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Tears, shock and sorrow as Alego mourns CDF Ogolla

Family, relatives and friends of the late General Francis Ogolla at his parents’ home in Siaya. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The fallen Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla was an adored military officer whose acts of kindness penetrated the hearts of Nyanza.

On Friday, a sombre mood engulfed Masumbi village in Alego-Usonga sub-county and the region as family and friends struggled to come to terms with his demise.

This came as the family announced that Ogolla would be buried tomorrow, according to his will, and would not be buried in a casket.

Tears flew freely while some relatives sat in a pensive mood as they struggled to admit the huge loss that has befallen them following the loss of their kin, plucked from their midst by the angel of death in his prime.

For the late Ogolla's family, the weekend that was to be a celebration of Mzee Oyeyo's - Ogolla's father's 100th birthday and the consecration of St Thomas ACK - Nduru, has turned into gloom as they prepare for his burial.

To them, Ogolla's position in the military was just on paper and that he was a humble kin who treated everyone with respect and always left his position at the gate whenever he visited home.

His father battled tears as he mourned his son who had planned a birthday for him that had been slated for today. 

Ogolla's father, who eulogized his son as sharp and confident, said all were God's plan.

His eldest brother Canon Hezekiah Oduor said they are still in shock over his death but maintained that they will bury him as per his wishes.

"The decision to be buried on Sunday was his wish. He had informed the family that upon his demise he be buried in 72 hours in a simple ceremony," said Canon Oduor.

"He wanted his burial to be very simple and the grave will be dug on Sunday morning. There will be no coffin," he added.

Oduor who stayed with the late General Ogolla when he was in primary described him as a loving, humble, and generous man.

He described him as very respectful and a man of his word.

"He gave us respect as his elders. He left the position of the general at the gate. His position never affected us much. He washed dishes at home and it is something People could not believe because of his position," he recalls.

In Masumbi, villagers thronged his home to condole with the family of Ogolla. Others broke down, while people remembered him for his generosity.

They described him as a source of inspiration to the community and described him as a humble gentleman whose love for education and charity was immense.

While he was a tough-talking military officer in the Kenya Defense Forces, he was an easy man who interracted freely with his kinsmen.

Prior to his death, Ogolla had been expected to welcome Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit to his home church in Siaya. 

In an interview with The Standard, the chair of finance committee at St Thomas ACK Church Nduru, Fabian Okoth, said the late General Ogolla was generous.

"We started the construction of the church around 2016 and he came in to support us in buying materials and paying labour for the roofing of the church building. He also bought the furniture in the church," said Mr Okoth.

Okoth, who termed the demise as a big loss to the church and Christian family, said they had prepared to host him on Sunday for a church event.

General Ogolla's elder sister Perez Onyango recalled how her brother would often cook for her whenever he visited him.

"He treated me as his elder sister and it is an emotional moment for me," she said, adding that they will obey the late's wish to be buried within 72 hours.

In Homa Bay, a community where Ogolla completed his primary education remembered him for constructing a water project that is serving more than 10,000 people.

According to the Chief of Arujo Location Bob Lang’o, Gen Ogolla studied at Lala Primary School from 1975 before he sat his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) in 1976.

They said Ogolla never forgot Lala Primary school and Lala community sent a team to drill water at Lala Primary School last year.

“The project was initially designed for Lala primary school but it was implemented in the secondary school. It is being supplied in the primary school through pipes,” Lang’o said.

Jane Aoko, a resident said Gen Ogalla had alleviated them from a serious water shortage which affected them before the project.

“I have never seen Gen Ogolla but this water project creates his image in my mind. We were suffering from a serious water shortage but he rescued us. Death has deprived us of a person were admiring to see and express our gratitude to,” Aoko said.

Javan Auko, a resident said Ogolla gave became a good example who should be emulated by everybody in the society.

“Gen Ogolla did well and I encourage our people who are successful in life to remember schools and communities which uplifted them. They should empower such communities emotionally, psychologically and finically,” Auko said.

The late General Ogolla went to Nduru primary school in Alego Usonga upto class six before he joined his brother Canon Oduor in Homabay at Lala primary.

Allan Olwenda, General Ogolla's former schoolmate at Nduru primary in 1976, said they have been close since their school days.

Ogolla was confirmed dead alongside nine other military personnel following a KDF chopper crash at Sindar, Kaben in Elgeyo Marakwet on Thursday afternoon.

Leaders from the region led by Governor James Orengo (Siaya), Anyang Nyong'o (Kisumu), MP Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Samuel Atandi (Alego Usonga) and Siaya Speaker George Okode described him as an accomplished military officer.

Governor Orengo termed his death a great loss to the county of Siaya and Kenya.

"He served this country with honour. He embodied all the qualities of a Kenyan hero, and his journey was the quintessential Kenyan history," said Orengo.

Report by Isaiah Gwengi, Olivia Odhiambo and James Omoro

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