General Tonje leads former KDF officers in mourning Gen Ogolla and nine soldiers

Retired Chief of General Staff (CGS) Daudi Tonje. [Martin Ndiema, Standard]

Retired Chief of General Staff (CGS) Daudi Rerimoi Tonje is among former top military officers who joined Kenyans in mourning the death of a sitting Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) and other military officers.

The helicopter tragedy that occurred shortly after takeoff from Chesegon on the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties, has plunged the nation into state of mourning.

Tonje, who served as CGS between 1996 and 2001, remembered Ogolla as “a diligent officer who served KDF with great dedication and commitment’.

Highlighting Ogolla's distinguished career path, Tonje stated:  "He was a great Kenya Air Force officer who rose from Lieutenant II to the highest military rank and Chief of Kenya's Defence Forces. During my time, he was a pilot training our Kenya Air Force Officers where he mentored many pilots and it is sad that we have lost him."

The former CGS is remembered for introducing reforms in the military, among them, the introduction of service rotation in the top military chiefs, currently CDF.  Since the rules the country has been served, at the top most level, by a variety of knowledgeable and differently gifted individuals from all services at intervals; Kenya Army, Kenya Navy and Kenya Airforce which has ensured harmony among all. The rules have come to be known as the Tonje rules.

The reforms have also ensured promotions be based on sheer competence and academic prowess. Women’s corps was disbanded under the reforms to pave the way for women’s inclusion in the mainstream army. Tonje lobbied for the establishment of the Defense College and Defence Forces Medical scheme.

Following his administration, women were exposed to responsible roles and brought on board, entrusted in leadership posts unlike in the past. They were also  allowed to marry and have children while serving in the military.

Last year, a group of women under the umbrella of Females of Valour Association of Kenya, paid General (Rtd) Tonje a visit at his Kitale home, thanking him for the reforms.

The team was led by Rachael Akello, the chairperson of Females of Valour Association of Kenya and one of the first beneficiaries of the Tonje reforms, who hailed Tonje for re-writing Kenya's military history.

"We thank General Tonje for bringing the value of women in us, he brought lives that would never have been today for letting women in the military get married and have families," added the former senior sergeant.

Retired and away from the confinements of military service, the good deeds of Tonje still lead biographers to reconstruct his life patterns.

The women who served in the forces praised Tonje for repealing the rule that banned women from leading commands in units where men were based and allowing them to marry.

Other former senior military officers that have condoled with the country following Gen Ogolla's death are among them former Kenya Army Commander Lieutenant General Augustine Cheruiyot.

Gen Cheruiyot conveyed his condolence messages to the Nation and families of CDF Gen Ogolla and the nine officers who lost their lives while on line of duty.

“I worked with General Ogolla, by then, he was a junior officer but we met occasionally while he was serving in the Airforce and I in Kenya Army. He was a dedicated officer who rose steadily through the ranks to become CDF,” said Cheruiyot.

He recalled that General Ogolla was at one time commander in Nanyuki, and also led one of the Airforce Units and that they would often meet when they visit Nanyuki as top military officers.

He conveyed his message of sympathy to President William Ruto, families of the soldiers, comrades and Kenyans as the country mourn the fallen heroes who were assessing security situation in the North Rift region.

“The officers lost their lives while on a peace mission in the troubled North Rift. I urge residents in the region to uphold peace for the country’s development and prosperity,” said Cheruiyot who served as Army commander between 1994 and 1998.

Philemon Samoei, a former KDF officer and security expert, described Ogolla as "a humble officer of high integrity who shaped the career of many Kenya Air Force pilots."

 "I worked under General Ogolla a few years back before taking my retirement. I can attest that he is one of the best Generals I have ever come across. He was a down-to-earth person who interacted well with KDF officers irrespective of their ranks and we ask God to comfort General Ogolla's family and all the officers who perished in that crash," he recounted.

Another Retired Colonel Raymond Cheruiyot mourned Ogolla's passing, highlighting his dedication to national service.

 "He stood out as a patriotic officer who wanted to ensure that our sovereignity and territorial integrity is not compromised. It is very unfortunate that we have lost such a hardworking officer," Raymond stated.

And Females of Valour Association of Kenya, represented by chairperson Denise Katana and Irene Chepkemoi, spoke of Ogolla as; "a true patriot and a decorated soldier who served Kenya with utmost faithfulness."

The duo expressed their heartfelt condolences to the family of General Ogolla and the bereaved families for the loss of their loved ones.

The cause of the helicopter crash remains under investigation. While the nation grapples with this tragedy, president Ruto announced three days of morning commencing Friday.