What you need to know:
- He goes to an early grave thanks to his relentless efforts to listen, reconcile and unite Kenyans.
- Politicians broke his heart and his peace work was mainly devoted to undo the damage caused by reckless politicians.
Death is the great leveller, the inevitable end that no one can avoid.
When death comes knocking we are always unprepared and confronted by our mortality and the legacy that we may leave behind.
No one is spared the experience but most of us live as if we were immortal.
Bishop Cornelius Korir was a great peacemaker.
It was only fitting then that his Creator should grant him the honour of dying peacefully in his sleep.
He goes to an early grave thanks to his relentless efforts to listen, reconcile and unite Kenyans from the village to the national stage.
His legacy will, however, remain as he touched the lives of people in a way that politicians never do.
He didn’t do it for votes or for popularity but out of a deep, simple and humble faith.
The young Bishop won the hearts of the nation in the early and late 1990s when, in a Moses-like manner, he walked between warring communities in Burnt Forest, Uasin Gishu County, and led hundreds of Kikuyu families to safety.
The displaced and impoverished folk found refuge at the local Catholic Church for several years until it was safe for them to return home.
He then concentrated his efforts at bringing peace along the troubled Kerio Valley.
I recall coming with him from a peace meeting in Chesogon along the Pokot-Marakwet border and running into an ambush in which two died.
Bishop Korir was not deterred and his efforts bore fruit after several years.
In 2003 he came to my rescue when I was arrested for attempting to meet then Vice-President Moody Awori over grabbed prison land in Kitale.
The Bishops Chair denounced my approach but the following day, Bishop Korir, as Chair of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, defended my right to protest and insisted that the grabbed land be repossessed by the Government.
I got a chance to repay that debt on January 2008 when he called me to say that he had thousands of displaced families in the Cathedral compound in Eldoret and had not a bob to feed them with.
The good prelate was never awash with cash but Irish emergency agencies soon came to the rescue.
Bishop Korir was a well known figure in Irish Church circles and only 10 days ago he was there again for the last time.
In a week’s time, Cornelius will be laid to rest. Thousands will come to say farewell.
Politicians, too, will not miss the chance to claim him as their own.
They will conveniently forget how recently he had warned Nasa against street protests and Jubilee against passing election laws that were divisive and unnecessary.
Politicians broke his heart and his peace work was mainly devoted to undo the damage caused by reckless politicians.
They should not, then, hijack his funeral and turn it into another political rally.
Like his good friend, the late Archbishop Boniface Lele, Korir was a humble, simple, generous soul.
Boniface Lele, too, was an inspiration to many by his lifestyle and values. His farewell was a Christian celebration of his life.
Let us hope that Cornelius Korir is given the same dignity and respect.
Fr Gabriel Dolan is a Catholic priest based in Mombasa. [email protected] @GabrielDolan1