For 30 minutes scores of athletes from Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Trans Nzoia counties walked through Eldoret town, momentarily halting business as they escorted the body of slain colleague Agnes Tirop.
Agnes will be buried tomorrow Saturday, October 23, on her 26th birthday. She was born on October 23, 1995.
By 9:30am the distraught athletes had gathered at the Eldoret Hospital mortuary.
The numbers kept growing and by 10am when they left the morgue after brief prayers and viewing of the body it was time to leave for Kapnyamisa village in Nandi County.
Some of them held a large banner with two pictures of the slain athlete emblazoned on both ends. At the centre of the white banner, the words ‘End Gender violence’ stood out.
Many of the athletes donned red t-shirts with the late Agnes Tirop’s picture, while another group was dressed in black. It was a blend of mourning and expression of anger.
From Eldoret Hospital where Tirop’s body had been lying since Tuesday, the sportsmen and women walked slowly along the Eldoret-Uganda highway, singing hymns, before joining Oginga Odinga Street and later the Eldoret-Kapsabet-Kisumu road.
Javelin champ Julius Yego led a group of athletes who walked on the sides, as police cleared large crowds that turned up to catch a glimpse of the procession.
A white hearse carrying the remains followed the athletes.
Onlookers said it was the largest number of athletes to throng Eldoret, the City of Champions.
Near Hill School, the procession boarded vehicles for Nandi. The cortege comprised more than 200 cars.
They arrived at about 2pm to the sound of Catholic melodies
At 2:30pm, just hours before tomorrow’s burial, the requiem started.
Athletes who spoke at the event called for the establishment of a foundation, which will raise funds to help end gender violence among athletes.
Notable athletes were: retired runner Mary Keitany, world bronze medalist Amos Kipruto, London marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei, Margaret Chelimo, Titus Ekiru, Asbel Kiprop and Conseslus KIpruto among others.
Retired athlete Moses Tanui and Olympian Daniel Simiu were also present.
“We need a scholarship fund to help educate students who were supported by our late colleague. She loved education.
We also want a foundation in her name so that we help young women overcome gender violence in their relationships,” Viola Cheptoo proposed.
Agnes Tirop was found dead in her house in Iten with a stab wound on the neck.
Detectives and family believe she was killed. Ibrahim Rotich, a man she was said to be in a relationship with, is in police custody suspected of murder. The suspect was also the late athlete’s coach.
Amos Kipruto, who was at the Tokyo Olympics with the late Tirop said: “Sometimes it is difficult to share our stories, but let’s marshal the courage.”
He added: “The first person to meet in Tokyo was Agnes. Even to men, go to your parents when things aren’t working. We need justice for Agnes. The late Samuel Wanjiru died like Agnes, and we forgot about him. Let it not happen to Agnes.”
Kipruto told parents of athletes in abusive relationships to welcome them back.
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