Kenyan LGBTQ activist’s body found in metal box

Edwin Chiloba
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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan police investigated the death of an LGBTQ activist whose body was found stuffed in a metal box as human rights groups on Friday decried the killing and police announced one arrest.

Edwin Chiloba’s body was found 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 license plates. The rider reported it to police officers who were operating a nearby roadblock.

Officers who opened the box found the decomposing body of a man they described as wearing women’s clothes. The body was identified as Chiloba’s and was taken to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital to establish the cause of death.

The motive wasn’t 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 Friday that one person was arrested after neighbors reported seeing him and two others move a metal box from Chiloba’s house.

Neighbors said that the suspect, Jacktone Odhiambo, a photographer based in the capital, Nairobi, spent New Year’s Day with Chiloba and that they heard commotion and crying, Kimulwo said. Chiloba was not seen again by his neighbors after that night.

Neighbors were curious about a foul smell coming from Chiloba’s house, and Odhiambo told them it was from a dead rat, Kimulwo said.

It wasn’t immediately clear Friday whether Odhiambo had a lawyer or other representative to speak on his behalf.

Chiloba has in the past been attacked and assaulted for his activism, his friend Denis Nzioka tweeted Thursday.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission said Friday that 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 Chiloba’s “heart-breaking” killing must be carried out, “leaving no stone unturned.”

Chiloba, who was a fashion designer, was eulogized 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.”

LGBTQ people living in Kenya have often decried discrimination and attacks in a country where sex between men is illegal. Kenya is largely a conservative society, and the president has in past said that gay rights are a nonissue in the country.