Kenya mourns defence chief killed in helicopter crash

Kenya Kenyan President William Ruto left appointed General Francis Omondi Ogolla as defence chief a year ago.  By LUIS TATO AFPFile
Kenyan President William Ruto (left) appointed General Francis Omondi Ogolla as defence chief a year ago. By LUIS TATO (AFP/File)

Kenya began three days of mourning on Friday after its defence chief and nine other senior military officers were killed in a helicopter crash, the latest accident to blight the nation's military.

General Francis Omondi Ogolla, the Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces (CDF), was killed when his helicopter went down shortly after takeoff in a remote area of northwestern Kenya on Thursday.

"A distinguished four-star general has fallen in the course of duty and service of the country," President William Ruto said as he announced the deaths that evening.

He said the nation would observe three days of mourning from Friday, with the national flag flying at half mast across the country and at Kenyan missions abroad.

"Final salute" was the front-page headline in the leading Daily Nation newspaper.

The bodies of the victims, draped in Kenyan flags, were returned to a military base in Nairobi on an air force plane late Thursday.

Ogolla, who was born in 1962, had been appointed to the post by Ruto just a year ago and was about to mark 40 years of military service.

His daughter Lorna Ogolla said in a poignant post on Linkedin that her father died "doing what he did best for the better part of the last 40 years -- trying to keep Kenya safe".

Messages of condolence were sent from across the region and foreign diplomatic missions in Kenya.

Ogolla had been visiting troops deployed in Operation Maliza Uhalifu (Operation End Crime in Swahili) in the North Rift region, where insecurity caused by armed bandits and cattle rustlers is rife.

Ruto said the Air Force had dispatched an investigation team to establish the cause of the crash that involved a "Huey" helicopter.

Kenyan media reports said it was the fifth armed forces chopper crash in 12 months, with claims that the country's military aircraft were old and poorly maintained.

In June 2021, at least 10 soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise south of Nairobi.