When one loses a loved one, the gap left is difficult to fill. It is worse if the deceased is a blood relation of the bereaved. Such is the situation Mr Simeon Sanga finds himself in. His son, Corporal Bernard Tonui, a Recce Company officer, died in the Garissa University terror attack exactly two years ago on Sunday.
Mr Sanga, who hails from Cheleget village, 30 kilometres from Bomet town, says even time does not seem to heal the pain of losing his first- born son.
“It is two years since he departed, but it seems like yesterday,” he says. His only consolation, he tells the Sunday Nation, is the knowledge that his son put his life on the line to save the lives of more than 500 students.
The retired Administration Police officer says he is proud of his fallen yet brave son.
“I was a man of the uniform, and I understand what it means to die bravely, in the line of duty,” he says.
He adds that not many would have gathered courage to storm the terrorist zone and bring hope where there was despair.
“I do not regret having sent my son to the security forces. He is my hero and a patriot of this nation,” he says.
The father of eight says that to shame the terrorists who killed his son, two of his other sons, Enock Kirui and Ken Tonui, joined the Administration and Regular police respectively after Bernard’s death, and with his blessings.
He says the younger one, Ken, is now on a training course in Kitui.
“They are following my footsteps having been in their place before and retired as a Senior Superintendent of Police,” he says.
The 68-year-old is so passionate about defeating al-Shabaab that were it not for his age, he vows he would have joined his sons to hunt them down.
“Just like my son I would fight them to my last bullet,” he says.
RECEIVED SH1 MILLION
He says the government has been very kind to them, saying they have so far received about Sh1 million as compensation following Bernard’s death, with half the amount going directly to his daughter-in-law Nelly Tonui. Besides, his late son received an Ombudsman award posthumously for his courage.
The old man says he now takes care of his four grandchildren aged between eight and 13 years after the death of their father.
“I took up the responsibility of being the father to my grandchildren, two boys and two girls,” he says.
Lina Sanga, Bernard’s mother, says she has learnt to be strong in the face of losing the first fruit of her womb.
“They robbed me of something very precious,” she says.
Mr Sanga congratulates the government for having managed to reduce the attacks in the recent past. However, he calls for high level training of security officers, saying they should be able to counter the highly skilled terrorists.
“New recruits should be trained in many skilful ways to defend the country. Those who have been in service for long should be offered refresher courses more often,” he says.
He says the sophisticated weapons given to security officers are a good strategy by the government.
“Our officers need to be well equipped and given moral support to fight in difficult conditions,” he says.
The late Tonui was the only GSU officer from the Recce Company felled by the attackers. He commanded the team which managed to kill the terrorists in a matter of minutes.
He had served in the police service for 18 years and trained twice in the USA. More than 100 students were killed by the terrorists.
Garissa University remained shut for several months after the attack, before the government re-opened it following an outcry from Kenyans.