Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina dies

Prize-winning Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina has died aged 48.
Prize-winning Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina has died aged 48.

Award-winning Kenyan author and gay rights activist Binyavanga Wainaina has died at the age of 48, one of his publishers says.

Wainaina died in a hospital in the capital Nairobi late on Tuesday, said Tom Maliti, the chair of the Kwani Trust, which among other things publishes literary journal 'Kwani?', which Wainaina founded in 2003.

"His death is not just a loss for Kenya, but a loss for the continent of Africa. He was a key member of the community of artists on the continent," Maliti told dpa.

Wainaina became internationally known after receiving the prestigious Caine Prize for African writing in 2002.

In 2014, Time magazine named him as one of that year's 100 most influential people.

Two years later, Wainaina announced via Twitter that he was HIV-positive.

Wainana, who publicly identified as gay in a country where homosexuality is illegal, made an important contribution to furthering the debate about gay rights in Kenya, said Maliti.

"He made it OK to be open about who you are, irrespective of the environment you are in," Maliti added.

Kenyans took to social media to commemorate the author whose works include 'How to Write About Africa' (2006), 'One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir' (2012) and 'Nguva Na Nyoka' (2016).

"I will remember him as a man who put a face on what it's like to be gay in Kenya, at a time when it was like a taboo to do so," fellow author and gay rights activist Kevin Mwachiro told dpa.

Wainaina's death comes three days before a landmark ruling set to decide whether the East African nation will repeal sections of the constitution that make homosexuality punishable with up to 14 years in jail.

Australian Associated Press