In western countries like the US and the UK, most people join the military not because they have no other options, but because they love it, or for other reasons than just money. And most people join as volunteers.
Some join the military because they want to continue a long military lineage of their families. When your father was a soldier just like his father before him, and his grandfather, and his great-great grandfather, you wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for ending, or even interrupting that long military history. You are likely to join the military to make your ancestors happy or just to prove something to yourself.
Some people join the military for more noble reasons like defending their country in time of war. Fighting to defend their country’s sovereignty. Isn’t it noble to die for your country? Taking up arms to restore peace and to give your people back their freedom. People having to lead their normal lives because of your sacrifice and that of many others before you. That’s quite something. That should give anyone pride.
But in my country, most people join the military for their own selfish interests. Most people join the military to earn a living – their only option – while some join the military to scare folks back in the villages where they come from. I grew up watching how my uncles who were in the military terrorize people and everything that crossed their paths when they came back home during various family ceremonies like funerals. You wouldn’t dare oppose them on anything, not unless you are tired of your jaw and you want to lose some molars.
They got drunk and used their drunkenness as an excuse to get into physical fights, beating up people for very flimsy reasons. Their kids were kicked and punched in the name of punishing, and their homes were militarized. Friends and relatives stayed away whenever they heard that so and so is back home.
I once witnessed this incident, long time ago when I was just a little boy, where this military man during his father’s funeral kicked and killed a chicken on the spot with his heavy boot for no apparent reason. It was disgusting watching the mutilated bird flying around in pieces as feathers littered the yard leaving guests dumbfounded. Many people wondered – in low voices in fear of directing the man’s rage to themselves – if it was really necessary.
Here, in this country, the military acts as the dumping site for the most unruly in our society. It’s where temperamental people and bullies are taken, not to correct them like what prison is perceived to do, but with the hope that they’ll put their “gifts” to some good use. This is also where dunderheads, people who have no brains for school and are unlikely to make it in outside world if they maintain academic course, are taken.
Parents and other relatives and even guardians arrange to get them in military the moment they finish highschool. The families would do anything including bribery after selling family land just to raise enough money to bribe recruiting officers.
So you have this scenario where a person is in the military because his or her folks thought it was the only job in the world he or she could do, or because he’s unruly and a bully, they believe the military – a disciplined forces – is the only place that can host him. So you have a soldier who is wearing that uniform for the wrong reasons, and whose heart is somewhere else. That’s a dangerous soldier who is likely to get himself or herself killed, or even get his colleagues killed.
In Kenya, and in most countries in Africa, immediately after highschool, most parents are lining up their children to participate in the military recruitment process. The rich ones back it up with loaded wallets to bribe the officers, while the poor who are hopping to get their kids in the military to change their fortune, count on luck.
So unfortunate, but what can we do?
But their are men and women of valor who joined this profession for the love of it, for the good reasons like defending our country. Those in Somalia helping other regional forces to weed out the Al shabaab and those fighting in the UN to bring stability to South Sudan and other regions, we are proud of you!