Kenyans grapple with an epidemic of knife crimes

Tuesday June 26 2018

Francis Mureithi who was reportedly killed by his girlfriend in Ndia, Kirinygaga County during a dispute. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


On February 5, ivory trade investigator Esmond Bradley Martin’s body was found in his Karen home with stab wounds.

The former United Nations special envoy for rhino conservation had become part of the statistics of knife crimes, which apparently have not caught the attention of the police.

Since January, the Nation has documented more than 320 deaths from stabbings while hundreds of other Kenyans are still nursing injuries.

In a country where police reports do not separate homicide, suicide and grievous bodily harm, it is difficult to know the frequency of crimes carried out with the ordinary kitchen knife.

While focus has been on those killed, the thousands of knife attack survivors suffer in silence.

In the United Kingdom, a national debate on what to do with 10-inch kitchen knives is raging.



“Why we do need eight or 10-inch kitchen knives with points? Butchers and fishmongers do, but how often, if at all, does a domestic chef use the point of such a knife?” Justice Nic Madge asked recently.

National Police Service Communications and Corporate Affairs chief Charles Owino admits that knife crimes are difficult to predict.

“It is not easy to prevent such crimes. Every home has a knife. It is not illegal to possess one and so police can do very little to help Kenyans prevent the attacks,” he said.

“The police can only act when a person is threatened. If you kill a person or cause bodily harm, you will be arrested and taken through the criminal justice system.”

Knife crimes are ghastly and usually send the nation into shock. Unfortunately, with every passing day, the astonishment from the previous crime vanishes when a new one is committed.


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes says killings by sharp edges account for 24 per cent of homicides globally.

“The instruments are relatively easy to obtain and conceal. In some countries, especially those with low levels of homicide, sharp objects significantly outweigh other mechanisms of killing,” the report says, adding that the number of victims who die from stab wounds is consistently higher than the number killed by firearms.

University students Kelvin Ikatwa and Cynthia Chelagat, rugby player Mike Okombe, Administration Police officer David Musumba Wesonga and businessman Samuel Mwaniki Njenga are some of the many Kenyans killed with knives in the recent past.

Others are Viola Owour, Beatrice Muthoni, Esther Nduku and Fared Mohammed.

Mr Adan Mohammed, a victim, says he felt like he was choking when the knife went into his neck.

“My heart became heavy and I thought I was dying. The pain from the wound was overshadowed by the heaviness of my heart and the shortness of breath,” he says.


Mr Mohammed was stabbed by a person he knew well on January 6, 2017. They were arguing over money. He remained at Kenyatta National Hospital for three weeks.

Kenyans are eagerly waiting to hear the July 11 judgment against Ms Ruth Kamande.

Ms Kamande, 26, was found guilty of stabbing her boyfriend, Fared Mohammed, to death.

Just Days ago, Ms Jacky Auma — a housemaid — reportedly stabbed and killed her employer and her child in Muhoroni.

In Sotik, villagers stumbled on the body of Mr Cyrus Cheruiyot Too. It had stab wounds in the stomach and chest.

Mr Francis Mureithi, 35, was stabbed to death by his lover in Ndia, Kirinyaga County, when she saw him hugging a woman.

That was just two days before 22-year-old fourth-year Egerton University student Chelagat was stabbed by her boyfriend.


On Jan 11, Constable Wesonga was stabbed and killed as he attempted to arrest a suspected drug peddler in Kigumo, Murang’a County.

The offender can be anyone: A close family member, spouse, parent, lover, friend, foe, criminal, business rival or even a stranger.

Police blame knife attacks on stress, societal issues, morality and sometimes mental illness.

“Knives are readily available. What we do not ignore is the intention of people carrying them,” Mr Owino said.

Most taxi operators in Nairobi carry knives for protection against criminals who pose as customers.

“I must have it. Almost every driver has a knife,” Mr Obed Okello, a taxi driver, told the Nation.

A knife is the most preferred weapons by criminal gangs in many parts of Kenya.


In Nairobi, police records show that Kariobangi roundabout, Eastleigh, Kayole, Kawangware and Dandora had the highest number of killings committed with knives.

The gangs, made up of young men in their 20s, are believed to be members of Gaza, Yakuza, Forty Brothers, Smarter, Superpower and other groups.

Lately, terrorists in the United States, Europe and the Middle East have chosen knives and vehicles as their preferred weapons.

In England and Wales, knife crimes increased by 22 per cent this year, the largest rise ever.

Almost 40,000 offences involving knives or sharp objects were recorded by the UK police in 2017 while gun crime was up by 11 per cent to 6,600 offences.


A report by the National Council on the Administration of Justice shows hat females account for the highest number of people held for murder.

“Many women in remand are typically held in relation to murder charges. Experience in other countries shows such women often have valid defence ... in the context of domestic abuse,” the UK report said.

Stab wounds are a doctor’s nightmare because they cause external and internal bleeding and could lead to paralysis.

According to Government pathologist Johansen Oduor, most deaths result from injury to the heart, lungs, spleen, pancreas and the liver.

“The abdomen is the most commonly injured area from a stab wound and death will be caused by the size of the blade, the trajectory it followed, the number of times someone was stabbed and other factors,” Dr Oduor said.