Mourners call for end to GBV at murdered athlete’s funeral

Damaris Muthee protests

Athletes during a procession in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County organised by Tirop's Angels Foundation against Gender Based Violence on April  25, 2022. This is following the killing of Damaris Muthee Mutua, a Kenyan-born Bahraini athlete who was found dead in Iten last week. Two-time World 10,000m Bronze Medallist Agnes Tirop was also kiled last year.  

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The senator also campaigned to end gender based violence, which she said had claimed the lives of many women.

Calls to end gender based violence dominated the burial of Damaris Muthee Mutua, the Kenyan-born Bahraini athlete who was reportedly killed by her boyfriend.

Muthee was buried at her matrimonial home at Katisaa on the fringes of Machakos town on Thursday in a ceremony graced by her family, her Bahraini and Kenyan colleagues and Machakos Senator Agnes Kavindu, among other mourners.  

The award winning athlete was 28 years old when an assailant strangled her at her rented house in Iten township, Elgeyo Marakwet County, a month ago. The eighth-born in a family of nine is survived by her husband Felix Mwendwa Ngila and their son, Ryan.

Kavindu led the calls on the Ministry of Interior to move with speed and arrest Eskinder Hailemaryam Folie, an Ethiopian athlete identified by Kenyan detectives as the main suspect in the murder that has shocked the world.

The senator also campaigned to end gender based violence, which she said had claimed the lives of many women.

“This is another heart-breaking case of a life cut short and talent washed down the drain, considering the achievement Damaris had made in her career. Her death is more painful considering that this is not the first time a bright future has been snuffed out by violence suspected to be gender based violence. It is a loss, not only to her family, but also to the entire athletics fraternity. As Athletics Kenya, we pray for justice from authorities,” said Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei in a statement read on his behalf by his vice president, Paul Mutwii.

Similar calls were made by Muthee’s father, Sebastian Mutua, and her father-in-law, Josephat Ndeti.

While Mwendwa eulogised Muthee as a loving wife and mother, most of the other mourners eulogised her as a highly disciplined, talented and hardworking athlete who inspired many Kenyan athletes. She had a promising future in athletics, they added.

“Damaris was very hospitable. Although she was working for the other side, she was the first person to welcome Kenyan athletes whenever they met in international events,” said Julius Kirwa, the national head coach at Athletics Kenya.

His sentiments echoed those of Muthee’s colleagues, most of whom were overcome by emotion and became inconsolable as the ceremony progressed.

Noting that Muthee’s death came after the murder of another athlete, Agnes Tirop, whose life was cut short in similar circumstances, the speakers at the funeral hoped that Muthee would be the last athlete to die in domestic violence.

“We had a lot of hope in Damaris since she was young and as such, she would have participated in many races and, eventually, become a world champion. The government should do what it takes to ensure that the main suspect is expatriated from Ethiopia and charged in Kenya. The government should put its best foot forward to stem gender based violence, which is evidently spiralling out of control,” said Philip Muia, a veteran athlete and athletics coach who claims some credit for the success of Muthee.

Kavindu pledged to pursue the matter at the Senate to ensure that justice is served.