Azimio leaders call for thorough probe into KDF chopper crash

Azimio principals led by Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua address the press where they raised concern over the increase in plane crashes in the past months. They called for thorough investigations, overhaul of Kenyan aircraft, and insist report should be made public. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga wants thorough investigations undertaken into Thursday’s helicopter crash that killed Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Francis Ogolla and nine other senior officers.

In a press statement, Raila also raised concern over the prevalence of military aircraft crashes that have claimed lives before.

“Even as we mourn, I wish to pose a challenge to the government. There has been long-running concern about the state of helicopters and other equipment being used by our security sector. Many near-death encounters have occurred with the security aircraft,” said Raila, who argued that thorough investigations would bring peace to the bereaved families and the nation.

“We may never know what exactly brought down the helicopter in which the General died. It is our prayer that this tragedy may mark the beginning of a serious relook into our security equipment, especially the aircraft with a view to undertaking a complete overhaul and modernisation of the equipment. That was the General’s vision,” he added.

At a separate press briefing, his Azimio colleagues also posed similar issues and demanded transparent investigations, urging that the findings be made public. Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua described the incident as “deeply concerning” and needing serious investigations.

“We are deeply concerned that the Kenya Defence Forces have had several other accidents in the last 12 months, including yesterday’s (Thursday) tragic crash. This must be thoroughly investigated. We are aware that it is the KDF that secures the flights of their Commander-in-Chief, as well as their top commander, their CDF, and yesterday’s accident was unprecedented,” she said at a briefing in Karen, Nairobi attended by other Azimio principals, including Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Gen Ogolla died alongside Brigadier Swale Saidi, Colonel Duncan Keittany, Lieutenant Colonel David Sawe, Major George Benson Magondu, Captain Sora Mohamed, Captain Hillary Litali, Senior Sergeant John Kinyua Mureithi, Sergeant Cliphonce Omondi and Sergeant Rose Nyawira.

The crash was the fifth in the last 12 months involving military aircraft and it occurred three months after another Kenya Air Force helicopter went down.

Karua, who also championed the establishment of a welfare fund for the disciplined forces, questioned why a soldier of Gen Ogolla’s stature would be inspecting school projects.

“Is it routine for a CDF to evaluate classrooms? Was it planned or was it a directive? There are many questions that need answers,” she said. “Even the visual images of that accident... leave us with anxiety and answers are needed as soon as possible.”

Indeed, many questions have cropped up since the incident. On social media, Embakasi East Babu Owino posed questions about the logistics that go into such operations.

They include the absence of senior military officers, the rank of officers that should fly the CDF, how many choppers they should take and the composition of the CDF’s parade.

“Why was a whole CDF using one Helicopter with no 50ACB Helicopter Escort in an operation area?” posed Babu.

“Who should be the next CDF going by the Tonje Rules and who is to deputise him, and will that deputy be the CDF by 2027?” he added.

Earlier, Azimio leaders condoled with Gen Ogolla’s widow, Aileen Ogolla, at the family’s Nairobi home. They eulogised him as a “focused visionary”, who left a great impact despite his short stint at the helm.