Edwin Chiloba: ‘Close friend’ arrested after Kenyan LGBTQ+ activist’s body found stuffed in box

Edwin Chiloba smiles at the camera while wearing round framed glasses and a dark top

Kenyan police investigating the brutal death of Edwin Chiloba have arrested a suspect, and people are demanding justice for the slain LGBTQ+ activist.

An inquiry is underway after Chiloba was murdered, police said. Chiloba’s body was found on Wednesday (4 January) inside a metal box dropped by a moving vehicle in Uasin Gishu county.

Peter Kimulwo, the head of investigations at the directorate of criminal investigations (DCI) office in Eldoret, said authorities now have a suspect in custody and are investigating his role in this murder. 

“We are holding him as a prime suspect because there are leads pointing to him and others, but all these are subject to conclusive investigations,” he said.

Kimulwo said the police are looking into Jackton Odhiambo, a 24-year-old male freelance photographer, who was a longtime friend of Chiloba, according to the New York Times. He said Odhiambo was visiting the LGBTQ+ activist from the capital, Nairobi. 

Kimulwo said authorities didn’t yet know the motive behind why Chiloba was killed, adding, “We can’t speculate as of now”. 

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Odhiambo has reportedly confessed to killing Chiloba with the help of two accomplices. It is reported he said the two were in a relationship, and that he killed the activist for allegedly betraying him in their relationship, Pulse Kenya reported.

Authorities said Chiloba was last seen early on New Year’s Day when he returned home with friends. Initial investigations revealed the neighbours “heard commotion and cries which subsided after a short while”, Kimulwo said. 

Kimulwo added that police suspect this was when Edwin Chiloba was murdered. 

He explained neighbours saw a vehicle being driven into Chiloba’s compound and two men loading a metal box on the same day the activist’s body was found. 

The Kenyan Human Rights Commission called Chiloba’s killing “reprehensible” and urged police to “conduct swift investigations and ensure the killers are apprehended and prosecuted”. 

“It is truly worrisome that we continue to witness escalation in violence targeting LGBTQ+ Kenyans,” it said in a statement. “Every day, the human rights of LGBTQ+ persons are being violated with little consequence for perpetrators.”

Amnesty International also called for “speedy investigations” into Chiloba’s murder. 

“No human life is worth less than another’s,” Amnesty International tweeted. “Everyone has a right to dignity, respect and protection under Article 26 of the Constitution.”

Yet more people have called for justice for Edwin Chiloba, remembering the designer’s activist and bright spirit. 

LGBTQ+ people face stigmatisation and discrimination in Kenya. 

Under a penal code that dates back to British colonial rule, same-sex sexual activity is criminalised, carrying prison sentences of up to 14 years

Human Rights Watch said such laws are rarely enforced, but the global organisation said the law contributes to a “climate of discrimination and violence” towards LGBTQ+ people. 

Kenya’s High Court declined to repeal the vile law in May 2019, and then-president Uhuru Kenyatta claimed LGBTQ+ rights are “generally a non-issue” in Kenya just before the ruling. 

William Ruto, Kenya’s recently elected president, has also taken a firm stand against LGBTQ+ rights

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