When one Kenyan Eats Another

On 10th October, 1924, the Straits Times of Singapore reported that an elderly Taita man had killed and eaten one of his two sons.

The two boys, as the accompanying screen grab reads, had allowed the cattle to stray.the father decapitated the other, stripped the flesh from the bones and hung it inside his hut to make biltong. After eating some portion, he intended devouring the remainder.”

Straits Times

The cost of truancy has never been higher.

Fast-forward to 2008 and enter Godfrey Matheri, your every day lower class worker who lives in a mud hut and does his best to get by, like everyone else. Only Godfrey Matheri has a dark secret, at night he turns into the main character of a real-life horror story. He becomes Dracula. He would kidnap his victims, mostly women, and drag them back to his house. There he would cut them open and drink their blood. After he killed them, he kept their underwear as a trophy.

On June 2nd 2012, Alex Kinyua, a naturalized US citizen born in Kenya, admitted to eating Kujoe Agyei-Kodie, 37. Five months later, on November 29th, 2012, Caroline Gatwiri was killed and eaten by her 23-year old husband, Morris Gituma. Gituma then forced his two-and-a-half ?year-old son to drink his mother’s blood. In the morning, the?child still had blood smeared all over his face. It was a scene from?Dexter.

In another case, a manhunt led a search party to a gruesome scene in Nakuru. What attracted the search party to the house was the aroma of cooked meat. When they broke into the house, there was a sufuria full of meat. There were blood stains on the ground and floor, and two bags of raw meat in the poultry house. A man called Kimeria had cooked and eaten another man called Lokodet. Lodoket had been killed, his body sliced open and various parts cut out to provide steak for Kimeria’s dinner.

In yet another case, on January 2nd, 2013, an unnamed man in Malindi killed and ate some parts of his five-year-old son. He removed his son’s heart, liver and private parts, which he wrapped in a polythene paper bag and stored inside his house. The man later drunk his blood before wrapping his child’s mutilated body in a white cloth and dumping it in a shallow pit about 400 meters from his house.

All these cannibals had displayed some related personality disorders before. Kimeria, for example, “…warned us about it. At one time he nearly sliced open a 10-year-old’s belly when he tried to use the path at around 6.30pm,” said a neighbor. Alex Kinyua had “…attacked and fractured the skull of another man within the university campus. In February, Kinyua had posted on Facebook asking other students whether they were “strong enough to endure ritual HBCU mass human sacrifices around the country and still be able to function as human beings?” His behavior had been noted much earlier, in December 2011, when an instructor told the police that Kinyua was Virginia Tech waiting to happen.

Not all of them were that visible though. Morris Gituma was supposedly the quietest man alive until he killed and ate the love of his life.

***

Cannibalism, like the Murder of the Innocents, is not a new phenomenon in Kenya or in Africa. Ritualistic cannibalism existed even before the 21st century. Most of the victims were children who were kidnapped and killed, their bodies discovered later missing certain organs such as the genitalia, the heart and the tongue. The devil worship mass panic in the early 1990s seems to have been politically motivated, but that is not to completely say no such cases existed.

Civil wars from Liberia to the Central African Republic are often marred with stories of cannibalism, with some photographic evidence in the latter case. Historically, cannibalism was a weapon of war and governance. Stories of human sacrifice and cuisines instilled fear, helping conquering armies retain a hold over their territories. The stories didn’t have to be true to believed, they just needed to be repeated enough times. The Lord’s Liberation Army (LRA) of Uganda is also said to engage in cannibalism, mostly for ritualistic purposes. It has also served a function for dictators like Bokassa and Amin, helping them instill fear into the masses by implying that they were superhuman. Bokassa was actually later tried for cannibalism, among other things.

One theory holds that most, if not all, of the tribes in the Congo Basin or that originated from there had at one time been cannibals. Stories of cannibalism were also used by colonizers to demonize the colonized, which is why the Congo Basin theory above must be taken with some skepticism. A good part of the evidence comes from Belgian officers who fought in the Congo Free State skirmish with Swahili tribes in 1892-1894. The same goes for information on rebel groups, as the idea of cannibalism is so disgusting for most people that it is one of the easier ways of stagnating support for such groups.

Kenya’s colonizer, Britain, ran a seamless anti-Mau Mau campaign in the 1950s that branded the freedom fighters as barbaric cannibals. In this article, Adrian Blomfield claims: “The young son of a chief who refused to join was cut in two by Kimathi’s men, who drank his blood before flinging the two halves of the body at the boy’s mother who was then killed.?After being forced to drink human blood, semen and urine, recruits would in some cases be ordered to eat human brains, sometimes of their relatives, as well as the flesh of recently exhumed or murdered babies.”

It helped frame the image of the rebels as deranged human beings who needed to be stopped by all means. The image was that they were not freedom fighters, they were vampires.

Outside of stressful times and events such as war, why do people eat each other? Hunger is the most obvious answer because as animals, we understand our environment by what we can eat, and what we can’t. Our aversion to eating each other is entirely psychological and moral; the very idea of cannibalism is revolting. But if you ask why, the reasons aren’t very clear. It is just wrong.

That stigma poisons the criminal justice system, leading to hasty decisions such as the demolishing of the Naivasha’ Vampire’s house instead of mining it extensively for evidence. Instead of first understanding the problem, we quickly hide it to hide our shame, and move on. It is quickly written off as an act of barbarism and a deranged mind, and when the victim is dragged to the police cell, society is deemed clean of such people until someone else decides to eat his or her spouse.

It could be that, given the stigma that surrounds cannibalism in African societies, many of such cases go unreported. What’s worse is that there may be professional cannibals out there, able to skin their fellow man or woman and successfully get away with the crime.

Cannibalism is still not explicitly illegal; you will be charged with the crimes committed when securing the human flesh. The most obvious ones are kidnapping and murder.

Given our lethargy in understanding our society and completely ignoring the bizarre, we have little to go on profiling cannibalism. There is virtually no information, no statistics, no psychological studies into cannibalism in Kenya, or even in modern Africa. Peter Nguli posits?here?that“Is it an alien zombie from the cosmos that has invaded our countrymen to cause an apocalypse, as seen in Hollywood science-fiction horror movies? Is it a contagious zombie virus, psychological problem or a drug-related apocalypse?”

What if we are sitting on something potentially explosive? Or, that the hunger situation is far worse than we admit. If it is about hunger, and seeing as the lower classes are grossly underfed, a zombie apocalypse doesn’t seem so far-fetched a future.

Will the lower classes rise up and eat the upper, more healthy looking upper classes? From the look of things, it is just a matter of time.

Owaahh, 2013

One story is good,

till Another is told.

  • blackorwa

    The best cannibalism stories I’ve read were in the Congo, where folks bred men as cattle and ate them. The Azande had a liking of people from the Coast since they drank salty water hence became tasty. Once in a while they would hunt missionaries and make a meal out of them. Enjoy reading about it here 😉 http://www.heretical.com/cannibal/congo1.html

  • StaleBread

    I’ve always wanted to be writer. Writing has a life of its own and writers are gods in that sense; they give life.
    One thing that I’ve always feared- though- is that when you write, there’s always that shadow of yours that’s left in the story. A writer can’t fully dissociate themselves from their own stories; whether fictional or true.
    You get to learn of people’s fears, fantasies, ambitions and so on by just reading their literary works.
    Writing liberates, but from what?
    I think it’s from who we really are.

  • Shiro

    I love all your blog posts quite informative and humorous too!

    • Thank you Shiro, share the stories 😀

  • No comment!!

    • Hahaha, have you ever cooked someone?

      • Why would I be cooking someone? SMH!