Sheila Lumumba was brutally murdered in April 2022
LGBTQ+ activists in Kenya have expressed disappointment over the prison sentence handed down to Billington Wambui Mwathi, the man responsible for the murder of non-binary lesbian Sheila Lumumba.
The Nyeri High Court pronounced the 30-year sentence for the murder that took place in April 2022. Lumumba’s lifeless and naked body was discovered in their bedroom in Karatina, north of Nairobi, sending shockwaves through Kenya’s LGBTQ+ community.
A post-mortem examination of the 25-year-old hotel worker revealed the gruesome details of the crime, indicating sexual assault, blunt force trauma to the head, and multiple stab wounds in the chest, face, neck, and eyes.
Community Outrage Sparks #JusticeForSheila Campaign
The brutal attack shocked Kenya’s LGBTQ+ community and was followed by allegations of inadequate police investigation. The community mobilised a high profile #JusticeForSheila social media campaign, drawing attention to the case.
Human Rights Watch reported that Lumumba’s family took matters into their own hands due to perceived police negligence. They uncovered evidence, including a knife and razor blade in Lumumba’s bedroom, which the police had failed to find.
Additionally, a family friend sourced CCTV footage showing Lumumba leaving a bar with three men before the murder — essential evidence that contributed to Mwathi’s conviction.
Sentence Criticised by Advocacy Groups
In a statement, Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) asserted that Mwathi’s 30-year sentence “falls tragically short of the justice Sheila deserves and the severity of the crime committed.”
The NGLHRC emphasised that Lumumba’s murder wasn’t just an isolated act of violence but an assault on the dignity and safety of the LGBTQ+ community.
“The leniency shown in this sentence sends a concerning message about the value placed on the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals in our society,” stated the NGLHRC.
“While we respect the judicial process, we cannot help but feel that this sentence does not adequately reflect the gravity of Mwathi’s actions or the irreparable loss experienced by Sheila’s family and the community.”
Remembering Sheila Lumumba
Kenyan LGBTQ+ activist Denis Nzioka described Lumumba as a reserved yet fun and jovial individual, whose tragic death has ignited a renewed sense of purpose within the queer community.
“Sheila was not an activist, but their death has energised the cause for so many queer people who connected with them in life and in death. Sheila brought everyone together which speaks to their lasting impact as an individual and their kind soul,” wrote Nzioka in May 2022.