Azimio demands public inquest into Gen Francis Ogolla death

Azimio calls for judicial inquest into CDF Francis Ogolla’s death

What you need to know:

  • The legislators have also faulted a move by President Ruto to appoint a separate investigation team
  • President Ruto, during the burial service of General Ogolla on Sunday, promised to make the investigation report public.
  • Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui said Parliament should also play a role in the probe.

The Opposition on Tuesday upped the ante on its calls for a thorough investigation into the death of Chief of Defence Forces Francis Ogolla with fresh demands for a judicial inquiry.

At a Parliamentary Group meeting held in Nairobi, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition demanded that a public judicial inquiry, and not just a military probe, be instituted with regard to last Thursday’s helicopter crash where General Ogolla died alongside nine other

Oburu's speech that set tongues wagging at CDF Ogolla's burial

(KDF) personnel. Two sustained injuries and are still in hospital.

Meanwhile, a memorial for the fallen general, which was scheduled for this Friday, has been postponed indefinitely.

The KDF, in a joint statement with General Ogolla’s family, said they would set a new date for the service.

At the Azimio PG meeting, which was chaired by Azimio leader Raila Odinga and attended by coalition leaders, including Kalonzo Musyoka and Eugene Wamalwa, National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi read the PG’s statement.

“The Parliamentary Group meeting has called for a judicial inquest into the accident and death as opposed to mere investigation led by the military that is closed to civilians. We also demand that families of the victims be independently represented in the investigation and inquest,” Mr Opiyo said.

A judicial inquest under law is carried out to inquire into sudden and unexplainable deaths. Inquests are usually heard in a magistrate’s court with the aim of establishing the cause and the circumstances leading to the death of a person.

Unlike other processes, a judicial inquest does not deal with issues of blame and responsibility for the death, but rather it focuses on fact-finding regarding the death of an individual.

Witnesses are usually called to give accounts of the circumstances leading to the death of the individual. Inquest proceedings are not trials against particular suspects but instead, at the end of the proceedings, the magistrate will give recommendations either for further investigations or arrest and prosecution of particular individuals.

Unclear deaths

On paper, inquests are a proper procedure to employ in investigations of unclear deaths, particularly in the absence of a coroner. A coroner is a forensic expert whose primary role is to investigate mysterious deaths.

The legislators have also faulted a move by President Ruto to appoint a separate investigation team from the one gazetted last Friday by Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen.

“Already, we are seeing worrying signs. We have noted that Mr Ruto set up a separate investigation team away from the one gazetted by CS Kipchumba Murkomen in the gazette notice dated April 19, 2024,” Mr Opiyo said.

President Ruto, during the burial service of General Ogolla on Sunday, promised to make the investigation report public.

“The Kenya Defence Forces is as concerned as I am on the life of Ogolla. There will be no shroud of doubt on what happened to General Ogolla. There shall never be extra-judicial killings or political assassinations in Kenya under my watch,” Dr Ruto said.

Mr Murkomen had appointed a seven-member aircraft investigation team to assess the situation of previous aircrafts involved in accidents. However, on Monday, he ruled out the involvement of the investigation team in the military chopper crash.

“As you heard from the President yesterday, it’s the exclusive mandate of the Kenya Defence Forces to investigate accidents involving military aircraft. My ministry deals with purely civil aviation, both private and commercial, which is non-military and non-state aviation.”

While announcing the death of General Ogolla and nine others, President Ruto said that the Kenya Air Force had constituted and dispatched an air investigation team to establish the cause of the helicopter crash that killed CDF Ogolla and the nine other soldiers.

“I have full confidence in KDF. They are our foremost professional entity in Kenya therefore I have full confidence that General Omenda and the team he has appointed to make sure that all details are laid bare on the accident that took away the life of General Ogolla,” Dr Ruto said on Sunday while referring to the team.

International authorities such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Commission have also raised concern over the capacity of the country to investigate air accidents.

Mr Wandayi, who also spoke in Parliament regarding the matter, noting that the country deserves to know the truth and that nothing should be spared in getting to know what happened to the ill-fated chopper.

Unearthing the truth

“We must insist on unearthing the truth. We owe it not only to our soldiers, but also families of the fallen soldiers. We do all it takes to unearth this accident. This country needs to be told who or what killed General Ogolla,” Mr Wandayi said.

During the session in Parliament, lawmakers showered General Ogolla with accolades and described him as a simple officer who served the country diligently. Some observed that the country deserved to know the truth and the circumstances surrounding the air tragedy.

Ruto announces death of CDF Francis Ogolla in chopper crash

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who recalled how he trained with General Ogolla on Tuesday last week at Ulinzi Complex before his death on Thursday, said the internal investigations that will be conducted by Kenya Air Force may not be enough to unearth the truth that Kenyans want.

“We should go the commission of inquiry way, which is at the hands of the President, or an inquiry done by this House. Although an internal enquiry is good, it may not lead to the truth that we all need to know,” Dr Amollo said.

Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi said even as investigations are being done on the circumstances that led to the death of General Ogolla, some heads also needed to roll at the Kenya Air Force.

Mr Atandi also called for a probe into the expenditure of the Ministry of Defence, saying that each financial year, Parliament allocates billions to them.

“When a person of the stature of General Ogolla dies, some heads also need to roll. The majors who are in charge of the Air Force need to be asked questions. We allocate a lot of money to DoD. It is one department riddled with corruption,” Mr Atandi said.

Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui said Parliament should also play a role in the probe.

“We need to hasten the investigations, and this House (should play) a role so that Kenyans can have closure on this matter,” Mr Mbui said.

Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah assured the country that everything regarding the probe will be transparent, as promised by the President Ruto during the burial on Sunday.

Mr Ichung’wah said the incident provides the country with an opportunity to consider modernising equipment being used by KDF, including all the aircraft.

Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba said even if the country focuses on probing what killed General Ogolla, investigations should also be conducted on what happened at the Bomas of Kenya.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech, who is also the chairman of the Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, said his team will get to the bottom of the matter that touched the core of the country’s security.

“It is important to ensure that our KDF officers are well kitted to conduct their duties both within and outside the country,” Mr Koech said.

Kilgoris MP Julius Sunkuli, who once served as the Internal Security minister, said the investigations should also focus on the state of equipment being used by KDF.

In their statement postponing the memorial, the family and KDF did give any reasons, as they thanked those who sent messages of condolences and mourned with them from Thursday following the tragic news of his passing to Sunday when he was laid to rest.

“As a force, as a family and certainly as a nation, we have been reflecting on his immense influence and the far-reaching impact he had as a military general, a patriot, a national leader, a Christian and as a family man,” said the statement.

“Whereas the three-day national period of mourning has come to a close and we re-engage in life without General Francis Ogolla, collectively we continue to pray for his family and our fallen comrades following the helicopter crash,” it added.

“We cherish the virtues and attributes we learnt from his life and be grateful to the almighty Lord for the privilege to interact with him and to bear witness to his way of life,” it said of General Ogolla.

Reporting by Samwel Owino, Victor Raballa, and Ndubi Moturi