Leaders from across the country have mourned Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir who died aged 67.
Former President Daniel arap Moi said Bishop Korir was a genuine man of God who loved all people without discrimination.
"He was a humble man of God who valued humanity and justice," Mr Moi said.
He said Bishop Korir played a big role in bringing communities together.
"He valued peaceful co-existence and worked tirelessly to bring people together," the former president said.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr joined leaders in mourning Bishop Cornelius Korir describing him as a brave leader who criticised injustice.
"He was a fearless critic of bad governance," Mr Kilonzo Jnr said in a statement.
The two had interacted during sittings of a special parliamentary committee set to revise the electoral laws in 2016 and also while trying to broker an end to the doctors' strike early 2017.
Bishop Korir died on Sunday night in his sleep at the Catholic bishop’s residence in Elgon View, Eldoret.
Bishop Philip Anyolo, the chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, who held a meeting with bishops from the North Rift described Bishop Korir as an epitome of peace in the country.
“Bishop Korir stood for peace. Even in death we are sure that he still stands for the same. He had great plans for this country but God had better plans for him,” said Bishop Anyolo who is also the bishop of the Homa Bay Catholic Diocese.
He called on Kenyans to embrace peace especially during the electioneering period as a sign of respect to the bishop who was preaching peace.
According to Bishop Anyolo, the bishop who had been unwell for some time was set to be flown to be flown Monday morning to Karen Hospital in Nairobi for specialised treatment.
“He was to fly to Nairobi later in the day but when a bishop went to check on him he was not awake. A doctor was called who confirmed that the bishop was no more. We are very saddened as a church,” said Bishop Anyolo.
Viewing of the body was scheduled for 1pm Monday and later a Eucharistic mass would be said at the Eldoret cathedral where the bishop served.
Father Sospeter Kangogo who in charge of pastoral at the Eldoret Catholic Diocese said that the bishop was like a shepherd to the Catholic Church.
“He was like a father to us. He mentored many of us and taught us the doctrines of the Catholic Church,” said father Kangogo.
Leaders in the North Rift among them Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno said that Bishop Korir's death is a big blow to peace efforts in the banditry-prone counties in the North Rift which the bishop was spearheading.
“The best respect we can accord the bishop is for our people to embrace peace and co-exist together as brothers,” said Mr Tolgos.
A sombre mood engulfed St Johns Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral Catholic Church where the bishop served with some mourners yet to come to terms with his death.
Following the news of his death, leaders and residents thronged the church with groups talking in hush tones.
Bishop Korir took over leadership of the Eldoret Catholic Diocese from Bishop John Njenga who was transferred to Mombasa.
PEACE IN THE RIFT
Bishop Korir played a key role in the restoration of peace in the North Rift during the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
The North Rift was the epicentre of the chaos with bishop Korir hosting hundreds of thousands of victims at the Catholic Church.
But what stands out in Bishop Korir’s 25 years of episcopal ministry in Eldoret is his role in keeping peace among the warring pastoralist communities of the north.
“Three quarters of my life has been about peace-building,” the bishop said recently in an interview.
“The 1992 clashes were political violence coupled with ethnicity as the political parties then were rallied along tribal lines,” he added.
Bishop Korir was instrumental in the distribution of relief food to families affected by the 1991-92 clashes.
Throughout his service in Eldoret, Bishop Korir maintained that through dialogue much has been achieved among the warring communities. This is the subject of a book he wrote in 2015, Amani Mashinani (Peace at the Grassroots).
The fourth-born in a family of eight, Bishop Korir has been categorical that the best way to keep peace in northern Kenya is to empower the people.
During the 2007/2008 post-poll chaos, Bishop Korir accommodated 10,000 IDPs in the Eldoret cathedral’s compound.
In recent days Bishop Korir had organised several peace meetings between the warring pastoralist communities, coming up with a number of resolutions, among them the just-concluded peace caravans that brought together leaders and opinion shapers from Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu and Baringo counties.
Bishop Korir is a big admirer of the mass media, hence his decision in October, 2013 to found the Upendo FM radio station that broadcasts from his diocesan office on 89.4 FM in the North Rift.
Upendo FM was recently voted the best Catholic radio station in the country.
For his peace-keeping and peace-building efforts, Bishop Korir was in 2006 awarded the Moran of the Burning Spear by President Mwai Kibaki and also earned the Milele Lifetime Award in 2009 from the National Commission of Human Rights.
In 2012, Moi University conferred him with an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Humane Letters).
Bishop Korir was ordained priest by former Nairobi Archbishop Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki on November 6, 1982, and served in Molo, Kituro and Nakuru before taking up the role of vocations.
He was ordained in 1990 as the Bishop of Eldoret.