OBIT: Africa’s First Woman Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Wangari Maathai, Dies at 71

September 26, 2011 

by Tola Adenle

It is not only Kenya that is mourning the passing of an African giant, Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Dr. Maathai passed away this morning in her native Kenya, far from the world stage that was hers since her work on environmental degradation by huge commercial plantation in Kenya and her efforts to contain it, thrust her into the limelight.

An academic who scored many firsts in her lifetime among which were first East African to earn a Ph.D. and first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai was a Parliamentarian who became a pain in the neck of the Arap Moi government because of her social activism to save trees that were being destroyed to make way for commercial plantations.  Her work of saving the environment grew from her chair of the Kenyan National Council of Women from which sprang her Green Belt Movement.  She reportedly mobilized rural women in Kenya to plant over forty million trees.

In a country – just like my native Nigeria – where tree-planting as a policy to fight environmental degradation is looked on as a waste of time and “uncalled for” as somebody who should know better once described deliberate replacement of the trees we take out for cooking, etcetera, Maathai was a weirdo and many, especially in government circles never let her forget just what they thought of her.  The world, however, where the race against greenhouse gas emission is being fought in earnest, let her and the world know she was somebody very special who was way ahead of her time in her corner of the world.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed and culminated in the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

That ever-ready smile may be lost to us all for ever, but not so her bequest to the world.  May her soul find a place of rest with the Lord.

Sources:  Various Press Agency Reports



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