Literary enthusiasts’ farewell for Kiswahili ambassador

Friday, April 17th, 2020 00:00 | By
The sudden death of Prof Ken Walibora Waliaula has robbed Swahili speakers and writers a scholar of no mean repute.

Peter Ngila @peterngilanjeri

Ken Walibora, the renowned writer, scholar and journalist was excessively humble.

He was known for his Kiswahili novel Siku Njema, a tale of triumph over adversity and a coming-to-age story that gripped the hearts of many.

While interviewing him for People Daily, I was amazed by his friendliness, something, which dissuaded me from my assumption that since he was famous, he would be dismissive. But I realised he was just modest and almost shy author.

“We met regularly at literary events. I love his work, Siku Njema especially. He had good head on his shoulder and he knew his work.

He was passionate about the language. If you met him, he was sure to insert Kiswahili in his speeches,” said James Murua, a literary enthusiast.

Terming his death as a huge loss to the literary world and the country at large, another of Walibora’s fan Kingwa Kamencu said Ken was helpful.

A cover of Walibora’s book, Siku Njema. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Big hearted

“He was a lovely man and even though he was famous, he was down to earth. He was very helpful in many ways; he even hosted one of my friends when she landed in Ohio for school and helped her to get on her feet miles away from home,” she said.

That he would become the writer we know today would have seemed an impossible task for the young boy who had dreamed of becoming a police officer. Life had other plans for him.

Walibora had won many literary prizes, among them The Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature (thrice), with Ndoto ya Amerika (2003), Kisasi Hapana (2009) and Nasikia Sauti ya Mama (2015).

His literary works are being read in universities and colleges across East Africa, Mexico, America, Europe and Asia.

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