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Sheila Lumumba: Hopes for justice as man charged with lesbian’s murder

The non-binary lesbian was found dead in their home in Nyeri County, Kenya, more than three months ago

Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu Nelly Madegwa
20 July 2022, 5.23pm
Sheila Lumumba was found dead in their home in April

Sheila Lumumba via Instagram

The family of Sheila Lumumba, who was raped and murdered in Nyeri County, Kenya, in April, have told openDemocracy of their relief at hearing a suspect has been charged in connection with their death.

A man was arraigned in court in Karatina town, Nyeri County on Tuesday this week, charged with the aggravated assault and murder of the 25-year-old.

A woman has also been arrested but has not been charged. Sheila's family claim she was allegedly found selling items that belonged to Sheila.

Speaking to openDemocracy after attending the hearing, John Lumumba, Sheila’s father, said: “I can now see that at least there will be justice for my child.”

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Sheila, a non-binary lesbian, was found murdered in their home. At the time, a close family member told openDemocracy that a post-mortem report showed they had been raped.

The family has previously accused police officers of dragging their feet on the case. They say this has forced them to start their own investigations, during which they claim to have found CCTV footage that subsequently became part of the police probe.

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Sheila’s family are being supported by the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), an LGBTIQ organisation providing legal aid.

openDemocracy understands that the next court hearing will take place on 15 August.

The police are continuing to gather evidence, and the investigating officer declined to comment on the case.

‘Queers have a right to life’

LGBTIQ organisations in Kenya have called on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Kenya to ensure progress in other murder cases of queer Kenyans, including Joash Mosoti, a gay man who was murdered in Mombasa last year.

Arrests were also made last week in the case of an intersex woman, Rose Mbesa, who was found murdered this year in Trans Nzoia County, 380 kilometres northwest of Nairobi.

The hashtags #JusticeForSheilaLumumba, #JusticeForRoseMbesa, #JusticeForJoashMosoti are trending again as many demand answers over queer murders and violence in the country.

Queers have a right to life and you can’t get away with violating a queer person

For Kenya’s LGBTIQ community, the call for justice is more than a hashtag.

“Justice to us means if you do this to the queer community, you go to jail,” said Melody Njuki, the communications and partnerships officer at the Initiative for Equality And Non-Discrimination (INEND), a Kenyan rights organisation. “Queers have a right to life and you can’t get away with violating a queer person.”

INEND – along with Amnesty International Kenya and local LGBTIQ organisations – is sustaining pressure on police to continue investigations and is offering legal help to Sheila’s family.

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