Who was Edwin Chiloba? Murdered Kenyan LGBTQ+ activist ‘spread love wherever he went’

Kenyan LGBTQ+ activist Edwin Chiloba

Edwin Chiloba, a fearless LGBTQ+ activist and fashion designer from Kenya, was tragically found dead on 4 January 2023.

Police in Kenya reported that Chiloba’s body was found in a metal box by the side of the road in Uasin Gishu County, after a motorcycle taxi driver reported seeing a car without license plates dump the box. 

His death rocked the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya, with friends describing the activist as “an amazing human” and an “iconic fashion designer”. 

As the case to find and convict his killer or killers continues, here’s what we know about Edwin Chiloba, the activism he worked tirelessly on during his life, and his tragic death.

Who was Edwin Chiloba?

Edwin Chiloba was born in 1998 – though his exact age is not known by the public – in Elgeyo-Marakwet County in Kenya.

He attended the University of Eldoret in Kenya, beginning a fashion design course in 2019 and later building his own brand as a clothing designer. 

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Edwin Chiloba also made a name for himself as an LGBTQ+ activist, regularly speaking out about the discriminatory laws in place against the community in Kenya. 

Under British colonial-era law, it is illegal for men to engage in gay sex in Kenya under the Penal Code 1930. Those found guilty of the act can face up to 14 years in prison. 

Several attempts to decriminalise gay sex have failed, and president William Ruto has branded LGBTQ+ rights in Kenya as a “non-issue”.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission paid tribute to the activist after his death, explaining that his murder is a reminder that “queer bodies continue to be under attack all over the country.”

The organisation added: “Edwin was a loved and valued member of his community who used the platforms available to him to fight for what was right.

“Edwin’s death reminds us that queer bodies continue to be under attack all over the country.”

Chris Makena, a fellow activist and friend, said: “He spread love wherever he went, was bold about his existence as a queer man and encouraged many others to do the same”.

When was the activist killed?

According to officials, Edwin Chiloba was smothered to death before his body was found on 4 January 2023.

Chief government pathologist Dr Oduoir told the BBC that the university student had died of asphyxia “caused by smothering” before being found in a metal box by a roadside.

He added that Chiloba had not sustained any other injuries. 

While human rights groups have highlighted that Edwin Chiloba was active in the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya, police forces have not named his death as a hate crime, or given a motive for the murder.

A spokesperson for the police said the investigation was ongoing, adding: “We don’t know for now why he was killed that way. 

“Experts are handling the matter.”

Chiloba was laid to rest on 17 January at his parents’ home in Sergoit, Kenya. 

Edwin Chiloba smiles at the camera while wearing round framed glasses and a dark top
Edwin Chiloba was tragically killed in January (Facebook)

Are there any leads in Edwin Chiloba’s murder case?

It was announced on Tuesday (31 January) that 24-year-old Jackton Odhiambo, a long-time friend of Edwin Chiloba, will be charged with his horrific murder. 

Five suspects had previously appeared in court in connection with Chiloba’s murder, with Odhiambo being described as the main suspect in the case. 

State counsel Anthony Fedha said: “Following our investigation, we have established that four of the suspects are not linked to the murder. 

“However, the first suspect, Jacktone Odhiambo, will be charged with murder.”

The New York Times reported that Odhiambo was visiting Chiloba from the country’s capital, Nairobi, at the time of his death. 

Pulse Kenya added in their report that Odhiambo confessed to the murder, and that he was aided by two accomplices. 

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.”