Kenya Mourns as Defence Chief, Nine Top Brass Dies in Helicopter Crash

Tragedy struck Kenya on Thursday as the nation grappled with the loss of its defence chief and nine other senior military personnel in a fatal helicopter crash.
President William Ruto delivered the somber news, expressing deep sorrow over the untimely demise of General Francis Omondi Ogolla and his colleagues.
Addressing reporters, President Ruto conveyed the devastating impact of the air accident, which occurred at 2:20 pm local time in a remote area of the country.
“Today at 2:20 pm, our nation suffered a tragic air accident… I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of General Francis Omondi Ogolla,” Ruto told reporters.
The president disclosed that the helicopter crash claimed the lives of ten individuals, with only two survivors.
President Ruto promptly convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to address the aftermath of the tragedy.
He said the Kenya Air Force has dispatched an air investigation team to establish the cause of the crash, which took place in Elgeyo Marakwet county, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi.
The helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff from Chesegon, where he and his entourage had been visiting a school, Ruto said.
General Ogolla, described as a distinguished and valiant military leader, was en route to visit troops deployed in the North Rift area as part of Operation Maliza Uhalifu (Operation End Crime in Swalihi) when the accident transpired.
“A distinguished four-kistar general has fallen in the course of duty and in the service of the country,” he said.
“Our motherland has lost one of her most valiant generals, gallant officers, service men and woman.”
President Ruto declared three days of national mourning, beginning on Friday, with official flags lowered to half-mast in honor of the fallen heroes.
General Ogolla, aged 61, had served in various capacities within the Kenya Defence Forces, culminating in his appointment as Chief of the Defence Forces in April of the previous year.
Kenyan authorities have long battled insecurity in the Rift Valley region, with armed bandits and cattle rustlers rampant.
“The helicopter burst into flames after crashing and it had more than 10 senior commanders on board including General Ogolla,” a police officer had told AFP earlier.
“They were in the area on a security mission because there are KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) soldiers deployed in the region,” he added.
General Ogolla’s distinguished career spanned nearly four decades, during which he rose through the ranks to command the Kenyan Air Force.
Despite past political tensions, President Ruto highlighted General Ogolla’s exceptional qualifications and leadership qualities, emphasizing his pivotal role in safeguarding the nation’s security.
Ruto told journalists last May that he appointed Ogolla despite him being among those who tried to overturn his narrow election win against opposition leader Raila Odinga in 2022.
“When I looked at his CV, he was the best person to be (a) general,” Ruto said, adding his decision went against the wishes of many people.
A trained fighter pilot, Ogolla joined the KDF in April 1984, rising through the ranks to command the Kenyan Air Force in 2018, a post he held for three years.
The loss of General Ogolla and his comrades reverberated across Kenya, prompting an outpouring of tributes and condolences from leaders and citizens alike.
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