Inside Politics

Athletes’ killings take shine off the glorious Iten town

Monday, May 23rd, 2022 00:49 | By
The late Olympian Agnes Tirop. She was stabbed to death at her home in Iten last year. PD/file

Until two years ago, Iten town in Elgeyo Marakwet county was a thriving and ideal training destination for local and international athletes.

However, the town is turning out to be one of the most unsafe places for athletes with at least two Kenyan runners being killed in cold blood in the past one year.

Some of these cases have also involved foreign athletes, who have been accused of molesting their female colleagues, sparking fears over their motives. 

A case in point was the murder of Kenyan-born Bahrain athlete Damaris Mutua on April 28. Mutua’s decomposing body was discovered in a rental house at Lilies estate with preliminary investigations pointing to strangulation.

Last person

Detectives linked her death to her Ethiopian lover known as Eskanda Hailemariam or Koki Fai. He fled the country after the incident. 

People Daily has established that despite requests by Kenyan detectives for the fugitive suspect to be arrested and extradited to Kenya for questioning and subsequent arraignment in court, nothing much has come out of it.

Fai was the last person to be seen with Mutua, and according to sources, once he was out of the country, he called one of his friends to report that he killed Mutua. 

He had locked the house from outside, police report indicates.  In October last year, Iten hit the headline again after star athlete Agnes Tirop was found murdered at her rental house in the town. Her body had multiple stab wounds. Ibrahim Rotich, 41, the prime suspect in the murder of the 25-year-old two-time World Championships medalist was apprehended by police in Changamwe, Mombasa.

He is still in custody after he was denied bail. Tirop had just become the world record holder after winning the 10km-road race. She clocked 30:01 during the Adizero Road to Records event in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

At the age of 19 years, Tirop became the youngest winner of the World Cross Country since Zola Budd in 1985 and the second youngest in World Cross Country Athletics history.   The event saw athletes participate in the men’s and women’s half marathon race, men’s and women’s 10-km road race and the 5-km road race in both categories.

She was part of Team Kenya for the Tokyo Olympics where she was fourth. Leaders from the athletic-rich region are now calling on the Ministry of Sports to initiate protocols to govern foreign athletes who come into the country, especially to Iten, for residential training and outsiders who access camps and where athletes reside.

“We must make it safe for both local and foreign athletes to train in Iten and anywhere else in the country,” Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said.

He called on security agencies to initiate investigations and track down suspects and work closely with Interpol to bring them back into the country to face justice if indeed they left the country.

Safe training

“I also call upon athletics officials to help formulate rules and protocols regarding safe training, particularly to guarantee the safety of young female athletes,” Tolgos added.

The incidences have been happening despite the county government partnering with UNFPA for sensitisation meetings with athletes and their coaches against Gender-Based Violence, . 

On Wednesday last week, another foreign athlete was arraigned in a court in Iten and charged with cyber crime. 

Court was told that  Weiss Marvin Valentin, 25, a German athlete, sent disturbing messages to a colleague, whom he wanted to be romantically involved with, but his advances were rejected.

Marvin was charged with three counts of sending disturbing messages and a fourth count of malicious information to Regina Nguria.

He pleaded guilty to the four counts before Iten Senior Resident Magistrate Caroline Ateya. He  was fined Sh70,000 or spend six months in jail.

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