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Athlete killed on peace mission – Kenya

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2008


By Vitalis KimutaiAn international athlete who was killed last Monday at Emarti village in Trans Mara District as a result of the post-elections violence was buried at the weekend.

ngetichs-two-wives.jpgThe late Wesley Ngetichs two wives, Lilian and Margaret and their three children, Victor Kipkirui, Dennis Kiptoo and Alex Kipkoech.

Marathon runner Wesley Kimutai Ngetichs remains were interred at his home at Kiribwet village in Trans Mara on Friday at an emotional ceremony attended by hundreds of residents and local politicians.Ngetich died of arrow wounds while being rushed to Tenwek Mission Hospital in the neighbouring Bomet District.

It has emerged that the athlete was shot while on a peace mission during a fight between members of the Kipsigis and Maasai communities.

Apparently, Ngetich, 31, had been mediating between members of the two communities and had teamed up with Pastor John Korir of the Church of God.

We have reconstructed the events that led to the shooting of the athlete, who was seen by the villagers as a pillar of hope and a role model in a remote area of the vast district.

Ngetich had in the day preceding his killing saved an eight-year-old boy, who had been shot during the clashes and rushed him with a tractor to Emarti Health Centre for treatment.

“Ngetich stumbled on wailing women with the boy writhing in pain by the roadside as he returned from his farm. He rushed the boy to the nearby health centre using a tractor,” said a fellow athlete Julius Kiprono Kirui.

Kirui says the boy had an arrow lodged in his back after a shooting incident.

However, after leaving the injured boy at the health centre, the athlete was attacked by irate villagers who were armed with bows and arrows.

“He took to his heels to save his life ducking arrows and daggers thrown at him by villagers shortly after the injured boy was admitted in hospital,” said Peter Rono, who sustained deep cuts on his left hand and leg during the fighting.

ngetich-running.jpgNgetich at Grandmas marathon in the US with an unidentified athlete.

Ngetich went to his home after the incident, leaving behind the tractor he had hired to plough an 18-acre farm where he was planting maize seeds.“He lost a bicycle worth Sh4,000 and three bundles of maize seeds valued at Sh8,640 as a result of the attack near the health facility,” said Joseph Tonui, a local resident.

The following morning, members of the two communities were engaged in skirmishes and, as usual, when such incidents occur, Ngetich teamed up with Pastor Korir in efforts to call for a truce between the two sides.

“We were in a meeting when the members of the other community advanced towards us with war cries. He volunteered to go and speak to them to call off the mission while accompanied by Korir,” said Stanley Bett.

Planned to run in the USBut the peace mission turned tragic a short while when the athlete came under a hail of arrows from the people he previously had a rapport with.

Ngetich, who used to train in Nyahururu, was meant to go to the US sometimes this month for an international race, but life was snuffed out of him as he sought to unite the communities and avert a crisis in an area that is prone to fighting.

Ngetich was born on December 15, 1977 at Kiribwet village in Kirindoni division of Trans Mara District to peasant farmers – Joel and Norah Siele.

He attended Olpopongi Primary School in the district between 1985 and 1992 where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations, but was unable to join a secondary school as his parents were unable to pay fees.

Ngetich was employed as a labourer in Kericho and Kilgoris towns where he worked as a watchman before quitting to pursue an athletics career. He made his debut in international meeting in 2003 in Kampala, Uganda.

Among the international events he has featured are – London Marathon (2004), Hastings Marathon (US) in 2004, Scatia Bank Toronto Marathon (Canada) 2005, Brussels Marathon (Belgium) 2005, The City of Los Angeles Marathon (US) 2005, Grandmas Marathon (Duluth, US) 2005,Roma Marathon (Italy) 2006, Houston Marathon (US) 2006.

Others are Dublin Marathon (Ireland) 2006, Atleta Madrid (Spain) Marathon in 2006, Stockholm Marathon (Sweden) 2006,Grandmas Marathon (Sweden) 2006, Austin Marathon (US) 2007 and Grandmas Marathon (US) in 2007.

In his village, Ngetich had motivated six youths to exploit their athletics talents and used to train with them whenever he was at home.

The budding athletes, who now feel orphaned as a result of the untimely demise of the “ambassador of hope and goodwill”, are – Julius Kiprono Kirui, Julius Tonui, Stanley Chepkwony, Julius Kitur and Edwin Koech.

“We looked at him as our trainer and admired the medals awarded to him after emerging tops during international competitions,” Tonui said during an interview.

Survived by two widowsChepkwony said they felt orphaned by his death as he was their beacon of hope, having promised to link them with agents outside the country to make a debut in international races.

“Most of us had acquired passports while others are having theirs processed as we eagerly waited for a day to fly out which we are not sure would materialise with his demise,” Kitur said.

The fallen athlete is survived by two widows – Margaret and Lilian and three children – Victor Kipkirui, Dannis Kiptoo and Alex Kipkoech.

“We shall do our best as a family to ensure that we achieve his dreams that he used to share with us, especially on educating our children” a grieving Margaret told The Standard in the company of Lilian.

She said that the loss of their beloved husband was too much to bear, especially as a result of the circumstances surrounding his death.

“We shall leave everything to God as we can not revenge on those who attacked and killed our husband,” said Lilian tears welling on her eyes.

During the funeral, the Trans Mara Knut Executive Secretary, Julius Kitur, and a politician, Johana Ngeno, alias Ngon,g said it was unfortunate that no athletics official had attended the ceremony.

Ngeno said the spilling of the athletes blood should bring an end to the sporadic incidents of clashes between the two communities.

“It is my fervent hope and belief that the spilling of his blood would bring to an end the clashes in our region. We have lost an important, industrious and dynamic young man who did Kenya proud at the international scene,” Ngeno said.

No official of Athletics Kenya was present at the funeral. Not even the District Commissioner, the District Officer or the District Sports Officer attended the emotional ceremony.

“I pray that whoever shot and killed my son would be brought to justice. I hope the authorities would expeditiously investigate the matter and let the law takes its course” Siele, the deceaseds father, said.

His mother, Norah was too emotional to grant us an interview but told mourners that her son was “an amiable person who would not hurt anyone.”

Ngetich is said to have been carrying a white walking stick, which he kept raised as a sign of peace when he went to meet the armed villagers on the other side.

Peacemakers in such situations carry a white handkerchief, twigs or cane as a symbol of peace or truce when going to meet warring parties and as such are not to be harmed under whatever circumstances.

Pastor Korir, who was carrying only a Bible, took to his heels and saved his dear life when they were attacked.

“As we went close to the armed and irate villagers arrows were rained on us and we took cover hoping the attack would stop; but it did not,” Korir said.

On sensing that the two peace makers had been attacked, the villagers went to their rescue but were a few minutes too late.

“He stumbled and fell down but it did not occur to me immediately that he had been hit,” Korir said in an interview.

“When I turned around, I realised that he had been shot with an arrow in the back as he threw the white cane at me probably to draw my attention,” said Korir.

Korir said the athlete was carried to a nearby village from where he was rushed to hospital in a motor vehicle.

But since the hopsital is about 80km away, the victim died on the way to the facility.


Published by Korir, API

One Response to “Athlete killed on peace mission – Kenya”

  1. Anonymous said

    Pole sana


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