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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Kenyan president confirms military chief’s death in plane crash

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Nairobi: Kenyan President William Ruto confirmed that military chief Francis Ogolla was among 10 senior commanders killed in a helicopter crash in the northwestern part of the country on Thursday.

Ruto said Ogolla, chief of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), was aboard the KDF Huey helicopter with 11 other military personnel. The helicopter took off from a local primary school in Elgeyo Marakwet County when it went down and burst into flames at about 2:20 p.m. local time (1120 GMT).

Ruto, speaking at a televised news conference in the national capital of Nairobi, said that 10 military officers, including Ogolla, died in the crash, while two others survived and are now hospitalized. “This is a moment of great sadness,” he added.

The president said that Ogolla left Nairobi in the morning to visit troops deployed in the troubled region to fight bandits and inspect ongoing school renovation work.

The Kenya Air Force has formed and dispatched an aviation investigation team to determine the cause of the crash, Ruto said.

He also announced that the nation will observe a three-day period of mourning beginning Friday to honour the life and distinguished military career of the fallen general, who lost his life not only while in office but also while on active military duty.

Witnesses said that the KDF helicopter crashed two kilometres away and burst into flames moments after taking off from an area along the troubled Elgeyo Marakwet-West Pokot border. “We saw the chopper come down, and when we rushed to the scene, we found the chopper in flames,” said Evans Kipkosgei, a resident, adding that the site was immediately cordoned off by KDF officers stationed in the Kerio Valley.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan sent a condolence message to Ruto following Ogolla’s death. “I am sending my condolences to the Kenyan commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President William Ruto, all Kenyans, and the families, relatives, and friends of all who have lost their lives in the accident,” she said on her X platform, formerly Twitter.

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