Ex-Nairobi Matatu Tout Shares Life Changing Journey to Afghanistan

An image of David Etale
  • In late 2006, David Opati Etale received an email informing him that he had scored an opportunity to work in the British Army. 

    Just weeks prior to the email, Etale doubled up as a tout along the Kangemi route and a footballer who played for various teams in the Country including the Kenya Commercial Bank Football Club and Tusker FC. 

    He would also store weapons for criminal gangs in the area at his home in Westlands, Nairobi County and in turn, the gangs would pay him a small fee.

    “I was a polite young man and no one would ever believe that I was working with criminals…It is not something I’m proud of, I actually regret it,” Etale stated.

    David Etale poses for a photo in the gym

    One day, however, the long arm of the law caught up with him after one of the gang members was accosted by police and named all those who were involved in the crime.

    “When I was boarding the matatu for my 3 pm shift, a police officer grabbed my hand and told me that my name had come up as a person of interest who helped criminals store weapons.

    “He told me that I had two choices if I continued living this kind of lifestyle, either die or end up in Kamiti Maximum Prison. He went ahead to inform him that the British Army was recruiting,” Etale continued.

    The police officer took him to a cyber cafe and told him to apply for the opportunity. Three days later, he was informed that he had been considered.

    “Within two weeks of applying, I was in the UK… It was my first time in Europe. The training sessions were difficult but a friend of mine encouraged me not to give up.”

    After toughing it out, Etale was among the 23 individuals out of the 124 who had gone for training who were left standing and soon, he was deployed to Afghanistan. 

    “There was a lot of fighting in Afghanistan,” he says.

    Recalling one of the incidents, Etale narrated of a day when their convoy was attacked by Taliban insurgents, an incident that led to the amputation of his left leg.

    On the unfortunate day, he woke up at 3am and could not sleep, prompting him to take out his Bible and start reading. His lack of sleep could have been evoked by the previous day’s announcement alerting them that they would be going to a Taliban stronghold for a patrol. 
    The war veteran, who was part of the convoy, narrated that it was a calm day until 6:30 pm when his troops were ambushed and heavy gunfire ensued for close to two hours.

    “The bullets were hitting the vehicle but we did not know where they were coming from. We were confused because the Taliban had surrounded us 360 degrees…

    “We had to call for air support. 50 metres from where we were, I drove onto an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and that is how I lost my leg and lost two of my friends.”

    The fateful night led Etale to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and on two occasions, he tried to commit suicide.

    “That was the most challenging thing I have faced in life. I was put on the suicide watch list because I tried to take my own life twice.”

    He has managed to get better over the years and occasionally sees a psychiatrist. Etale is now a motivational speaker in the UK together with other soldiers injured in the line of duty.

    An image of David Etale
    David Etale seated in the gym.
    criminal weapon gun fight suicide