News / Africa

Kenya Says Final Goodbye to Wangari Maathai

A member of the Kenya Forest Service salutes the late Wangari Maathai next to the hearse carrying her coffin, at her state funeral held at Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park, Nairobi, Kenya, October 8, 2011.
A member of the Kenya Forest Service salutes the late Wangari Maathai next to the hearse carrying her coffin, at her state funeral held at Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park, Nairobi, Kenya, October 8, 2011.
Gabe Joselow

Kenya said farewell Saturday to Nobel Prize winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai.  Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki oversaw a state funeral in the capital Nairobi, making Maathai only the third Kenyan, and the first woman to receive such an honor. 

The woman who risked her life time and again to save the trees of Kenya, would not allow a single tree to be cut down for the sake of a wood coffin.

Instead, her body was carried from the Lee funeral home Saturday morning in a casket made of hyacinth, papyrus, and bamboo.

Crowds lined the streets as the funeral procession made its way to Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi.

It was here, in this park, where Maathai famously stood up to developers, and the government of former President Daniel Arap Moi, to prevent the construction of a 60 story skyscraper.  So it was fitting that her funeral would take place in an area of the park that has been renamed Freedom Corner.

She received all the honors of a fallen hero.  A military band played the National Anthem as the hearse carrying her casket pulled into the park.  Kenya's top officials and a few foreign dignitaries stood silently.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki presided over the ceremony. “Certainly, she has stood out as Kenya's most outstanding champion of environmental sustainability, and through her relentless efforts, present and future generations in our country and the region will enjoy a much cleaner and safer environment,” he said.

Through her Green Belt movement, Maathai organized the planting of some 30 million trees throughout Kenya. Her family planted one more in her honor at the ceremony in Uhuru Park.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said her impact on Kenya will not be soon forgotten. “We have lost a great, dedicated, selfless Kenyan patriot. All that we want to say here: Our sister, you are not dead.  You will continue to live in the hearts of the people of Kenya.  Your work will continue to inspire the rest of the world,” he said.

Maathai rose to international fame in 2004 when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental work, becoming the first African woman to win the recognition.

Her funeral came just a day after two more African women, from Liberia, were awarded the prize, along with a woman from Yemen.

After the ceremony, her body was taken to be cremated - an unusual practice in Kenya.

Thousands of people swarmed the car as it carried her body to the crematorium, slowing down Maathai's final journey.  Some even tried to force their way into the facility, desperate for one last chance to say goodbye.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs