Probe KDF chopper crash quickly and make report public

KDF helicopter at the scene where the wreckage of a chopper carrying General Francis Ogolla and other nine senior officers crashed at Sindar area in Marakwet East in Elgeyo Marakwet County. [Peter Ochieng,Standard]

The country is yet to come to terms with the unfortunate death of Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla and nine other military officers in a helicopter crash on Thursday.

While the government has cautioned against speculation, this being the fifth military aircraft accident in just 12 months raises a lot of concerns.

The Kenya Air Force has lost 12 aircraft since 2012 in accidents yet it has not released any investigation report, possibly due to confidential nature of military operations.

The National Police Air Wing has also lost five aircraft, raising concern about the airworthiness of State-owned aircraft.

Since 2020, all State-owned aircraft have been under the ambit of military following the establishment of the National Air Support Department (NASD) at Wilson Airport.

Since the Ministry of Defence ministry is not obliged by law to submit its annual reports for scrutiny, Parliament and civilians in general may not be aware of challenges faced by the military. With such lack of accountability, it may be difficult to get appropriate and timely interventions from other quarters.

Top military officers and Defence ministry officials have previously in confidence raised concerns over strain on military resources due to the frequent use of government aircraft.

Quite often, senior government officials use aircraft under NASD. Despite frequent use of such aircraft, the military is possibly left to shoulder the cost of VIP trips and attendant maintenance expenses.

According to Andrew Franklin, a former US marine and security expert based in Kenya, maintenance has always been a problem for the military because of the multiple aircraft purchased from different foreign sources.

Although the government has appointed a team to investigate the cause of the Thursday helicopter accident, going by the antecedent, we have reason to believe that the findings will still be treated as confidential. This means the country will bury the incident in a yard of forgetfulness as fast as possible, with no lessons to learn from. The consequence will remain as the trend of accidents could still continue.

Because of the confidential nature of the military, the NASD remains shadowy and amorphous and may be at cross-purpose with Kenya Civil Aviation Regulations (2018). The government should not continue to burden the military with civilian engagements under this amorphous NASD. This will save Kenya Air Force pilots from probable fatigue associated with long hours of flying VIPs.

We hope the government will expedite investigations into the Thursday helicopter accident and release the findings in public interest. This will put to rest all conspiracy theories being bandied around.