48 hours inside Kasarani, Nairobi’s new crime capital

Brenda Kawira, Jeff Mwathi and Blair Muthomi

From left: Brenda Kawira, Jeff Mwathi and Blair Muthomi who all died within Kasarani area.

Photo credit: File

Kasarani, a bustling neighbourhood in Nairobi, Kenya, has recently gained notoriety as the city's 'murder capital'.

In recent months, a number of people have lost their lives within the sprawling estate.

And with many of these deaths being ruled as suicides by the police, it has left families with emotional wounds that may take a long time to heal.

Only separated by the Thika superhighway, Kasarani and Roysambu estates are homes to thousands of city dwellers.

But the two estates are now considered death traps, with too many fatal falls.

We visited the two estates to get to the bottom of what has become an all-too-common occurrence. One thing was clear from the start: there is a liquor store every few metres.

The estates are also teeming with young adults, mostly couples either holding hands or riding together, signalling a love zone.

The way they dress also tells you what to expect, especially at dusk.

Locals remain tight-lipped about recent events in which a number of young Kenyans have died after falling from balconies.

But we did get an occasional "Aaai ni kubaya" (loosely translated as "things are tough").

To begin with, Kasarani and Roysambu estates have attracted young adults because of affordable rents, proximity to the city centre where most work, and the growing number of tertiary institutions in the area.

A sense of happy-go-lucky

Every Friday sunset brings with it a sense of happy-go-lucky.

Within the two estates, the sound of music increases with each passing minute, as does the number of cars, some with blaring music systems, others driving at breakneck speed, and others trying to honk or overlap to make it to their destination in time.

But the reported deaths have frightened some of the locals, who are now considering their options.

"As of now I am looking for a house (in another estate); it is scary just to think about it. We don't know what's happening, so we're living on the edge. I wish we knew what was causing this, but we don't know, it's chaos and it feels like we're in a horror movie," said Allan Juma, 29, a resident of Hunters area.

Juma wonders whether his estate is haunted or a victim of pure coincidence.

Kasarani, a Nairobi constituency with a population of about 780,656, has become a place of violent crime and self-inflicted death.

On March 10, this year, the body of Blair Muthomi, 23, who lived in an apartment with two friends, was found on the floor of a neighbouring building site by the owner, identified as Joseph Macharia, who had visited his property to supervise construction.

Muthomi was reported to have fallen from the fifth floor of a building in Hunters in Kasarani estate

According to the post-mortem, Muthomi died of injuries to the abdomen and chest that were consistent with a fall.

"Kasarani is teeming with young people whose minds are a mystery. One day they're fine, the next they're gone. It's a tragic sight, with drinking and partying rampant in this area - who knows what really happens?" says Anthony Onyango, a motorcyclist in Kasarani.

Mr Onyango blames the mix of alcohol, illicit sex and youthfulness for some of the incidents.

Another victim, Brenda Kawira, died on February 21, 2023, at about 11:30pm in Kasarani Estate. Police said the 29-year-old jumped 50 feet to her death.

The only witness to the suicide was her boyfriend, who confessed that they had argued on their way to the bedroom.

He alleged that in a fit of rage, Kawira stormed out of the fourth-floor bedroom of the rented flat, went to the balcony and jumped to her death.

And on February 22, 2023, 23-year-old Jeff Mwathi lost his life after allegedly falling from the house of popular Mugithi singer DJ Faxto on the 12th floor of Redwood Apartments in Kasarani.

The apartment is sandwiched between USIU and Safari Park Hotel on the Roysambu side. Initial reports said he jumped from a bedroom window.

"It's absurd, it's becoming too common, a lot of people may think it's funny on social media but it's not. Parents need to check on their children regularly; I am a taxi driver and what I hear these young people talking about scares me. If they are not talking about alcohol, they are talking about drugs and relationships. Their mental stability should be the focus," said Eric Munene, a taxi driver.

On Thursday, March 23, a well-known political mobiliser in Bungoma County, Joseph Kubende, died after falling from the fourth floor of an apartment in Nairobi's Roysambu area.

Kubende was said to have been alone on the balcony of GM Apartments before he fell from the fourth floor.

Not easily available there

Many feel that police officers are not doing enough to protect them and that corruption within the police force allows criminals to operate with impunity.

"I live in Kiambu and alcohol and bhang are not easily available there, so I have friends who live in Kasarani and Roysambu, so when I want to have fun I come to this area," said Lucy Wairimu, 23.

Speaking to the Nation earlier, Kasarani Criminal Investigations Officer Jimmy Kimaro, who took over from Mr Vincent Kipkorir last December, admits there is a big problem.

"Since January, we have had 40 cases of suicides, murders and unexplained deaths. It is a worrying trend,” Mr Kimaro told the Nation in his office.

But the situation is not unique to Kasarani.

Many urban areas in Kenya, and indeed around the world, face similar challenges of violence and crime.

Tackling these issues requires a multi-faceted approach that includes not only law enforcement but also community engagement and investment in education and social programmes.

Just last month, a family in Nairobi's Huruma Estate was left in mourning after their four-year-old boy fell to his death from the sixth floor of their home.

Oscar Nabikhwa was playing with other children on the balcony of his family's home when he slipped and fell to the ground.