Kenya's Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai dies aged 71

 

The BBC's Will Ross said Ms Maathai was seen as a source of inspiration

Related Stories

Kenya's Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has died in Nairobi while undergoing cancer treatment. She was 71.

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for promoting conservation, women's rights and transparent government - the first African woman to get the award.

She was elected as an MP in 2002 and served as a minister in the Kenyan government for a time.

Ms Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, which has planted 20-30 million trees in Africa.

'Role model and heroine'

"It is with great sadness that the family of Professor Wangari Maathai announces her passing away on 25 September, 2011, at the Nairobi Hospital, after a prolonged and bravely borne struggle with cancer," the Green Belt Movement said in a statement.

"Her loved ones were with her at the time.

"Professor Maathai's departure is untimely and a very great loss to all who knew her - as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine; or who admired her determination to make the world a more peaceful, healthier, and better place."

The organisation did not provide further details.

Ms Maathai, who was a professor of veterinary anatomy, rose to international fame for campaigns against government-backed forest clearances in Kenya in the late 1980s-90s.

Under the former government of President Daniel Arap Moi, she was arrested several times, and vilified.

In 2008, Ms Maathai was tear-gassed during a protest against the Kenyan president's plan to increase the number of ministers in the cabinet.

The BBC's Solomon Mugera met Ms Maathai a number of times.

For those who loved and admired her, she was "Wangari wetu" - our Wangari - he says. But for her enemies, she was derided as "yule mwanamke" - that woman.

In her speech accepting the Nobel prize, Ms Maathai said she hoped her own success would spur other women on to a more active role in the community.

"I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership," she said.

The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, said she was saddened by the news.

"Africa, particularly African women, have lost a champion, a leader, an activist. We're going to miss her. We're going to miss the work she's been doing all these years on the environment, working for women's rights and women's participation," she said.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 37.

    Wonder what perpetual sigh gets out of offering condolences to total strangers?! And asking "who or why" is perfectly pertinent.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 35.

    Sorry to hear of the death of this great lady who accomplished so much.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends at this sad time.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 34.

    I must admit I know nothing about her, and her family, friends and fans receive my somewhat uninformed condolences. However, I really wish people would refrain from posting vacuous "Who?" comments and accept that not every single Have Your Say debate is going to be relevant to them. It's unbearably arrogant to assume that just because YOU don't care about something means that others don't.

    RIP.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    How would the BBC regard a British equivalent to this lady.

    As the Tories and their cronies in the property and building sectors and local government prepare to pave over England and destroy its 'Green Belt', BBC reporters refe to protestors here as 'nimbies'.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 31.

    I've been collaborating with Pro Maathia now since August 1999. We worked on afforestation projects in C/Africa, and we had just started our third project, "AFFORESTATION OF THE ZAMBEZI RIVER CATCHMENT AREA". Prof Maathia used several of my images in her publications. She was an inspiration to us all.....Perspicacious, insouciant and one who went about her daily chores with consummate equanimity.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 30.

    Africa has become poorer with the demise of such an icon and a pacesetter for women in particular. Good bye Mama Matai, you have fulfilled your vision of women emancipation and keeping the environment green and clean. You were such a great model for African women , moving ahead even in the face of formidable obstacles. Fare the well.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 29.

    Oh my goodness. This comes as a surprise to us. I have always adored her. As a Ugandan environmentalist, I have lived towards her statements and her efforts of a tree for each individual. Its a great blow to the world of environment.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 28.

    I had the delight and privilege of meeting Wangari Maathai in London some years ago, when she gave a talk at SOAS. After her lecture we spoke for maybe 20 minutes, and though brief, that time with her has always stayed precious in my mind, as she so clearly came across as someone with a tremendous humanity and warmth. There was no arrogance, but an interest in the world & life. A wonderful woman.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 27.

    We mourn the loss of an African icon, with Mabira forest nearing destruction we really need more people like her..RIP

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 26.

    Such a woman cannot be easily forgotten, may her works continue to grow strengthening the women of kenya, REST IN PEACE WANGARI

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 25.

    Her indomitable spirit and unfailing grace in the face of adversity have and always shall remain her legacy. Thank you Mama Wangari for carving out a path for Africa's (and indeed the world's) daughters. Having followed her trials since I was a little girl, her accomplishments showed that faith in one's cause can overcome adversity. Lala Salama Mama.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 24.

    She was a truly great woman and a leader of tremendous integrity. If you haven't heard of her please have a look at the Green Belt Movement website. We need activists and leaders like her more than ever now, so let's take inspiration and act.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 23.

    RIP Wangari Maathai, may your message and the legacy of your work continue to shine brightly in a world that really needs so many more inspirational activists like yourself.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 22.

    People like Maathai are not simply "daughter of Kenya". They belong to all humanity equally, and all of us can be inspired by them.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    14: Braumeister1, have you heard of the Nobel Peace Prize? Been around for a while, and recipients are announced most publicly every year and given wide acclaim. I'm surprised you manage not to hear of them

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    I am sorry to say that until this point I had not heard of her, RIP and may her legacy be the continued work of what she stood for in life,

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 19.

    Its sad to hear that brave mother has passed away, i believe her name will live long and all women around Africa will learn from her and set a good example to our future generation. May almight God rest her in peace and comfort the left ones.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 18.

    I want to pass our condolence to all the people of Kenya in particular and Africa in general for the Loss of that great Daughter of Kenya. I hope and pray that what she lived for will continue to inspire millions of women around the world. That Light shall continue to shine for those who have seen it and that light will be seen at the end of the tunnel for women who still need emancipation.

 

Page 2 of 3

 

More Africa stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.