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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
AFRICA: KENYA: RIP PROF. MAATHAI: NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE
CISA REPORT -Renowned Kenyan environmentalist and Africa’s first female winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Prof Wangari Muta Maathai died late Sunday September 25, in a Nairobi hospital following a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 71.
Prof Maathai won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on sustainable development, democracy and peace. She believed that environmental degradation and unbridled development were among the roots of poverty.
The Green belt movement, an organization she founded in 1977, planted 30 million trees in hopes of improving the chances for peace, a triumph for nature that inspired the U.N. to launch a worldwide campaign that resulted in 11 billion trees planted.
Wangari Maathai combined the protection of the environment, with the struggle for women’s rights and fight for democracy.
Her work was quickly recognized by groups and governments the world over, winning awards, accolades and partnerships with powerful organizations.
“Wangari Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilize communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction,” said Achim Steiner, the executive director of UNEP.
Her quest to see fewer trees felled and more planted saw her face off against Kenya’s powerful elite. At least three times during her activist years she was physically attacked, even clubbed unconscious by police in 1992.
A long time friend and fellow professor at the University of Nairobi, Vertistine Mbaya said that Maathai showed the world how important it is to have and demonstrate courage.
“The values she had for justice and civil liberties and what she believed were the obligations of civil society and government,” Mbaya said. “She also demonstrated the importance of recognizing the contributions that women can make and allowing them the open space to do so.”
Born April 1, 1940, Maathai grew up in rural Kenya and received a scholarship to study at Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan., where she majored in biology, graduating in 1964.
She was the first woman to earn a doctorate in East Africa, in 1971 from the University of Nairobi, where she later was an associate professor in the department of veterinary anatomy.
In 2002 she was elected to parliament and served as assistant minister for the environment and natural resources but was voted out in 2007, after one term.
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai is survived by three children.