General Francis Ogolla’s Last Salute

By Leeroy Wuone

General Francis Omondi Ogolla MGH EBS HSC `ndc’ (K) `psc’ (FRA) perished in a fatal helicopter crash on the April 18,2024 that also claimed the lives of 9 others. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

The military helicopter crashed in a remote forested area in Sindar area,Kaben location,Tot division Elgeyo Marakwet county. This is the first time a sitting Chief of Defence Forces(CDF) has passed away while in office since independence times of Kenya. The unsettling trend of chopper crashes now raises concerns for the need of a thorough review of the airworthiness of Kenya’s state-owned aircraft.

The other 9 victims killed in the fatal chopper crash were Brig Swaleh Saidi,Col Duncan Keittany,Lt Col David Sawe, Maj George Magondu, Capt Sora Mohamed, Capt Hillary Litali, SSgt John Kinyua Mureithi, Sgt Cliphonce Omondi and Sgt Rose Nyawira.

The late General Ogolla had hoped to accomplish much and was focused on a mission of defending Kenya’s sovereignity as a republic. The late general was also on a mission of modernizing the military, weaponry included,“militaries evolve and threats to national security change everyday. We must keep evolving and equipping ourselves, said the late general earlier on. He was also on a mission to ensure that those under his command were well housed, their families well taken care of and the education of their children taken care of too.

The late Ogolla joined the KDF on April 24,1984 and was commissioned on May 6,1985 as 2nd Lieutenant having trained as a fighter pilot with the US Air Force and as an instructor at the Kenya Air Force (KAF). He received a first class Honors in Bachelor of Arts in political science, Armed Conflict and Peace studies. He also holds a master of Arts in International studies from the University of Nairobi. The late Ogolla held senior positions in the military, including commanding officer Laikipia Air base Tactical flight wing in 2007, Base commander Laikipia Air base 2008-2014. He was also the chief flying instructor at the Kenya Air Force flying training school, and operations desk officer at Kenya Air Force headquarters (KAF). He was promoted to Brigadier April 10,2012 and subsequently appointed as Deputy Air Force Commander on July,2018,he was promoted to major General and appointed commander of the Air Force.The late General Ogolla was then promoted to Lieutenant General in July 23,2021 and named as the Vice Chief of Defence forces(VCDF) deputizing Ex CDF Rtd General Robert Kariuki Kibochi (2020-2023).

Upon the exit of General Kibochi, according to the Tonje rules,the CDF position was decided upon rotations among the 3 services the Kenya Army,Kenya Air Force and the Kenya Navy. According to the rules,the two Snr most officers after General Kibochi’s exit were Lt. General Ogolla and Lt. General Mohamed Badi. Former CDF Daudi Tonje was former CDF who served between 1996 and 2001 under the Moi regime. He remembered the late Ogolla as a pilot who trained Kenya Air Force Officers (KAF) where he mentored many young pilots.

The late General Ogolla was married to Aileen, and blessed with two children and a grandson. Marking his first 100 days in office, he said, “I like to read, I used to love golf, but the day I was appointed CDF I kept my golf clubs aside. I said`let me focus on this job wholeheartedly.”

Rest in Peace son of the soil, in the final words of General Douglas MacArthur’s an Ex USA chief of Defence,final address to a joint session of the United States Congress recorded in 1951),the old soldiers never die, they just fade away.In the eyes of Kenyans,we would put it as old General Francis Omondi Ogolla never dies, he just fades away.

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