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Kenyan LGBTI Groups Says Online Newspaper Report of Activist's Murder “Not Credible”

in KENYA, 15/09/2011

A report made by The Truth Weekly in August, claiming that a gay rights activist had been killed in Kenya are "not credible".

An investigation by LGBTI groups in western Kenya of an online newspaper’s report about the killing of a gay activist there last month has been dismissed as lacking credibility.

The report which has been picked up and relayed around the world by LGBTI blogs and websites is now raising more questions than answers.

According to a report released on August 21 by the Kenyan online news publication, The Truth Weekly, a man named as Charles Omondi Racho, (the newspaper claimed he was a well-known gay rights activist) was killed by rowdy youth who had threatened to discipline him for being gay.

According to the reports “Charles Omondi Racho, a gay activist, was murdered in August according to fellow gay activist Adams Lenox, of Kisumu Initiative for Positive Empowerment (KIPE), a local NGO which is also involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS within the regions of Western Kenya.”

Lennox was quoted as saying, Racho was attacked and killed by a group of “rowdy youth” who earlier identified him at a local night club and “threatened to discipline him for being a gay.”

Now even the identities of both the victim, Racho and the man who reported the case, Lennox, are in doubt as Kisumu gay activists say no such people are known to them.

The report caused a stir in Kenya and abroad and it was soon being published by various LGBTI bloggers and websites.

Behind the Mask contacted Nyawek, the Nyanza and Western Kenya coalition on LGBTI issues in the town of Kisumu to find out more about the alleged killing.

Nyawek carried out investigations into the affair and their findings cast doubt on whether the gay bashing incident ever happened and even the identity of the allegedly dead activist.

Below are excerpts from the Nyawek statement:

In an urgent response to the recently published article about a gay activist killed in Kisumu, Nyawek LGBTI Coalition has done investigations and the following discoveries were made:

  • First and foremost KIPE, the Kisumu Initiative for Positive Empowerment has denied having known anybody by the name Charles Omondi Racho (the deceased). Again they have denied having any staff by the name of Adams Lenox. This has been confirmed by Mr Leonard Mutisya who is the Program Coordinator at KIPE. Nyawek too does not know the deceased, nor does can member group of the coalition identify the deceased.
  • Mr Daniel Peter Onyango the Program Coordinator of the Nyawek Coalition personally paid a visit to the OCS of Kisumu Central Police station to confirm if this alleged murder was in their records and if it was true that it was a case of homophobic attack. He said thee result was negative. No incident of a man killed because of his orientation in the last three months has been reported or booked in their records. Hence making the credibility of this story questionable. According to the Officer Commanding Police Station all cases especially those of murder are brought to his office everyday as they happen because he has to confirm the circumstances under which an incident occurred. Even journalists have to wait for confirmation from authority before they write a story.
  • The only incident the Kisumu LGBTI [community] is aware of is when sometime earlier in 2011, around February, KIPE was stormed by rowdy youths who found nobody at their offices and left in agitation. The group did not however attack, harm or burn down KIPE. This has also been confirmed by the Program Coordinator of KIPE, Mr Mutisya.
  • Nobody in the LGBTI community seems to know who the deceased Mr Racho is. The LGBTI community in Kisumu is not so large and everyone whether group or not affiliated with a group is known to one or more people.

Nyawek said that that after their investigations what had emerged that the tory had been spread by a Kisumu character whose credibility appears to be in doubt.

Nyawek also wondered why if Racho was an LGBTI activist in Kisumu nobody seemed to know him. They also questioned why if Racho was a victim of gay bashing and his body was picked up by the police, there was no record at all of any such incident in police files.

Nyawek also questioned the existence of Adams Lenox who supposedly reported the case and was said to work for KIPE, an organisation that says it knows no such person.

The Nyawek statement accused those spreading the hoax of wanting to “create fear within the LGBTI community in western Kenya.”

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