What you need to know:
- The athletes, who were joined by foreign runners training in Iten took issue with the government and the Athletics Kenya (AK) over slow response to the issues affecting them
- Keitany said the seminars which had been rolled out by the AK should be sustained to help in creating awareness on gender based violence among the athletes
- Lagat said there were a lot of calls from various stakeholders to offer psycho-social support to athletes
Hundreds of athletes Monday took to the streets of Iten town protesting the increased cases of Gender Based Violence targeting them across the country.
This follows the discovery of the decomposing body of Kenyan-Bahrain born athlete Damaris Muthee on Tuesday last week at a rental house in Lilies estate, Iten without any physical injuries covered on the bed with a pillow on her face. Her alleged Ethiopian lover now a fugitive identified as Eskinder Hailemariam is believed to be the prime suspect.
Keiyo North Directorate Criminal Investigation (DCI) detective Andalo Munga said the cause of death was general strangulation resulting to asphyxiation and eventual death and they have sought help from Interpol and Foreign affairs ministry to help track down the fugitive.
The athletes who were joined by foreign runners training in Iten took issue with the government and the Athletics Kenya (AK) over slow response to the issues affecting them which has now mutated into emotional and physical abuse leading to tragic incidents.
Led by four-time New York Marathon champion Mary Keitany, 2021 York Marathon first runners-up Violah Lagat and Seoul Marathon champion Kenyan-born Romanian athlete Joan Chelimo among others traversed the streets of Iten town chanting solidarity songs and justice for Muthee. They called for strict laws and setting up of gender based violence outreach offices at the counties.
“It is saddening that athletes at the moment are congregating not to celebrate their exploits in field and track but to cry over the death of their colleague. Gender based violence is the greatest threat to athletes and we are calling for concerted efforts to end it,” she said.
Keitany said the seminars which had been rolled out by the AK should be sustained to help in creating awareness on gender based violence among the athletes.
But Lagat said lack of strict laws against perpetrators of gender based violence has allowed the vice go on unabated leading to the tragic incidents witnessed involving the athletes.
“We have been calling on AK to streamline the sports sector to weed out rogue elements who have been muddying the sector. This has become a song and yet the killings are continuing and as athletes we are suffering a lot in silence,” she said.
“Some athletes who have been abused no longer report to police because the perpetrators have been bailing themselves out and begin tormenting their victims again. They should treat such matters with seriousness it deserves because if it does not end we are likely to lose more athletes,” she said.
Recalling the killing of two-time world 10,000 metres bronze medalist Agnes Tirop in October last year, Lagat said there were a lot of calls from various stakeholders to offer psycho-social support to athletes.
“Athletes have been suffering for ages and no one has been bothering. We should not be used to knee-jerk reaction that each time there is a killing we come out. We should be close to the athletes and be mindful of their welfare because they are suffering in silence,” she said.
“What are you doing? You are sitting, watching girls like Agnes getting killed every single day in every village. Agnes was a hero, that’s why her story drew worldwide attention. But this happens daily,” she added.