Saturday, October 15, 2011



International dignitaries joined local leaders in a memorial service at the Holy Family Basilica to celebrate the life of Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai.

By Steve Mkawale

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu waves to the crowd at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi after the memorial service for Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai on Friday. [PHOTO: JOHN MUCHUCHA /STANDARD]

South Africa’s retired Anglican Bishop and Noble Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was among international leaders who attended the ceremony.

And the late Maathai will be honoured with a life-size monument at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, one of the public utilities she helped protect from land grabbers.

Officials of the Pan African Women Organisation appealed to the Kenyan authority to allow them erect the statue at the park’s ‘freedom corner’ where in 1989, Maathai’s protests forced the Kanu regime to abandon plans to erect a multi-storey office block.

Uhuru Park is an oasis of green that flanks the main highway running through the centre of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Grace Kabayo, the Executive Director of the Pan African Movement, urged President Kibaki to facilitate the process of honouring Maathai with the monument.

"We request the President (Kibaki) to allow us a small space at Uhuru Park to put up a monument in honour of the late Maathai," said Kabayo.

Kabayo, who described Maathai as a fearless and a true African heroine, said the monument sketch was already in place.

In his tribute, President Kibaki noted that despite her demise, Maathai had bequeathed the nation and entire world a remarkable legacy that would continue to inspire both current and future generations.

"We gather here today to celebrate the life of our fallen heroine. In the passing on of Prof Maathai, we lost an illustrious and passionate environmental icon," said the president.

Affirming that the country shall remain indebted to Maathai’s self sacrifice to protect our environment, Kibaki thanked God for the enduring legacy she leaves behind and for sharing her vision with others.

Nobel Laureate

South Africa’s retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, described Maathai as a remarkable and eminent woman and a true daughter of Africa.

"Africa has not been good in honouring and recognising the contribution and achievement of those who do not belong to the ruling party. Maathai was a remarkable and a true daughter of Africa," he said.

Tutu recounted the tribulations Maathai underwent in her efforts geared toward protection of the environment. "She paid a very heavy price. And every time we ask ourselves what must be done in order for peace to be established in the world, the answer should be ‘let women take over’," said Tutu amid applause from the congregation.

Prof Maathai died on September 29 after a battle with ovarian cancer that was diagnosed in 2010. She was cremated at Kariokor crematorium last weekend in accordance to her wishes.

Raila Odinga also paid tribute to her. The Prime Minister said each passing day has confirmed to all that Prof Maathai was and remains a global icon.