NAIROBI: Kenya’s defence chief and nine other senior military officers died in a helicopter crash in a remote area of the country on Thursday, President William Ruto announced.

“Today at 2:20pm, our nation suffered a tragic air accident... I am deeply saddened to announce the passing on of General Francis Omondi Ogolla,” Ruto told reporters, adding that nine other officers were also killed while two survived.

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.

“A distinguished four-star general has fallen in the course of duty and in the service of the country,” Ruto said, announcing three days of mourning from Friday.“The helicopter burst into flames after crashing and it had more than 10 senior commanders on board including General Ogolla,” a source said.

“They were in the area on a security mission because there are KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) soldiers deployed in the region,” he said.Ogolla, 61, was appointed Chief of the Defence Forces by Ruto in April last year after a stint as deputy.

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.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2024

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