• May 19, 2024
  • Last Update May 19, 2024 2:15 PM
  • Nairobi

Francis Ogolla: Life and times of the fallen CDF


By Peter Ochieng

The country continues to mourn the untimely demise of Francis Ogolla, who until his death through a helicopter crash on Thursday was the Chief of Defense Forces (CDF), the top most rank one can ever achieve in Kenya’s military. He died alongside 9 of his juniors.

Ogolla becomes the first CDF to die in office. He was about a year into office. On 28th April 2023, President William Ruto, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces, pursuant to Section 9 (2), (a) of the Kenya Defense Forces Act, promoted Lieutenant General Francis Omondi Ogolla to the rank of General, and appointed him Chief of the Defense Forces (CDF). 

Subsequently General Francis Ogolla’s swearing in ceremony and installation of ranks was held on Saturday 29th April 2023, at State House, Nairobi, succeeding General Robert Kibochi who retired after attaining the mandatory exit age of 62.

General Ogolla’s appointment was in accordance to the ‘Tonje Rules,’ a rotational mechanism that governs the selection of the CDF. Daudi Tonje is a former CDF. ‘Tonje Rules’ dictate the leaders of the Kenya Army, Kenya Navy and Kenya Airforce occupy the CDF post on a rotational basis.

Ogolla was from the Kenya Airforce, Kibochi was from the Kenya Army while his predecessor Samson Mwathethe was from the Kenya Navy. Julis Karangi from the Kenya Army had passed the baton to Mwathethe.

General Ogolla was born on February 12, 1962 in Ng’iya, Siaya County. Prior to this appointment as CDF, General Francis Omondi Ogolla was the Vice Chief of the Defense Forces.

According to mod.go.ke, Gen Francis Omondi Ogolla joined the Kenya Defense Forces on 24 April 1984 and was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant on 6 May 1985 and posted to Kenya Air Force. He trained as a fighter pilot with USAF (United States Airfoce) and as an instructor pilot at the Kenya Air Force (KAF).

He was a four-star soldier. He also trained in other fields including imagery intelligence, counter terrorism and accident investigation.

Gen Francis Ogolla is a graduate of ÉcoleMilitaire de Paris and National Defense College of Kenya. He holds Diploma both in International Studies and Military Science from Egerton University, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Armed Conflict and Peace Studies (First Class Honors) and Masters of Arts in International Studies from the University of Nairobi.

He rose through the ranks to become a Major General and appointed the Commander Kenya Air Force on 15 July 2018, a post he has served for three years.

Previously, he held various appointments in Training, Command and Staff including Deputy Commander Kenya Air Force, Base Commander Laikipia Air Base, Commanding Officer of Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief Flying Instructor at Kenya Air Force Flying Training School and Operations Desk Officer at Kenya Air Force Headquarters.

He also served in the former Yugoslavia as an Observer and Military Information Officer from 1992 to 1993, as chairman of Military Christian Fellowship from 1994 to 2004 and co-Chair of Association of African Air Chiefs between 2018-2019.

“I’m deeply saddened to announce the passing on of General Francis Omondi Ogolla, the Chief of the Kenya Defense Forces,” President William Ruto said while announcing Ogolla’s death during an address to the nation at State House, on Thursday evening.

The President said Ogolla and his entourage had left Nairobi Thursday morning to visit troops deployed in the North Rift under Operation Maliza Uhalifu, and to inspect ongoing school renovations works. The schools are; Chesitet Primary School, Cheptulel Boys High School, Chepoton Primary School, Ksaa Primary School and Sablimoi Primary School.

“In honour of the life and the distinguished military career of the fallen General, who lost his life not just while in office but in active military duty, the nation will observe a period of three days of mourning commencing tomorrow the 19th of April, 2024,” he stated.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, called for through investigations into the cause of the Ogolla killer crash.

“It is our prayer that this tragedy may mark the beginning of a serious relook into our security equipment, especially the aircraft with a view to undertaking a complete overhaul and modernization of the equipment. That was the General’s vision.”

“General Ogolla devoted his life to serving this country, from the day he graduated, through multiple tours of duty, and ultimately as the top soldier in KDF. I acknowledge that our country has lost a military leader with deep knowledge, steady leadership, and strong judgment,” he added.

Francis Ogolla is survived by wife, Aileen, two children and a grandson. His hobbies include reading and playing golf. He will be buried on Sunday in Ng’iya, Siaya County.

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