The phrase “the fog of war” is often used to explain “the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations”.
This fog has been ubiquitous ever since the Kenya Defence Forces moved into Somalia in what — depending on your perspective — was either an invasion or an indispensable peace-keeping initiative taken at the request of the Somalia government.
It is especially thick as we learn of yet another tragic attack on the KDF camp at Kulbiyow.
On the one hand (quoting the Star's latest reports): “A spokesman for al Shabaab, which often launches attacks on African troops fighting with the AU's Amisom force, said its fighters killed at least 57 Kenyans at the base in the southern town of Kulbiyow, near the border."
And on the other (quoting the same report): “That is false,” Kenyan military spokesman Lt Col Paul Njuguna told Reuters, without disclosing casualty figures. “The operation is ongoing."
In the early days of KDF’s presence in Somalia — presented as a series of unbroken victories by our valiant men in uniform — most Kenyans were not particularly interested in developments across our border. And the few who were could take comfort in reports by TV journalists embedded with KDF troops. These showed images very consistent with what the KDF spokesmen had told us: that our forces were sweeping all that lay before them, and restoring peace and security to the long-suffering people of Somalia.
All that changed with al Shabaab's devastating attack on the KDF camp at El Adde on January 15 last year. Thereafter, it was impossible to conceal that although much may have gone to plan, still many of our soldiers were being slaughtered needlessly by suicide squads.
It is in this context we must view Friday's assault in Kulbiyow.
There can be little doubt this is another disaster. But whether another epic disaster like El Adde, or something on a far smaller (if equally tragic) scale, remains to be seen.
Quite possibly the public will never be told the truth.
Some Kenyan families even now await details of what happened to their loved ones and often sole breadwinners, at El Adde.
For more than a year, the government has refused to disclose what we know to be a staggering death and casualty toll.
And thus far, KDF has shown little appetite for dispelling the fog shrouding the latest tragic military misadventure in Somalia.