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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid