Captain (Dr) Robert Tsimba wears a stethoscope, attending to patients seeking treatment at a military camp in Somalia, but still tightly holds an M4 assault rifle.
At another corner, sergeant James Karanja, the camp’s catechist, sits holding a Bible while the other hand carries an AK-47 rifle.
In Sector Two, the area where Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are deployed, there are 16 of them and are known as Forward Operating Bases.
With the headquarters at Dhobley, there are bases in Hosingo, Tabda, Belesqoqani, Afmadhow, Xagar, Abdalle Birole, Kismayu, Busaar, Fafadun and Kuday, among others.
The Nation visited some of the bases and spent days with the soldiers on the frontline.
Brigadier Joachim Ngure Mwamburi, the sector commander, started with a warning:
“The security situation here is fluid and unpredictable. Always wear your helmet and flak jacket to protect yourself from bullets. In case of an attack, you move to the trenches. That is where we seek protection.”
Even when Al-Shabaab terrorists – who Amisom is fighting in Somalia – are not ready for a confrontation, they routinely fire motors and rocket propelled grenades towards the camps in what the military calls “probing attacks”.
One briefing was interrupted after Brigadier Mwamburi received a call on his cell phone.
He is heard barking at the caller on the other end, “basi wachemshwe”, (go ahead, open fire).”
The commander later explains that flash lights were spotted approaching one of the bases under his command.
The camp is guarded round the clock by KDF sentries with mounted machine guns, but every soldier and officers take their weapons to bed, to the dining table and even to the washrooms.