The Kenyan gay rights campaigner whose body was found dumped in a metal box about two weeks ago was buried at the family home in the west of the country on Tuesday (Jan.17).
The grisly death of Edwin Kiprotich Kipruto, popularly known as Edwin Chiloba, has drawn condemnation and calls for justice from friends and rights groups in Kenya and abroad.
Hundreds of people gathered at his parents’ home in Sergoit, a village in Elgeyo Marakwet county, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) northwest of Nairobi.
Family and friends wept as they paid homage to the 25-year-old model and fashion designer, who has been targeted by online abuse since his death.
Joel Onteri, who attended high school with Chiloba, appealed for the vilification of his former classmate to end.
“Despite all that is being said, Chiloba has a family and those close to him. If we continue mocking him on social media, the family is being stigmatised,” Onteri said.
“Let’s leave judgement to God.”
Others made similar calls on Twitter, where his name was the top trending topic in Kenya.
“Today, a peaceful person is buried. Rest in Power Edwin Chiloba. Salute your courage to authentically live your life,” Irungu Houghton, the executive director of Amnesty International’s Kenya branch, said on Twitter.
“May your love for life inspire all who now know you. Deepest condolences again to family, friends + the LGBTIQ+ community.”
Last week, the chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor said Chiloba had been smothered to death.
Chiloba’s body was discovered about 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside the Rift Valley town of Eldoret after it was reportedly dumped from a moving car.
The killing was suspected by some to have been a hate crime, as members of Kenya’s LGBTQ community have faced harassment and physical attacks in the nation.
Freelance photographer Jacktone Odhiambo, who was reportedly a lover of Chiloba, is the prime suspect in his death and is in police custody along with four other people.
A court in Eldoret has allowed police to detain the five until January 31 as they pursue their investigations into the killing.
Rights campaigners have condemned Chiloba’s violent death and called for heightened efforts to protect members of the LGBTQ community.
Homosexuality is taboo in Kenya and across much of Africa.
Despite attempts to overturn British colonial-era laws banning homosexuality in Kenya, gay sex remains a crime with penalties including prison terms of up to 14 years.
According to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Chiloba’s death came after the unsolved murders of several other rights advocates for sexual minorities.