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22.05.2019 Kenya

Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan writer and gay activist, dead at 48

By AFP
Binyavanga Wainaina, pictured in an AFP interview in January 2014, shortly after he declared that he was gay.  By SIMON MAINA (AFP)
MAY 22, 2019 KENYA
Binyavanga Wainaina, pictured in an AFP interview in January 2014, shortly after he declared that he was gay. By SIMON MAINA (AFP)

Internationally-renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, whose high-profile coming out in a country that criminalises homosexuality made him a revered figure for gay rights in Africa, has died aged 48, his publishing house said Wednesday.

The celebrated author came to world prominence with the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002.

He died just days before Kenya's High Court was expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on whether to abolish colonial-era anti-gay laws.

"He passed on some time last night," Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust, a Nairobi-based publishing house founded by Wainaina, told AFP.

Wainaina had suffered a stroke in 2015 and was living with HIV.

His brother James told Capital News that condolences were pouring in from around the globe.

"We lost Ken last night. We are grieving the loss... but Ken was an incredible person, with an incredible wit," he said.

"The wound is still fresh, but we have received an outpouring of messages, from the people across the world, we are greatly comforted by them."

At times a divisive figure in his native Kenya, where same-sex relationships are outlawed, Wainaina sparked huge debate in 2014 with his bombshell short story entitled "I am a Homosexual, Mum".

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