More arrests over murder of Kenya LGBTQ activist
January 8, 2023 08:39 PM
Kenyan police said Sunday they have arrested three more suspects over the killing of LGBTQ activist Edwin Chiloba, whose mutilated body was found on a roadside stuffed in a metal trunk.
Rights campaigners at home and abroad have condemned Chiloba's violent death in the Rift Valley of western Kenya and issued calls for heightened efforts to protect members of the LGBTQ community worldwide.
Police said on Friday they had arrested a freelance photographer said to be a longtime friend of the 25-year-old victim, a leading activist in Kenya's LGBTQ community as well as a model and fashion designer.
More people were arrested Saturday, with media reports saying they were suspected of helping dispose of Chiloba's body which was found 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside the town of Eldoret after it was reportedly dumped from a moving car.
"We have three more suspects in custody," Peter Kimulwo, head of investigations at the county Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) office in Eldoret, said Sunday.
“I confirm that we have also found the vehicle we believe was used to dump the body. It will be subjected to forensic investigation," he told reporters in Eldoret.
The Star newspaper reported that a post-mortem would be carried out on Monday, while the family was preparing for a burial next Saturday.
"He died a painful death," an unidentified police officer based in Eldoret told the media last week. "They must have tortured him and then gouged out his eye. It appears he was strangled."
Members of Kenya's LGBTQ community often face harassment and physical attacks in the predominantly conservative Christian nation.
Homosexuality is taboo in Kenya and across much of Africa, and gay people often face discrimination or persecution.
Attempts to overturn British colonial-era laws banning homosexuality in Kenya have proven unsuccessful, and gay sex remains a crime with penalties that include imprisonment of up to 14 years.
- 'Redouble protection efforts' -
UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Saturday he was "shaken" by Chiloba's death.
"Standing in solidarity with LGBTQI+ activists around the world. Urgent need to redouble efforts for their protection," he said on Twitter.
His call was echoed by the African Union's human rights commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso who issued a statement Saturday condemning Chiloba's killing and saying it appeared it was "a result of hate".
Dersso urged Kenya to initiate a "transparent, thorough, and prompt investigation" into the murder and bring those responsible to justice.
He also called on Kenya and other AU members to take measures to ensure that "all vulnerable members of society, including those who are or are perceived to be different from the mainstream members of society including on account of their sexual or gender identity, are guaranteed to live a life free from the threat of violent attacks".
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said Chiloba's death followed the unsolved murders of several other rights advocates for sexual minorities, Sheila Lumumba, Erica Chandra and Joash Mosoti.
"The continued targeting of those perceived to be different is worrying," the state-run but independent rights watchdog said.
"The National Police Service should step up efforts to ensure Kenyans feel safe, and are not arbitrarily attacked or targeted for their perceived beliefs or associations," it added.
Amnesty International called for "speedy investigations into (Chiloba's) brutal murder," saying "no human life is worth less than another's."