Nairobi-based photographer arrested over LGBTQ activist Edwin Chiloba's murder
He was last seen alive dancing with his friends while singing at a popular club in Eldoret on New Year’s eve.
Some in his close circle say celebrated model and LGBTQ activist Edwin Chiloba later left the club with his friends to an unknown destination for a house party.
Two days later, Chiloba’s decomposing body was found stashed in a metal box on the Kipenyo–Kaptinga road in Kapsaret constituency, Uasin Gishu County.
Yesterday, police arrested a 24-year-old Nairobi-based freelance photographer on suspicion of having a part in Chiloba’s killing.
Uasin Gishu County Directorate of Criminal Investigations officer Peter Kimulwa said the photographer arrived with Chiloba in Kimumu from Tamasha Club at 3pm.
He said there was a scuffle at the house that could have led to Chiloba’s death.
“The man was seen by neighbours loading a metal box into a vehicle that was later found to contain the body,” Mr Kimulwa said.
He added that the police are looking for two other people. The photographer is at Langas police station.
Chiloba’s elder sister Melvin Faith yesterday narrated the last moments she had with him before his body was found by a boda boda.
“I had invited my brother to Tamasha (a night joint in Eldoret) where I work to celebrate the New Year. We had fun and took selfies and short videos to usher in the New Year,” Melvin said at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital mortuary.
She added that her brother arrived at the club around 10 pm and left shortly after 1 am.
“I chatted with him for about 20 minutes before bidding him farewell. He left with a friend I do not know,” she said in the company of her relatives.
“All I can remember is that he told me: ‘bye sis, we shall meet again. I’ll miss you’.”
“I later tried to call him but his cell phone was off.”
She added that Chiloba, a fourth-year student at the University of Eldoret, lived in Kimumu on the Eldoret-Iten road, some three kilometres from the university.
The rider who stumbled on the body informed police officers manning the road of a vehicle he saw dumping the box before speeding off.
Last year, Chiloba survived an attack in public by unknown assailants. He was badly injured in the face.
The injuries included a large cut on his lips and bruises all over his face.
Mr Kimulwa said police have information that could lead to more arrests.
Chiloba never shied away from dressing like a woman and sharing images on social media.
The boda boda is among the people who have recorded statements with the police.
“The matter has been handed to the DCI. Detectives are on the ground conducting investigations,” Kapsaret Sub-County Police Commander John Odhiambo said.
University of Eldoret Student President Evans Kipchumba said Chiloba was pursuing a degree course in apparel fashion and design. He was to complete his studies in April.
“He is a social and outgoing colleague and his death remains a puzzle,” Mr Kipchumba said.
In July last year, Chiloba posted photos on his Instagram pages (that were later deleted), after he was attacked ostensibly because of his activism.
On December 16 last year, he posted on Instagram: “My movement is for everyone. It’s about inclusion. And if I am going to fight what I have been marginalised for, I am going to fight for all marginalised people.”
The last Instagram message he shared on December 29 indicated that he hoped to achieve multiple goals in 2023, among them growing his fashion brand and working with big companies.
He dreamt of his work being showcased in New York and becoming a fashion icon. Chiloba was famous on the streets of Eldoret.
Chiloba’s adoptive parents Peter Pfaltzgraff and his wife Donna yesterday said his death is a big blow as they loved him.
“Our hearts are broken. Will give more details when we can share more. Please pray for us,” Donna said.
On his official Facebook account, Pfaltzgraff posted a photo of him having a light moment with Chiloba.
The image had the caption: “ Edwin we love you.”
The Pfaltzgraffs, who hail from the United States, have been the spiritual parents of Chiloba.
They frequently fly into the country as preachers of the gospel. They have been in Kenya since March last year.
Instagram users, human rights activists and the civil society condemned the killing.
“Barely four months later, they have murdered you in the most uncouth of ways. My heart is shattered. I know you fought,” Biubwa-uncut posted on Instagram.
According to Biubwa, Chiloba fought for his rights boldly and his death is a blow to his fans.
“Words cannot explain the pain in my heart. We will try to fight for your justice. Best way we have access to, we will try. It’s not okay that when we die, we have to think to fight because we don’t just die. We are murdered,” the Instagram post added.
Dennis Nzioka, also an LGBTQ activist, mourned Chiloba. Amnesty Kenya demanded speedy investigations into the killing.
“No human life is worth less than another’s. Everyone has a right to dignity, respect and protection under Article 26 of the Constitution. We demand speedy investigations into the murder of Edwin Chiloba,” Amnesty said.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission called on the DCI and the Director of Public Prosecutions to conduct swift investigations and ensure Chiloba’s killers are apprehended and prosecuted.
“It is truly worrisome that we continue to witness an escalation in violence targeting LGBTQ+ Kenyans. This is reprehensible and unjust. Every day, the rights of LGBTQ+ persons are being violated with little consequence for perpetrators,” the NGO said.
According to the KHRC, the murder follows that of Sheila Lumumba – another LGBTQ activist – in April last year.
The organisation added that the killings are “evidence of a growing epidemic of violence in Kenya”.
Haki Africa, another rights organisation, said the killing was well-coordinated to silence individuals belonging to particular societies.
Being gay in Kenya can earn one a 14-year prison term. Though it is rarely enforced, members of LGBTQ community face discrimination and stigma. Efforts to decriminalise gay sex have hit a wall.
“The killing was orchestrated by individuals targeting people who do not conform their cultural practices. They must face the law,” said Haki Africa Rapid Response Officer Odhiambo Ojiro.
“The rights of citizens must be protected by all means and police should hasten investigations and arrest such criminal actors.