Kenyan police are investigating the death of an LGBT+ activist whose body was found stuffed in a metal box, while human rights groups decried the killing and officers announced one arrest.
Edwin Chiloba’s body was found on Wednesday on a road in Uasin Gishu County, in the west of the country.
Police say a motorcycle taxi operator reported seeing the box being dumped by a vehicle with no number plates. The rider reported it to police officers who were operating a nearby roadblock.
“So, my movement is for everyone. It’s about inclusion. And if I am going to fight what I have been marginalized for, I am going to fight for all marginalized people.” Edwin Chiloba, Instagram post, 16/12/22
You represented and lived life well, Edwin Chiloba. RIP+ pic.twitter.com/jmOhmS2Ysn
— DENIS NZIOKA (@DenisNzioka) January 5, 2023
Officers who opened the box found the decomposing body of a man they described as wearing women’s clothes. The body was identified as Mr Chiloba’s and was taken to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital to establish the cause of death.
The motive was not yet known, police spokesperson Resila Onyango said.
“We don’t know for now why he was killed that way. Experts are handling the matter,” she said.
Uasin Gichu county criminal investigations boss Peter Kimulwo told journalists that one person was arrested after neighbors reported seeing him and two others move a metal box from Mr Chiloba’s house.
Neighbors said that the suspect, Jacktone Odhiambo, a photographer based in the capital, Nairobi, spent New Year’s Day with Mr Chiloba and that they heard commotion and crying, Mr Kimulwo said. Mr Chiloba was not seen again by his neighbors after that night.
Intolerance behind brutal killing of #LGBTQ activist Edwin Chiloba must be called out. His senseless killers stuffed his body in a metal box in Kapsaret, Uasin Gishu County. While the motive is unclear, I hope @DCI_Kenya will unravel the perpetrators. Condolences to his family pic.twitter.com/LHBN5OMPW4
— Stephen Mutoro (@smutoro) January 5, 2023
Neighbors were curious about a foul smell coming from Mr Chiloba’s house, and Mr Odhiambo told them it was from a dead rat, Mr Kimulwo said.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Odhiambo had a lawyer or other representative to speak on his behalf.
Mr Chiloba has in the past been attacked and assaulted for his activism, his friend Denis Nzioka tweeted on Thursday.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission said on Friday that Mr Chiloba was a victim of “another disgusting act of homophobic violence”.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnès Callamard tweeted that a full and independent investigation into Mr Chiloba’s “heart-breaking” killing must be carried out, “leaving no stone unturned.”
Mr Chiloba, who was a fashion designer, was eulogised by local activist Njeri Migwi, who said that “he embodied fashion”.
The calls for justice have spread outside Kenya as Ghanaian human rights organization Rightify called on President William Ruto to “ensure the protection and promotion of human rights of sexual and gender minorities”.
LGBT+ people living in Kenya have often declared discrimination and attacks in a country where sex between men is illegal. Kenya is largely a conservative society, and the President has said in the past that gay rights are a nonissue in the country.