by Sarah Kanyara
Friday December 8, 2023
‘The Ground Commander’ is a book based on the true story of Timothy Kiande, who gave more than 20 years of his life to serving and protecting the country.
The story, written by author Godfrey Karuru and published in 2023, takes the reader through Kiande’s career as a military officer, whose early years were spent in Northern Kenya, fighting Somali bandits known as shiftas.
The book opens with a setting in a small village called Maragima in Kiganjo, Nyeri, where Kiande was born in 1943. He is the sixth-born in a family of 11 children.
Kiande had initially wanted to be a teacher but this dream was altered after he was severely punished by a teacher for sneaking into the staffroom and stealing a cake. He then trained his eyes on being a police officer.
His dream came true years later. After sitting his CPE exam in 1960, a year hardly passed before he got recruited as an Administration Police officer.
It is during one of his assignments as an AP that he got recruited into the military in 1964, where he served for 21 years.
The book takes the reader through the intense training and discipline required to be in the military. It also takes the reader through the exploits of the war with Somali bandits in Northeastern, who are said to have believed that the Kenya-Somali border was about 500km inside Kenya.
In the army, Kiande rises from the rank of a private to senior sergeant, decorated with presidential awards for his bold contributions to vanquishing Somali bandits.
The author brings out the trials and triumphs of the soldier, from his highs in vanquishing the enemy and foiling planned attacks, to his lows in losing colleagues to the bullet.
At some point, Kiande spends four months in hospital after being paralysed by bullet wounds inflicted by the bandits.
The book also gives the reader light moments away from the war, and brings in his love life right from meeting the girl of his dreams, to marriage, separation over his bad alcohol drinking habits, to finding himself and planning better for his family’s future.
The book gives an insight of the lives of soldiers, what it takes to protect the country and what they have to give up in order to ensure the country’s safety.
What do I think of the book? The storyline is good as it gives snippets of the daily lives of soldiers in war, how they interact with each other and unwind, and their family life, a story that is rarely told. Very little is known about how the army operates, and this book brings out the planning and how the soldiers would counter their enemies during war or foil attacks.
On the flip side, there are a lot of loose ends. A more meticulous editing would have made the book a better read. Some sentences were left hanging and there were grammatical errors, including incorrectly spelled names of some areas. In some instances the flow of the story was not clear, especially on Kiande’s personal life. All this are a turn-off for the reader, especially those easily irked by typos.