Regionals
Kenyan Nobel winner Maathai, saviour of trees, diesPublish Date: Sep 26, 2011
Kenyan Nobel winner Maathai, saviour of trees, dies
  • mail
  • img
Maathai showing her prize to a cheering crowd in Nairobi
Shialendraumar Lal

NAIROBI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigns to save Kenyan forests, died in hospital on Sunday after a long struggle with cancer.

Maathai, 71, founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to campaign for tree planting to prevent environmental and social conditions deteriorating and hurting poor people, especially women, living in rural Kenya.

 

Her movement expanded in the 1980s and 1990s to embrace wider campaigns for social, economic and political change, setting her on a collision course with the government of the then-president, Daniel arap Moi.

 

Maathai, who won the Peace Prize in 2004, had to endure being whipped, tear-gassed and threatened with death for her devotion to Africa's forests and her desire to end the corruption that often spells their destruction.

"It's a matter of life and death for this country," Maathai once said. "The Kenyan forests are facing extinction and it is a man-made problem."

"You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them."

Maathai was born in the central highlands of Kenya on April 1, 1940. She earned a master's degree in the United States before becoming the first woman in Kenya to receive a doctorate for veterinary medicine and be appointed a professor.

In 1989, Maathai's protests forced Moi to abandon plans to erect an office tower in Uhuru Park, an oasis of green that flanks the main highway running through the centre of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

"It is a sad moment for myself and this country at large," said Nairobi resident Gikonge Mugwongo.

"We have lost a serious personality who shaped not only Kenya but the world at large. We have lost a great mind, a great woman who could change lives in this country."

"MAGNIFICENT VISIONARY"

In 1999, Maathai was beaten and whipped by guards during a demonstration against the sale of public land in Karura Forest in Nairobi.

The forest covers more than 1,000 hectares and is home to wildlife such as duiker antelopes and civets, as well as caves used by Mau Mau fighters in their struggle against British rule.

She called the clearance of forests a "suicidal mission".

"To interfere with them is to interfere with the rain system, the water system and therefore agriculture, not to mention the other industries dependent on hydro-electricity."

Maathai's movement spread across Africa and has gone on to plant more than 47 million trees to slow deforestation and erosion. She joined the U.N. Environment Programme in 2006 to launch a campaign to plant a billion trees worldwide.

"Her departure is untimely and a very great loss to all of us who knew her -- as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine -- or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy and better place for all of us," her movement said in a statement.

 

Tributes poured in for Maathai on social media from around the world.

"We join family and friends in mourning Prof. Wangari Maathai, a phenomenal woman, a friend and role model. You lived, you inspired," said Kenyan politician Martha Karua on her Twitter account.

Besides founding the Green Belt Movement, Maathai was also elected to parliament in 2002 and appointed deputy minister for the environment in 2003.

"Rest in peace Dr. Wangari Maathai. A great woman, an inspiration for many women across Africa, a magnificent visionary and embodiment of courage," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said in a Twitter message. (Additional reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by David Clarke; Editing by xxx)

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Kibaale youth to earn millions from coffee farming
A cross-section of youth from Kibaale district are set to earn sh980m from coffee farming projects, courtesy of the employment mitigation initiatives spearheaded by a Makerere University Professor Samuel Kyamanywa....
Over 60,000 children malnourished in Kibaale
DESPITE the fact that Kibaale district is a food basket in the region, it is still grappling with malnutrition with 39% of the children under the age of 5 falling victim...
NGO launches project to fight child abuse
A local NGO has launched a project to fight against child rights abuse and it is targeting areas of Nakawa Division, Kira Town Council and Mukono Municipality...
Police, private firm aid family affected by deadly fire
THE intervention of the company, follows a story published by the New Vision last week when the tragedy occurred in Wakiso trading centre, Nama Sub County, Mukono district...
Health Ministry sends experts to study extent of Nodding syndrome
The Ministry of Health has sent a team of 124 medical doctors to the districts that were affected by the Nodding disease syndrome....
Fire non-performing officers Parliament tells executive
Parliament has asked the executive to fire all Accounting officers who have violated the law by failing to submit the names of Public servants to the treasury....
Should government review powers of kings?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter