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General Opande: Kenyan set to receive the second highest award from Namibia :: Kenya



General (Rtd) Daniel Opande at his home in Eldoret showcasing some of the awards he has received while serving as a peace keeper in Africa. [Silah Koskei/Standard]

Namibia plans to decorate a retired Kenyan general for peacekeeping service rendered to the once war-hit country.

In October, General (rtd) Daniel Opande’s name featured when Namibian President Hage Geinob met President Uhuru Kenyatta.

According to Geinob, his country is preparing to award the retired general with the second highest honour as part of appreciation for the sacrifice and contribution he made, along with other Kenyan soldiers, towards Namibia’s liberation struggle.

“Kenya contributed outstanding soldiers to help in safeguarding stability. We invite Opande to come to Namibia to receive the award on behalf of all Kenyans,” said Geinob when he met with President Kenyatta.

Surprise news

The announcement came as a surprise to the retired general who reminisced the times he spent in Namibia and the role that he played as the Deputy Force Commander while under the United Nationals Transition Assistance Group.

“When the president mentioned my name, I felt honoured and humbled. While in Namibia, I did my job as a soldier and I did not expect to be rewarded later,” said Opande when The Standard team met him at his home in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

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When he was born, it did not cross his mind that he will one day be a celebrated man across the world.

Initially, he wanted to become an engineer. His family detested the disciplined force due to the disappearance of one of his uncles who once served in the Second World War.

When he completed his secondary school education, his father fell ill and the only way was to look for a quick job to fend for the family.

Months before Kenya gained independence in 1963, he enlisted as a military cadet after reading a press advertisement.

Together with other officers, they celebrated the country’s independence while undergoing training in United Kingdom.

He later rose through the ranks to become a general.

According to the general, his squad was the second African team to be sent for peace keeping mission after the initial one in 1960s.

“The country fought gallantly for independence and lost many people. We were sent there to find a better way of ending the war in 1989 to 1990,” he said.

Opande noted that his team faced numerous challenges but did its best to mediate between the two warring groups.

“A section of troops from South African Defense Forces (SADF) at one point had agreed to implement the peace process but there were others who were opposed to the plans. There is one point when they attacked our Kenyan base in the area and our officers were forced to fire shots at the guards who later retreated in the darkness,” he said.

The UN’s hard stance on the need for SADF to halt its operations made the troops to give in in 1988. A peace deal was reached when they agreed to give up the fight and control of Namibia. March 21, 1990, Namibia got its independence leading to the election of Sam Nujoma as president.

Asked whether his military training was the reason for his success, Opande said his leadership and joint partnership with his colleagues bore fruits.

The retired general is currently working on his autobiography which documents every experience he had as military officer.

In December 31, 2007, upon returning to the country, he came face to face with the grim reality of post-election violence which mirrored the situation that was going on in most countries he was serving under UN in peace missions.

“When I woke up, I found a huge group of families camping outside my compound. Their homes had been torched and had sought refuge. My heart sunk because it was the same mission I was doing in Africa that had also taken place in our country. I assisted them get food and shelter,” he noted.

It is from such incident that they formed Concerned Citizens for Peace Group meant to encourage for dialogue on pertinent issues.

The 75-year-old boasts of numerous souvenirs and awards given by various countries while serving in the United Nations.

 “I was celebrated at the hall of fame at the National Defense University (NDU) in United States, awarded presidential medal by Liberia and prestigious awards by the Kenyan government,” he summed up.

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