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Ignore false claim that Kenya’s deputy president used a foreign plane to attend military chief’s funeral

IN SHORT: Social media users claim that Kenyan deputy president Rigathi Gachagua flew on a Tanzanian plane to attend the funeral of Kenya’s military chief Francis Ogolla. This is allegedly because Gachagua was afraid to use Kenyan planes. But the claim is false.

Kenyan military chief Gen Francis Ogolla died on 18 April 2024 in a helicopter crash in Elgeyo Marakwet county, about 400 kilometres northwest of the capital, Nairobi. 

He was buried three days later, on 21 April, at his rural home in Siaya county, some 400 kilometres west of the capital.

His death sparked speculation about the cause of the crash and the safety of the military fleet. 

Against this backdrop, some social media users posted a photo of Kenyan leaders walking past a parked plane with a Tanzanian flag on its tail. 

The photo included Kenya’s deputy president Rigathi Gachagua, defence minister Aden Duale and national assembly majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah.

One post reads: “Gachagua used Tanzanian airline to fly to kisumu where Ogolla is set to be laid to rest.”

Kisumu is a city about 300 kilometres to the west of Nairobi. It has the nearest working airport to Ogola’s rural home, where he is buried.

The claim also appears on Facebook here and on X (formerly Twitter) here, here, here, here and here. It was also published on TikTok with the caption: “Alafu mnasema general Ogola ilikuwa accident.” Translated from Kiswahili, the caption casts doubt on whether Ogola’s death was an accident.

The same image was also posted on YouTube with the headline: “PANIC AS TOP LEADERS AVOID KENYAN PLANES FOR TANZANIA AIRLINES.”

But was Kenya's deputy president avoiding his own country's planes? We checked.

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Tanzanian aircraft in Kisumu airport?

The aircraft with the Tanzanian flag had the tail number “5H-ONE”. 

The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority keeps a register of all aircraft in the country. Using the alphanumeric code on the tail, we found that the plane on the tarmac is a Gulfstream G-550 owned by the Tanzanian Ministry of Transport. 

A Google reverse image search of the photo in question, revealed another photo with silos in the background. 

We used Google Maps to locate the silos visible from the airside at Kisumu airport. The silos belong to the National Cereals Board

So far we know that the plane is Tanzanian and that it was photographed in Kisumu. 

Tanzanian delegation to Ogolla’s funeral

Tanzania’s deputy prime minister Doto Mashaka Biteko represented president Samia Suluhu at Ogolla’s funeral. Tanzania's military chief was also in attendance.

The reverse image search also revealed several photos of Gachagua wearing the same clothes, including the tie, as he did at Ogolla's funeral on 21 April. 

According to news reports, Gachagua was at Kisumu airport when Ogolla's body arrived. 

Other photos showed Gachagua in front of a Kenyan Air Force plane, greeting a military officer, with other government officials lining up to shake his hand. 

It is government protocol for senior officers to form a line to greet the president or deputy airside as they disembark from an aircraft.

Gachagua has been flying in a military aircraft similar to the one whose nose can be seen in the latter photo. He used a similar jet on his trip to Botswana, Rwanda and the Kenyan city of Mombasa

Ignore false claims that Gachagua flew on a Tanzanian plane to attend Ogolla's funeral. These allegations feed a conspiratorial narrative based on news reports that raise concerns about the safety of the military aircraft fleet.

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