Gen Francis Ogolla: Kenya military chief killed in helicopter crash

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Gen Francis Ogolla: Kenya military chief killed in helicopter crash
Gen Francis Omondi Ogolla died last week.

In a news conference, President William Ruto said it was a "moment of great sadness" for the country.

BBC | Kenya's military chief, Gen Francis Omondi Ogolla, has died after a military helicopter crashed in the west of the country, the president said.

Gen Ogolla - Kenya's highest ranking military officer - was in the helicopter alongside 11 other military personnel. Only two people survived.

In a news conference, President William Ruto said it was a "moment of great sadness" for the country.

He had earlier convened an urgent security council meeting.

Mr Ruto said the crash happened at 14:20 local time (12:20 BST). The Kenya Air Force has dispatched an air investigation team to establish the cause of the crash, the president said.

The helicopter came down in Elgeyo Marakwet county, some 400km (250 miles) north-west of the capital Nairobi. "Unfortunately, the aircraft crashed shortly after take off," Mr Ruto said.

Gen Ogolla was appointed by Mr Ruto in April last year, after serving as the Commander of the Air Force and Deputy Chief of Defence Forces.

Mr Ruto described Gen Ogolla -who was also the chief military adviser to the president - as a gallant officer who died in the line of duty.

"Our motherland has lost one of her most valiant generals, gallant officers, service men and woman," Mr Ruto told the nation.

The nation will observe a three-day period of mourning, commencing on Friday 19 April. The flags in the Republic of Kenya and in Kenyan missions abroad will fly at half mast, Mr Ruto said.

Gen Ogolla first joined the Kenya Defence Forces on 24 April 1984, according to the Kenyan defence ministry's website.

He was due to mark 40 years in the military next week.

He began his career as a 2nd Lt in the country's air force, where he trained as a fighter pilot with the US Air Force, the ministry says. In 2018, he became Commander of the Kenya Air Force - a role which he held until becoming the country's military chief.

Nine others killed in the crash were senior military officers: Brig Swale Saidi, Col Duncan Keittany, Lt Col David Sawe, Maj George Benson Magondu, Capt Sora Mohamed, Capt Hillary Litali, Snr Sgt John Kinyua Mureithi, Sgt Cliphonce Omondi, and Sgt Rose Nyawira.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, said "our thoughts and prayers" go out to Kenya's president, government and people following the "tragic helicopter accident".

The two survivors are in critical condition and undergoing treatment.

The officers had travelled to Kenya's North Rift region, which has been plagued by banditry.

They were on a mission to reopen some of the schools closed following bandit attacks. They had also visited military officers deployed to stabilise the region.

The incident marks the second time in three years that a helicopter crash has killed at least 10 military officers in Kenya.

At least 10 soldiers were killed in June 2021 when their helicopter crashed while landing near the capital of Nairobi.

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