Whose peace? The impact of war on military families: a case study of Kenya Defence Forces operations in Somalia
The focus of this research work is the impact of Somalia war on military families of the Kenya Defence Forces (hereafter KDF). The study examined the systemic effects of war trauma as it impacted on the mental health and general well-being of KDF military families, with the objectives of examining the impact of the deployment on families left behind and their coping mechanisms. The study offered a historical background of the Somalia crisis and the incentives that compelled Kenya to undertake her first ever military incursion into a neighbouring country. The study focused on the period between 2011-2014 when KDF operated initially as a single country force, and later as part of African Union Mission in Somalia (hereafter AMISOM). According to the study, soldiers go to war ‗accompanied‘ by their families. While the soldiers deploy at the battle front, the families deploy at the home front where they not only keep the home front intact, but are also perpetually worried over the safety and well-being of the soldier. The resultant emotional demand and stress during and after deployment affects the overall family functioning as supported by the theoretical explanations of family stress theory and theory of systemic stress that guided the study. The study involved 45 respondents that comprised serving soldiers and their families, and families of soldiers who died in the war. The sample was purposively drawn from three different KDF units. Interviews were conducted using semi-structured questionnaire guide, and emerging themes of negative and positive impacts of deployment, war trauma on soldier and improvised coping mechanisms were recorded. It was noted that the stress on families started immediately the notification for deployment was given, and continued long after the deployment, particularly for families that nursed injured soldiers and those that lost loved ones. Despite the stress on families, existing KDF social and emotional support services were observed to target the well-being of the soldier more than the families. The study further noted that the impact of a soldier‘s death cascaded several layers of family kinship as majority of the soldiers were the sole bread winners of their immediate and extended families. Overall, the Somalia war had a significant emotional, economic and social impact on KDF military families. It is the spirit of this study of the need to restructure KDF social and emotional support services to better address the realities brought about by the Somalia war.
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