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Azimio calls for independent inquiry into Ogolla's death

When the late KDF Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla welcomed the KDF Contingent soldiers from the DR Congo peace mission at Embakasi Garrison in Nairobi on December 21, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the helicopter crash that killed Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla and nine other soldiers last Thursday.

The opposition also demanded a judicial inquest into the accident, faulting the ongoing investigations by the Kenya Air Force (KAF), as directed by President William Ruto, as it was "closed to civilians."

In a statement issued after the Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting yesterday, the leaders said the inquest must include the public and families of the helicopter crash victims.

"We have authorised Hon Antony Oluoch (Mathare) and Senator Enoch Wambua (Kitui) to lead the process of establishing a joint parliamentary inquiry involving the National Assembly and the Senate into the death of Gen Ogolla," National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said after the meeting attended by Azimio principals and lawmakers.

"Already, we are seeing worrying signs. We have noted that Mr Ruto set up a separate investigation team away from the one gazetted by Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen in the gazette notice dated April 8, 2024," the Ugunja MP added.

President Ruto last week said that the KAF would conduct investigations into the crash that also killed 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.

His directive came amid calls, by the opposition, for thorough investigations to allay fears of foul play in the accident. When he attended Gen Ogolla's military rites ceremony on Friday, Raila called for thorough investigations into the helicopter crash a position that was emphasized by his brother Oburu Oginga during the military chief's burial on Sunday.

Oburu said Nyanza region has experienced cases of political assassinations and sought to have the findings of the inquiry made public, which Ruto pledged the government would do.

Azimio also faulted the Kenya Kwanza administration's tax policies. They alleged some laws have been engineered by shadowy figures to benefit select firms at the expense of others.

"One case that featured prominently at this meeting is that of the Export and Investment Promotion Levy introduced in the Finance Act of 2023. As we warned, together with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, this levy is killing manufacturing in the country by giving preferential treatment to specific businesses whose owners have captured the apparatus of the State and are using it for personal gain, in complete disregard for the public good," said Wandayi, who called for the repealing of the levy.

"The levy on imported goods like steel and clinker is creating monopolies in steel and cement manufacturing at the expense of the public. Rather than boost local production, the levy is killing the same. It is killing jobs and making products like steel and cement extremely expensive," said the Ugunja MP, adding that the move pointed to an alleged inherent corruption thriving in the State.

He cited a recent report by the United States Trade Office that flagged Kenya for locking out investors through demands for kickbacks for contracts by senior government officials.

Similarly, Wandayi highlighted the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission survey that found that the average bribe had doubled last year and challenged the EACC to "go beyond releasing surveys and swing into action."

 "We are dealing with an unprecedented case of corruption in government and state capture by people in and out of government," said the Minority Leader, who also demanded action against those involved in the fake fertiliser scandal.

Azimio also tore into Ruto's performance in lowering the cost of living, saying that "life remains unbearable for a majority of Kenyans." The opposition vowed to sustain pressure on the Kenya Kwanza administration to lower the cost of living.

They plan to do this through court cases, among other measures, with Wandayi revealing that Azimio has 20 cases against the State, lamenting delays in concluding them.

The cases include Ruto's establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the Shakahola tragedy, a case against Police Inspector General Japhet Koome, Jubilee's status in Parliament and its supremacy wars. Another case challenges Isiolo Governor Abdi Guyo's resignation from Jubilee to join UDA.

"Together, these cases provide a clear pattern of the slow pace of the hearing and conclusion of cases especially where the State is a subject and senior government officials are involved. We are staring at a clear case of justice delayed and justice denied," said Wandayi.

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