Kenya begins three days of national mourning after death of army chief

(Nairobi) Kenya began three days of national mourning on Friday after the death of its army chief and nine senior military officials in a helicopter accident.

“Last tribute”, headlined the front page of the daily Daily Nation. Aged 61, Francis Omondi Ogolla was appointed head of the armed forces on April 29, 2023 by President William Ruto.

The tragic results of this accident were announced Thursday evening by the Head of State following a meeting of the Kenyan Security Council that he had called urgently. Two soldiers survived the crash.

“An eminent four-star general fell in the line of duty and in the service of the country,” continued Mr. Ruto.

The helicopter crashed early Thursday afternoon in the remote Sindar area of ​​Elgeyo Marakwet County, about 400 km from Nairobi.

The Air Force dispatched a team of investigators to establish the causes of the accident.

According to President Ruto, the top brass were on board a Bell UH-1B helicopter, nicknamed “Huey”, a type of aircraft developed in the 1950s and widely used by the US military during the Vietnam War.


Francis Omondi Ogolla

Kenyan media reported that it was the fifth military helicopter accident in 12 months, with the aircraft often being old and poorly maintained.

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

Messages of condolences were sent, among others, by the African Union, the East African Regional Grouping (IGAD) and the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union in Kenya .

For Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, the Kenyan army chief was a “valuable partner”. “From combating terrorist threats from Shebab (Somali radical Islamists) to efforts to strengthen regional cooperation in several areas, he left an indelible mark,” he added in a statement.

“This loss is not only felt by Kenya, but also by the entire region,” declared IGAD Secretary General Workneh Gebeyehu on X.

Having attended the Paris Military School and the National Defense College of Kenya, General Ogolla began his career in April 1984 in the Air Force, according to the website of the Kenyan Ministry of Defense.

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