Updates from Kenya have pointed to an ongoing pursuit by police for a suspect believed to be involved in the murder of Siraj Rubayita, a Rwandan athlete, who had travelled to the East African nation for training.
According to the Standard Media Kenya, the incident unfolded in Iten, a town Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya.
The tragic event has left the closely-knit athletic community in shock. Rubayita, a 34-year-old promising long-distance runner from Rwanda, met an untimely demise in circumstances that have brought forth a complex web of relationships involving love and jealousy.
Efforts by law enforcement have intensified in their bid to apprehend Duncan Khamala, a 27-year-old athlete who is suspected to be connected to Rubayita’s murder. As details emerge, they offer insights into the intricate connections that culminated in the distressing event.
Rubayita had been pursuing his athletic aspirations at the renowned Asic training camp in Iten since 2017, with his relentless dedication inching him closer to representing Rwanda on international platforms.
Tragically, his journey was abruptly cut short on Thursday, August 17, in an incident that authorities are describing as a ‘love triangle.’
In a poignant twist, it was Rubayita’s own friends, fellow Rwandans who had trained alongside him in Iten, who unveiled the heart-wrenching details of his personal life. They told The Standard Kenya that their beloved friend had been in a relationship with Nelvin Ajuma, a 28-year-old Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) student, and this relationship had set in motion the tragic chain of events.
On that ill-fated day, Rubayita was allegedly assaulted and left wounded by the roadside.
Noel Hitimana, his roommate, recalls the moments leading up to his friend’s disappearance. Rubayita, with his bags packed, was destined for Italy to participate in a marathon. He was to leave the country the following morning for Kampala, Uganda, where he was to pick up his visa.
Hitimana’s distress grew as the night wore on, and Rubayita failed to return home.
“He left the house, and I thought he was going to buy something from the shop. However, he failed to return, and I was worried, wondering how he would fail to spend the night at our house while he had to travel the next day,” said Hitimana.
The shocking news came when Khamala’s friend contacted Hitimana on Friday, August 18, informing him that his roommate had been hospitalized after a confrontation with Khamala, a gym instructor. The hospital visit would unveil a nightmarish reality – Rubayita’s lifeless body lay on a hospital bed.
Iyakaremye Erneste, another close friend of Rubayita’s, said Rubayita had gone to the shopping center and purchased gifts for Ajuma as he was preparing to leave the country temporarily.
“Rubayita had been dating Ajuma for more than two years. He had gone to bid her farewell since he would be away for some time. We are shocked that he met his death in such a manner. He was a humble and loving man,” said Iyakaremye.
Ajuma, who was well known within the Rwandan community, and according to Erneste, their relationship was so intertwined with their friends that it had become a part of their extended family.
“Ajuma was last here three months ago. We trusted her, and often we would leave her with Rubayita at this house. She had become family to us. She was one of us. If the two had indeed broken up as it has been said, Rubayita would have told us so,” Iyakaremye added.
Byiringiro Fabrice, another friend of the deceased, questioned whether Rubayita’s killing was premeditated. He called for a thorough investigation to uncover the truth.
According to Tom Makori, Keiyo North Sub County police commander, preliminary investigations indicate that Khamala learned of Rubayita’s visit to Ajuma’s house, triggering a violent altercation. Police reports confirm that Ajuma and Rubayita, once lovers, were in the process of reconciliation, much to Khamala’s apparent disapproval.
Police records indicate that after the fight, Khamala left Rubayita lying on the roadside and went to report an assault case against him.
“The police advised Khamala to seek treatment and a P3 form before returning to the station for investigations. However, he never returned, and we later received information that the foreigner was the victim of the fight and was at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he later succumbed to his injuries,” the police commander stated.
A visit to the hospital by authorities revealed the extent of Rubayita’s injuries, with visible wounds on his head and mouth, and bleeding from his left ear.
“The body has been preserved at Iten County Referral Hospital mortuary awaiting postmortem. The prime suspect will be held for 14 more days as we conclude investigations and as he undergoes mental assessment. The woman, who is also under our custody, will record further statements before the detectives can treat her as a suspect or as a key witness to assist in the murder charges against the prime suspect,” stated Makori.
Makori also stated that police records indicated that Ajuma and Rubayita, who had fallen apart, were in the process of reconciling but against the wishes of the accused, who is said to have been paying rent for Ajuma.
A magistrate’s court on Monday, August 21, granted the DCI 14 days to conclude investigations as the suspects remain in custody.
As investigators work to unravel the truth behind Rubayita’s death, the Rwandan community in Iten has beseeched the government for assistance in repatriating his remains to Kicukiro District in Gatenga, Kigali, for a dignified burial.
They have also asked the investigative agencies to ensure they get justice for Rubayita, who they described as a social person who “would not harm a fly”.
“Our friend was killed in a brutal manner. Rubayita was an orphan and only has his siblings and cousins. We are asking for justice,” said Bigirimana Theophile.
Elkana Ruto, Khamala’s coach, expressed his sorrow over the tragic turn of events, fondly remembering Khamala as a simple, humble, and respectful athlete who had never been involved in significant disciplinary issues, save for an incident in which he got into a fight with a colleague.
“It is unfortunate that such a thing happened. I have known Khamala for more than two years. He is a sprinter and runs 100m and 200m and also runs a gym as an instructor. He is a simple, humble, and respectful man. I was shocked by what happened, and it has been difficult for us to believe,” said Ruto.
Yet, the incident raises concerns about the challenges faced by coaches in monitoring the diverse group of athletes in Iten, where approximately 3,000 athletes from around the world pursue their dreams. The complexities of this multicultural mix create unique challenges for the local athletic community.
“These athletes have come from different cultures and have different behaviors. Others are Professional athletes while some are recreational, upcoming or scholarship students. The Athletic Federation (AK) registers most of the athletes, and at the County level, we cannot do double registration of these athletes,” he stated.
As the investigation continues, Bernard Cheruiyot, a resident of Iten, reflects on the recent spate of murders that have cast a dark shadow over the town. Iten, known for nurturing dreams of athletic glory, now grapples with the harsh reality that not all stories have a fairytale ending