Prof Wangari Maathai’s State funeral will be similar to that of former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa.

The government on Thursday said preparations begin in earnest on Friday.

Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua said it will be “similar to Wamalwa’s”. The funeral committee has set a tentative burial date of October 11.

Committee chairman Njeru Kathangu told the press at Holy Family Basilica that they had concurrence of the family.

Two weeks of mourning

President Kibaki declared two weeks of mourning for Mr Wamalwa, who died in a London hospital in 2003. Mr Wamalwa got a gun salute as flags flew at half-mast. (READ: Maathai to be accorded State funeral)

The President also announced a State funeral and two days of mourning for Prof Maathai during which the flag would fly at half mast. The two days of mourning end on Friday.

Mr Wamalwa’s family turned down a government offer to bury him at Heroes Corner in Jamhuri Park.

And, according to Dr Mutua, the government will respect whatever Prof Maathai’s family wishes.

“The government is keen to do two things — to respect the wishes of the family and to give her a befitting send-off, something similar to Wamalwa’s that befits her stature,” said Dr Mutua. (SEE IN PICTURES: Wangari Maathai)

During a State funeral, government functionaries take over the event entirely and control the programme in consultation with the family.

The State could also assist with hospital bills Prof Maathai might have incurred.

“It is a great honour but could also be a ploy to stop Maathai’s comrades from criticising the State as they will control the programme,” former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere observed.

Mr Wamwere witnessed the funerals of founding president Jomo Kenyatta and former VP Wamalwa.