As family, friends and faithful come to terms with the death of Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir, relatives have shared fond memories of the man known for his advocacy for peace in turbulent times. He died on Monday in his Eldoret home.
The story of the late Korir, as told by family members and close friends in Segutiet village, Bomet county, cuts a figure of a person whose commitment and desire to excel in life saw him rise from a humble background to a prominent theologian and cleric. Grief-stricken family members paid a glowing tribute to him, describing the late bishop as a humble and generous cleric dedicated to serving the church.
They also recalled the bishop’s quest for justice and reconciliation since his childhood. He was a social person who never missed social events in the village.
“My son was a humble man always caring for the less fortunate in the community and a peace-loving person who warmed up to all,” his stepmother Alice Tamason recalled. Paul Korir, his stepbrother, said the bishop’s calling as a peace crusader kicked in while they were young.
“We used to call him peacekeeper in our family, and indeed he lived true to the title as he would always ask us to be peaceful and love one another all time,” he said. Korir was also a responsible and generous man, sponsoring the education of some of his siblings.
“All my education was funded by Bishop Korir and as a family we owed him a lot. We still do not know where to pick up from after his death,” said Paul, adding that the bishop always extended a helping hand to the community.
“We have an ECD centre in the village (Segutiet) and when he came by in June, he bought iron sheets to roof it as he promised to come back and help in other ways of ensuring the centre grows.” It is not lost to the family how Bishop Korir tirelessly traversed the country at the height of 2007/08 post-election violence just to help reconcile warring communities.
At one point, he accommodated 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons in the Eldoret cathedral’s compound. The prelate was also instrumental in the distribution of relief food to families affected by the 1991/92 clashes.
Bishop Korir was born in 1950 to the family of the late Atanas Tamason and the late Platina Tamason in 1950 in Segutiet village. He was the third born in a family of eight—five boys and three girls. He was the brother of a one-time mayor of the defunct Nakuru Municipal Council Raphael Korir and former Bomet County Council chairman Michael Korir.
The late bishop went to Segutiet and Chesoen primary schools before sitting his Kenya Junior Certificate of Secondary Education exam privately using the little money he had raised as a farmhand and other engagements.
He dropped out of school in Form Two for lack of school fees and was hired as a Catholic catechist at Kaplong Catholic Church, before joining the Mother of Apostles Minor Seminary in Eldoret and later St Augustine Major Seminary in Bungoma, where he graduated with a diploma in Philosophy and Religious Studies. In 1982, Bishop Korir attained a diploma in Theology from Nairobi’s St Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary.
Korir never looked back and would later purse a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Theology and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Theology. He was ordained into priesthood on November 6, 1982 and was consecrated by Jozef Cardinal Tomko.
Fr Wilhelm Sambu of Segutiet Parish who had known the late Korir for long said: “He engaged in spiritual studies in various Catholic-based institutions before being ordained as a priest in 1982 and served in various parishes.”
“Bishop Korir was five years behind me in the seminary.” Fr Sambu said the late bishop was instrumental in many development activities in Bomet and Uasin Gishu counties, and has mentored spiritual leaders and scholars.
Bishop Korir has been the bishop for Eldoret Catholic Diocese for 27 years, where he presided over an unprecedented increase in church membership as well as growth in the education and health sectors, with the Catholic Church putting up several schools and hospitals in the region Reporting by Winstone Chiseremi, Felix Yegon and Mike Ratemo