Kenyan army chief dies in heli crash


Kenya began three days of mourning on Friday after its army chief and nine other senior officers were killed when a helicopter crashed.

General Francis Omondi Ogolla, head of the Kenya Defense Force (CDF), died when the helicopter in which he and other officers were traveling crashed shortly after takeoff in a remote forest area in northwestern Kenya on Thursday.

“A distinguished four-star general died in the performance of his duty and service to the country,” pres. William Ruto said when he broke the news about the deaths.

The air force has already sent an investigation team to determine the cause of the accident.

At a ceremony in Nairobi on Friday, Ruto expressed his condolences to Ogolla’s family as the country began the mourning period. The Kenyan flag flies at half-mast nationwide, as well as at its missions abroad.

“Yesterday was truly a very, very tragic day,” the president said. “This is a huge loss for the country because Genl. Ogolla made a big difference in the security of the country.”

The family said in a statement that Ogolla’s funeral will be held in his hometown, Siaya, on Saturday. The service in the west of the country will be followed by a memorial service in Nairobi.

“Last Salute” has the cover of the Daily Nation rang in Kenya today.

The bodies of the victims, draped in Kenyan flags, were brought by air force plane to an army base in Nairobi. One of the officers, Brig. Swale Saidi, was already buried in Kilifi on Friday and the other burials will take place over the next few days.

Endeavor to secure Kenya

Ogolla was a trained fighter pilot and Ruto promoted him to the position of army chief just a year ago. He had already been in the army for almost 40 years at that stage.

He was visiting troops in an area plagued by armed groups and cattle thieves.

Ogolla’s daughter, Lorna, said in a moving post on LinkedIn that her father died “doing what he did for over 40 years – trying to keep Kenya safe”.

Messages of condolences poured in from across the country and the continent, as well as from the United Nations, the US and other allies of Kenya.

“From combating terrorist threats from Al-Shabaab to his leadership of efforts to achieve regional cooperation at various levels, he has left an indelible mark,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

High profile victims

The Standard reported this was the fifth helicopter crash in 12 months, with allegations that Kenya’s military aircraft were old and poorly maintained.

In June 2021, at least ten soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed during an exercise south of Nairobi.

Ogolla is one of several high-profile victims of plane crashes in Kenya.

In 2012, the minister of internal security, George Saitoti – at the time seen as a possible presidential candidate – was one of six people who died in a helicopter crash.

Kenya has one of the largest military budgets in East Africa. The country also makes a major contribution to the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations and deploys troops for missions in the region.

Ogolla was married and had two children. He joined the army in 1984. In 2018 he was named head of the air force and in 2021 as deputy head of the army. He was appointed army chief in April last year.