who would respond to the SNA camp explosion, and pick them out one by one. Instead, KDF sat still, and waited. The initial plan having failed, Al Shabaab militants decided to march on, sending ahead of them suicide bombers. The first suicide bombers drove into the camp between 4am and 5am, blowing off at the gate. Though the survivors and military sources give some conflicting accounts on what transpired next, one of the most credible sources say one of the car bombs was being driven on a Toyota Prado. The militants were minutes behind, arriving on trucks to stage a fierce mortar and bullet exchange. Some headed straight to the communication mast and destroyed it, cutting off communication within the camp and to a large extent the outside world. By this time, General Obwoge had lost command of the camp. His men were outnumbered, 10 against one. The El Adde camp had 234 men that morning. What followed was a bloodbath. It is understood that some ...
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