How Kenyan marathoner was mistaken for rebel and detained in DRC

Sunday, June 16, 2024
Kenyan marathoner Kennedy Kiptoo Lilan
Mimi Nina Lakhani
2 Min Read


  • Kenyan marathoner Kennedy Kiptoo Lilan was mistakenly detained in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) three weeks ago, falsely accused of being an M23 rebel. Arrested by soldiers while preparing for a marathon, Lilan was interrogated, forced into military attire, and robbed of money and personal items. Despite the ordeal, he participated in the marathon the next day, winning with a time of 2:22:49.3.

Kenyan marathoner Kennedy Kiptoo Lilan was wrongfully detained in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), accused of being an M23 rebel fighter.

The ordeal began three weeks ago when the 37-year-old athlete arrived in Kinshasa to participate in a local marathon scheduled for June 2. Lilan, a seasoned marathoner with numerous international victories since 2011, was unexpectedly arrested by DRC soldiers while dining. They accused him of being a covert rebel fighter, despite his assertions that he was in the country solely for the marathon.

“They wanted me to admit I was with the M23, but I refused,” Lilan recounted. He was forcibly dressed in military attire, interrogated, and his identity was broadcast online, falsely branding him as a foreign militant. During his detention, Lilan was also robbed of $500, Sh30,000, and other personal items.

Despite the harrowing experience, Lilan remarkably participated in the marathon the next day, finishing with a winning time of 2:22:49.3. He was later escorted to the airport, but the trauma from the event lingers. “It seemed like a plot to keep me from running. They knew who I was but still put me through this,” Lilan expressed, still perplexed by the motives behind his detention.

Now back in Kenya, Lilan is seeking assistance from the Foreign Affairs ministry to resolve the issue and clear his name.

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I'm Nina, a Kenyan-born Tanzanian. I write about politics, business, investment, oil and gas, and climate. Reporting from Nairobi, Kenya. Daily News Tanzania (Tanzania) | Tuko (Kenya) | Eye Radio (South Sudan) | The Black Examiner (Uganda)
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