Marathon champion buried in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Marathon runner Wesly Kimutai Ngetich, who was killed Jan. 21 at Emarti village in the Trans Mara District of Kenya as a result of postelection violence, was buried Friday.

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Marathon runner Wesly Kimutai Ngetich, who was killed Jan. 21 at Emarti village in the Trans Mara District of Kenya as a result of postelection violence, was buried Friday.

Marathon runner Wesly Kimutai Ngetich's remains were interred at his home at Kiribwet village in Trans Mara at an emotional ceremony attended by hundreds of residents and local politicians.

The two-time Grandma's Marathon champion died of arrow wounds while being rushed to Tenwek Mission Hospital in the neighboring Bomet District.

Eyewitness accounts indicate that Ngetich was shot with an arrow while on a peace mission during a fight between members of the Kipsigis and Maasai communities.

Apparently, Ngetich, 30, had been mediating between members of the two communities and had teamed with Pastor John Korir of the Church of God.


Ngetich was viewed by the villagers as a pillar of hope and a role model in a remote area of the vast district. In the day preceding his killing, he saved an 8-year-old boy, who had been shot in the back with an arrow 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," said a fellow athlete Julius Kiprono Kirui.

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," said Peter Rono, who sustained deep cuts on his left hand and leg during the fighting.

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 and three bundles of maize as a result of the attack," said Joseph Tonui, a local resident.

The following morning, members of the two communities were engaged in skirmishes and Ngetich joined Pastor Korir in efforts to call for a truce.

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


But the peace mission turned tragic a short while later when the athlete came under a hail of arrows. His 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, born to peasant farmers Joel and Norah Siele, was employed as a laborer in Kericho and Kilgoris towns where he worked as a watchman before quitting to pursue a running career. He made his racing debut in 2003 in Kampala, Uganda.

He competed in Grandma's Marathon three times, winning in 2005 and 2007.

In his village, Ngetich had motivated six youths to become runners and used to train with them whenever at home.

The budding athletes 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.

Chepkwony 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.

The fallen athlete is survived by two widows -- Margaret and Lilian and three children -- Victor Kipkirui, Dannis Kiptoo and Alex Kipkoech, ages 8, 5 and 1.


"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," Margaret said.

"We shall leave everything to God as we cannot revenge on those who attacked and killed our husband," said Lilian.

"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," said Siele, Ngetich's father.

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.

Pastor Korir, who was carrying only a Bible, ran to save his life during the attack.

"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 peacemakers had been attacked, the villagers went to their rescue but were a few minutes too late.

"[Ngetich] stumbled and fell down but it did not occur to me immediately that he had been hit," Korir said. "When I turned around, I realized that he had been shot with an arrow in the back as he threw the white cane at me, probably to draw my attention."


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

But since the hospital is about 50 miles away, Ngetich died on the way to the facility.

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