University of Nairobi professor Christopher Lukorito Wanjala was eulogised as the father of literary criticism in East Africa during his funeral on Saturday.
Prof Wanjala died on October 15 at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, after a long battle with diabetes, which caused his essential organs to shut down. He was 75 years old.
Among those who attended the funeral at Lwandeti village in Lugari Constituency, Kakamega, were Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress), Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya), Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima and several members of parliament from Bungoma and Kakamega counties.
Mr Mudavadi said Mr Wanjala laid a foundation in education and intellectualism.
“We pray to God to look after his family in this time of deep sorrow. May his soul rest in peace," he said.
Mr Lusaka said Prof Wanjala will be remembered for his influence on Kenyan literature.
“We were great friends for many years, [a friendship that started at] Chesamisi High School. This is a loss that is very difficult to accept. My brother taught and mentored several authors, poets and artistes, and contributed [significantly] to Kenyan literature. He was very instrumental in my leadership when I was Bungoma governor, especially in programmes of culture and development."
Many speakers dwelt on Prof Wanjala’s many accomplishments, describing him as someone who loved to see people reading, as well as a soft-spoken and humble person.
Mr Wetang'ula said he positively influenced many lives in Bungoma, where he donated books, issued motivational speeches at schools and sensitised youths on the importance of reading.
“Western has lost a great academician. His demise is not only a loss to the people of western but also to East Africa as a whole. He made me a master of many books of literature,” said Mr Wetang'ula.
He added that Prof Wanjala made him board a plane for the first time for a trip to Russia.
The professor's son, Alex Wanjala, said the family will miss a strict disciplinarian who pushed for excellence.
“We will deeply miss him and his fatherly care. We will miss a partner in life but it is our hope that one day we will meet again,” he said.