Four weeks before Jacktone Odhiambo, a Nairobi based photographer accused of murdering Edwin Chiloba and stuffing his body in a metal box before throwing it on a roadside grabbed international headlines for killing the LGBTQ activist, he posted a moving post on his Instagram page.
It was 4 am on December 1. The post accompanied by a series of photos including one with a woman, Odhiambo’s new born baby plus Chiloba was titled “Family: The parts of me that aren’t “i” …”
“We’re more invested in how we’re perceived than who we are, in the idea of what the title means than the day-to-day work of the job, in the “do you promise to love me forever?” than the actual day-to-day loving,” he said.
“The only thing that changes you and your life is the awareness of the parts that are not “I.” It is the whole, it is where you end up, it is where you began, it is the one thing, the only thing, that shifts, and raises, and facilitates the spark of awareness that made you question the elements of its vessel,” he said
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While the post in itself was moving or poetic whichever way you look at it, it showed a man who was going through many things and had decided to lay it bare for the whole world to see. Judge him or not but he wanted to say what was in his heart.
“But what if the “what else” isn’t the end-thought, but the beginning? What if awareness of it frees us of so many things, quells so many thoughts, balms so many aches? What if healing yourself is not fixing an attitude, not changing an opinion, not altering an aesthetic, but shifting a presence, an awareness, an energy?” He asked.
In the series of five photos, Odhiambo showed the whole world what he considered was his family. The first photo showed him with a woman whom we have identified as Chelanie and their new born child. The second and the third showed the photographer and Chelanie in separate photos holding the child. In the final one was Chiloba, holding Chelanie and the child.
“Family,” Odhiambo wrote.
“All of me loves you,” Chiloba responded.
“The caption?” Chelanie followed with heart emojis before Odhiambo responded to her “I know right.. read through. I hope you are all infected with it.”
Chiloba’s body was discovered in a metal box along Kipkenyo-Kaptinga in Kipkenyo on January 5, four days after he was last seen alive partying at Tamasha Place night club in Eldoret. His sister Glady’s Kiptoo who works at the club says Chiloba was together with Odhiambo and another unidentified man.
“My brother arrived at Tamasha Place where I work around 10 pm on Saturday, December 31, 2022, to usher in the New Year, and around 1 am after the new year fireworks, we met and celebrated together. He bid me farewell saying he would miss me,” said Faith.
What transpired between New Year’s Day to January 4 when the LGBTQ activist was positively identified as the one who had been dumped in a metal box on a roadside is still a mystery.
As expected, almost everyone has assumed he was killed because of Kenya’s perceived intolerance towards the LGBTQ community. These claims started by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) yesterday have been amplified across the world by global news networks like CNN, Aljazeera and BBC.
“It is truly worrisome that we continue to witness escalation in violence targeting LGBTQ+ Kenyans,” said KHRC.
“A gay activist and fashion designer was murdered and his body found stuffed inside a metal box in Kenya, the police said on Friday, in another episode that raised questions about dangers and discrimination faced by gay people across the East African nation,” said the New York Times for example.
Granted, homosexuality remains banned in Kenya. A British colonial-era law that is still being enforced characterises gay sex in Kenya as a crime which is punishable by 14 years in prison. This law is however rarely enforced.
Beneath all the noise however and as investigations gather pace, one fact that is being ignored is that Chiloba and his alleged killer Odhiambo was not just friends. Odhiambo was also his photographer, a wing man of sorts and probably more.
And while everyone assumes that they were friends just because they shared a house along the Kisumu Eldoret Road together with their Japanese Sphinx puppy, their conversations on social media suggest there was more than meets the eye.
Interestingly, Odhiambo is in a relationship with a woman known on social media as Chelanie. He refers to both her and Chiloba as family. Additionally, both Chiloba and Odhiambo were referring to each other as ‘love,’ on their social media posts, a term that people who want to display their relationship use on each other.
Like in one post made by Odhiambo, just two days before Chiloba was murdered where he talked about how his year 2022 was including heaping praises on the LGBTQ activist, he responds, “You’re amazing love. I see you doing you always and keep doing it. All the best and happy new year 2023.”
“Love you,” Chiloba wrote on December 29.
In another post now on Chiloba’s page where he said, “Chose love,” Odhiambo who was the first to comment said, “Anytime always.”
There are several such interactions between the two men on their Instagram pages including videos that they both shot on the last day of 2022 reminiscing the year plus showering praises on each other.
What is confusing is how their relationship worked since they are both gay and there is a woman in the picture who has Odhiambo’s child. While this may not be the reason why Chiloba was murdered, police will be interested to know what was the nature of the relationship between Odhiambo, Chiloba and Chelanie.
As it is Odhiambo is the prime suspect in the murder as one of their neighbours identified as Steve has told police he saw Odhiambo with the same box which was discovered with Chiloba’s body.
“I saw Chiloba’s friend coming down the stairs with a box. It seemed heavy as he carried it with another man who we had never seen,” the shocked neighbour said.
A caretaker of the house where the two lived also confirmed that Odhiambo had been spotted with the box in which the model’s body was stuffed after the murder.
“I met with his friends at the station. They said the box they saw in the house was the one that came down at night. They saw it clearly. The one who had carried was Odhiambo, according to what they shared with me,” the caretaker said.
Additionally, those who have spoken to the police say the two fought quite often.