Nairobi — The body of retired Anglican Archbishop Manasses Kuria who died yesterday morning will be cremated this afternoon, in line with his last wishes.
Dr Kuria, 76, succumbed to a long battle with diabetes and kidney problems at Nairobi's Mater Hospital at 9 am. His doctor said he suspected the actual cause of death could have been a heart attack.
The death of the cleric, known for his impatience with what he perceived as injustice and oppression of the citizenry in retired President Moi's government, rolled the curtains of the life of a man who spent 40 years in the pulpit.
Like the late President Kenyatta in August 1978, Kuria died just hours after a get-together and picture session with his extended family, including two great grandchildren. He will be cremated just like his wife.
He was rushed to the hospital in a coma. This was the fourth time he had fallen into a coma in his life, his family said. His sons revealed he had earlier joked he would not recover from a fourth coma, and when it came yesterday he exited the world.
The family's spokesman, Maurice Murimi, said Kuria's remains would be cremated today at the Langata Crematorium at 4 pm.
His physician, Dr Joshua Kayima, said the late Kuria felt dizzy as they prepared to attend to him. Before his death, Kuria was jovial and happy, he added.
On Sunday, he presided over a special service at the All Saints Cathedral where he baptised his four-month old great grand daughter, Deborah Wairimu. He died as he lived, ringed by his family's prayers and love.
Kuria held the baby during baptism as he said prayers. A member of the family took the pictures of the old man in the pulpit that would later be significant as they showed him in his last hours, dressed in his bishopric white robe for the last time on earth. It was as if he was paying homage to the church he had prayed in and led services for over four decades.
Murimi said Kuria was happy and jovial during the Sunday service attended by members of the family. His sons and daughters said he always wanted to be close to his family and desired that they embrace God.
His grandson, David Kuria, whose daughter he baptised, said: "He would always call you up and text you wherever you are."
"The most important thing is the love he gave to his children and grand children," Murimi said.
His eldest son, John, said the late bishop was a fighter and never gave up. He revealed Kuria was organising a charity walk for his Jehovah Jireh Children's Home this Saturday.
As if he had a premonition of his death, he had asked his family to join the walk for the Kayole-based home for orphans and former street children.
Murimi said Kuria had expressed the wish that his body be cremated.
Family members and his doctors said he had a kidney problem and was diabetic. He was admitted to the hospital in the morning for dialysis, which has been on and off for the last three years.
The Provost of the All Saints Cathedral, Reverend Peter Karanja, said Kuria had served the Anglican Church for 40 years and left "a great example to the church."
A memorial service will be held on Thursday at the church.
Kuria leaves behind six children, 18 grand children and two great grand children.
Among the first to condole the family and pay tribute to Kuria was President Kibaki who is in the United States.
Kibaki said he had learnt of the death of Archbishop Kuria with deep sorrow and profound sense of loss.
"We join you in mourning the loss of a devoted Christian and a dedicated church leader whose contribution to the fight against corruption and other social evils will remain implanted in the hearts of many for a long time," Kibaki said.
He added: "Archbishop Kuria leaves behind a rich legacy that should be emulated by other Christians."
Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo, who is believed to have played a crucial role in Kuria's ascension to the helm of the church, said the archbishop had protected the traditions of the Anglican Church during his watch.
"He was a great saintly man, a rare breed that you probably cannot find today," said Njonjo.
He said during Kuria's stewardship there was a distinct difference between the church and other denominations.
Today, Njonjo lamented, there is no difference between the church and many Pentecostal churches in Nairobi.
Vice President Moody Awori described Kuria as a dedicated religious leader, who devoted his life to spreading the word of God.
During his leadership, Awori said, the church had initiated many projects in the country, which contributed to its growth. He noted that Kuria strove to uplift the lives of the less privileged in the society.
The Leader of the Official Opposition, Uhuru Kenyatta, described Kuria as an uncompromising crusader of the rights of the underprivileged. "The late Kuria was a great champion, advocate, and uncompromising crusader of the rights of the underprivileged, the poor, voiceless. He played an integral and leading role in the democratization process in the country that saw the re-introduction of multi-party democracy."
"His Grace was a valiant freedom fighter who wrote many memoranda to Lancaster House," said the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Reverend Mutava Musyimi.
He added Kuria was among the first six students at St Paul's United Theological College.
Having been made a Deacon in 1955, he served for three years as a chaplain to the special prison and detention camps under the auspices of NCCK.
Musyimi revealed the prelate later served on the Executive Committee and the Justice and Peace Committee of the NCCK.
Kuria was the second African Anglican Bishop after the late Archbishop Festus Olang whom he succeeded at the head of the church.
Musyimi said the retired archbishop, who chaired the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa for 13 years, emerged as one of the most senior primates in the Anglican Communion worldwide.
ACK bishops Joseph Wasonga, Beneah Salala and Simon Oketch said there was nothing wrong with cremation.
While conveying their messages of condolence, they said his death was a blow to the church as his wisdom and guidance would have been sought in the run-up to November 21 referendum on the proposed constitution.
Wasonga said in the early Church, cremation was practiced during wars and the modern Church found nothing against it.
But Bishop Oketch (Maseno North diocese) said Kuria should have shared with the church his wish to be cremated. "I would have wished to look at his face in admiration remembering how he inspired me with how he went on with his Episcopal duties, I am so disappointed that his body will be cremated, " said Oketch.
Giving an account of his life with him, Wasonga said he first met Kuria in 1975 at a youth conference in Kajiado. "He encouraged me on life in the spirit. He was a good advocate of the people and it was through him that I became a bishop."
He added: "Together we did a study on cremation, which led to his decision to cremate his wife a few years ago and the Church has nothing against it."
"I can only describe him as a brilliant and wise person. He has died at a time when we need him most," said Salala.
"We want people to break from the traditional way of having graves in homesteads because of lack of enough land, poverty and the high death rates," he added.