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Final salute: Tears, pain and heartbreak as Ogolla buried

 A photo of the late Chief of Defense Forces Francis Ogolla during his last salute in Siaya on April 21, 2024. [John Muchucha, Standard] 

The grieving family of the late Chief of Defense Forces Francis Ogolla stood in tears by his graveside as they bid farewell to a father, a kin, and an accomplished professional whose death has left the country in shock.

Outside the homestead, emotions ran high as friends, neighbours, and government officials united in grief to give Ogolla his last salute.

With their heads bowed and handkerchiefs in hand, senior government officials led by President William Ruto stood pensively as they bid the General farewell.

At 3.49pm, family members and close relatives threw soil into his grave as per the Luo traditions to bid him farewell, moments after the military had accorded their deceased colleague a gun salute.

For the previous 48 hours, Mor village in Alego Usonga had been restless as a cloud of gloom and a sombre mood engulfed the region following the General’s death.

And as per his wishes, the family buried Ogolla without a coffin.

Tears flew freely as the family, the military, and senior government officials laid a wreath on his grave.

For a man who built a profile as an elegant civil servant, a philanthropist, and an accomplished military colossus, the region accorded him a befitting sendoff.

This happened as mourners showered him with praises for his contribution to the country as a civil servant and as a devoted citizen. To them, his star shone beyond Nyanza.

Earlier on, armed with twigs and leaves, crowds of residents of Kisumu and Siaya counties paraded along the Kisumu-Ndori-Kogelo village road awaiting to pay their tributes for the late general as the military transported his body home by road.

Those who had lined up along Luanda road were left disappointed after the convoy making Ogolla’s final journey used the Kisumu-Ndori route.

The procession from Kisumu was led by four military outriders and other military vehicles carrying officers. Others on the procession were Cabinet secretaries and senior government officials.

While other mourners were wailing, others chanted Luo traditional dirges in honour of the departed hero. There were several brief stops as mourners attempted to block roads in an attempt to view his body.

The casket of the late General was decorated with the Kenyan flag and his military gear. The body arrived at the Kisumu Airport at around 7.40 am in a Kenya Air Force plane.

Family, friends, and the political class hailed him as a hero who dedicated his life to transforming the country.

His son, Joel Rabuku,  described him as a loving and kind man.

Rabuku vowed to take over his father’s works of compassion by rehabilitating schools, building churches, and sinking boreholes for the community.

“I have discussed this with President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua. I already told them about my project to improve lives in the next two or three years,” he said.

While eulogising his brother as a special child in their family, Perez Onyango, his sister, said his late brother told her that he should be buried within 72 hours and had also shown him where he was to be buried.

Ogolla’s daughter, Lorna Achieng eulogised the father as a man who did not like being in the limelight but led by example.

Achieng, who added that her father inspired her by his deeds, said he was a pursuer of excellence.

“Our father never showed us how to do things but we learned from how he did his things. This is the best way any parent should bring up their children,” she said.

Achieng, who said that they are celebrating a life well lived, recounted how her father learned French within six months.

“When my father was posted in France, it was mandatory that he learn French. He enrolled for the classes and would sometimes sneak from the hospital when he was sick to go and study,” she recalled, adding that he was in class with her peers at the University of Nairobi.

President Ruto said he was confident with Ogolla’s leadership of the military and his demise is a great loss for the country.

“I was very confident that in the hands of Ogolla, the security of Kenya was assured,” said Ruto.

The president vowed to ensure that the circumstances that led to the helicopter crash that claimed the life of one of Kenya’s most decorated sons will be investigated to conclusion.

Defense Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale said Ogolla’s death was a big loss to the military.

Alego-Usonga MP Samuel Atandi recalled how the late General lectured him for two hours at his home in Nairobi and maintained he had high standards of professionalism.

“I asked him for support towards my campaigns in 2022 and when he invited me to meet him in Nairobi, I thought he had accepted to support. He instead lectured me for two hours on how the nature of his job did not allow him to support any political activity,” said Atandi.

Governor James Orengo described Ogolla as a gallant son of the soil who dedicated his life to transforming the country.

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