“Politician, human rights activist, either way she was a sweet friend. The way the world felt the pain sharply .She attained what we should all be striving to achieve,” those were the words web analyzer tool
of Most Reverend Peter Kairo, the Archbishop of Nyeri.
October 14th saw hundreds of congregants gather at the Holy Family Minor Basilica to pay homage to Nobel peace laureate Wangari Muta Maathai.Readings taken from the book of Wisdom 3: 1-9 and Romans 8: 7-12, Reverend Kairo alluded to the fact that only those who choose to follow Christ and are faithful will be united with him.
“The book of wisdom speaks and says that Wangari is in the hands of God, her soul is virtuous, and those who are faithful to God will have a place in heaven. The fact that she encouraged many, it is God’s will that she died when she did,” stated Reverend Kairo.
The reverend who was the main celebrant of the mass urged the world to emulate the fallen heroine and ensure that everyone in their various capacities ensure that the environment is protected and at the same time ensure that peace and reconciliation which she championed will prevail.
“Wangari Maathai was righteous, loved justice, seeked the truth, freedom and democracy. We should all work justly, love tenderly, go humbly like Wangari Maathai did,” urged the reverend.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu carried the day with his charisma. The 80 year old spoke to the hearts of many as he recounted his experiences with the late Wangari Maathai. He stated that Kenyans ought to have tremendous pride in “this daughter of Africa” who had had many firsts in her life. “Wangari was an eminent daughter of Africa, daughter of the soil. It is sad that Africans are not good at recognizing their own people,” stated the Archbishop from South Africa.
He spoke about the successes of the South African Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission which has been lauded the world over for ensuring peaceful transition, freedom and democracy of the oppressed vis a vis ensuring the forgiveness and reconciliation to take place which Kenya should emulate in view of the Post Election Violence that happened in 2007.
“In Kenya after independence, Kenyatta ensured that there was peace and not a grave yard of the white people, South Africa did not massacre whites after the apartheid and thus Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Kenya should be supported,” stated Tutu. “Í Pray that Kenya’s TJRC will be able to heal the wounds of ethnicity and ethnic violence in Kenya,” stated Tutu.
“A child of poor villages, she worked hard, who could have predicted that the village girl could have become an amazing trail blazer? An amazing girl in many areas sphere of life. I am sure that God wherever he is, is asking have you seen my servant Wangari Maathai. She was a great woman and God wants to show off just how amazing she was,” stated Tutu.
The fact that Wangari Maathai was not popular in Kenya was spoken with sadness. “She was not popular in Kenya, she was harassed. Former President Moi told her “why can’t you behave like a proper woman and listen to a man?” and she responded and said “not on your life. She went on in remarkable ways to change the world. She was a strong and feisty woman,” Tutu spoke of Wangari Maathai.
“What must happen in order for peace to be established on earth?” the archbishop posed.
“If we want to see a world free from violence and prosperity, it’s simple, “Let the women take over” stated Tutu to an applauding congregation. “the Prime Minister doesn’t seem enthusiastic about it.” Added Tutu. “Being the first African woman to win the Nobel price Wangari opened the doors for many other women and now we see two Liberian women from the same country have won the Nobel Peace Prize,” he added.
Women should say to the men “if you don’t give us peace, Liberian women led by Sir leaf Johnson told their men, “we are going to return the devil back to the hell he came from.” Women from all faiths stated that they would not allow war to proceed. The fact that women are biologically made for affirming life, biologically made to bring life on earth, they know how to share as well as ensuring that small amounts are able to multiply is a good enough reason to give them a chance to govern.
“Wangari we pray that many will follow in your footsteps and that Africa will rise from the ashes and ensure that Africa is a more gentle, caring, appreciative place. God says we are members of one family – the human family – God’s family, behave as such.” Concluded the Archbishop.
The chair of the Pan- African Women organization Grace Kabango who hails from Uganda stated that she was more than humbled to have met and worked with Wangari Maathai.
“Wangari was fearless, precise and always knew which direction to take. She saved Uhuru Park, Mau forest. Let’s not agonize but organize. She helped African women to get the courage to stand up and be counted,” she stated.
Grace did not mince her words when she requested that the Kenya government should construct a monument for Wangari Maathai at Uhuru Park as that would be a proper thing to do in order to befit a woman of her stature.
“Mr. President next year in July the Pan African women celebrate their 50th Silver Jubilee and we are hopeful that by July next year the monument will be done,” she stated.
The Director of forest service Mr. P.K Mbugua stated that the forest service had committed to dedicating a green corner all over Kenya and would ensure that during the short rains trees would be planted in the spirit of saving the environment.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi Dr. Joe Wanjui where the professor started her career was present to euologize her. Wangari Maathai joined the institution of higher learning in 1970 and in 1976 she became the first woman chair in the department of Veterinary Anatomy. In 1977 she became an Associate Professor in the same department.
“She was the 1st indigenous woman to attain the very feats in her life. An accomplished environmentalist, a champion for democracy, principled in politics, thought globally but acted locally,” stated the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi Dr. Joe Wanjui.
In February 2009 Wangari Maathai became the founder and distinguished chair of Wangari Maathai institute for peace and environmental studies. A multi-disciplinary training that will ensure and enhance empowerment and outreach services with regards to environment in the university. In her remberance the Upper Kabete campus the students and staff planted 71 trees, in congisance of the age in which she succumbed to ovarian cancer.
“We have lost a great intellectual in our community and her spirit will linger on,” he concluded.
A board member in the Green belt movement Mrs. Mrs. Chege recounted passionately the way Wangari supported rural women as part of her journey in conserving the environment. She encouraged the rural women to plant fruit trees in order to prevent soil erosion. She also told encouraged them to plant medicinal trees as well as planting seedlings as a source of income and thus empowering many women in the process, recounted. Mrs. Chege.
“I bet most of you did not know that Wangari Maathai sold hot dogs at the Jamhuri show ground. This attracted attention as more young people were drawn to purchase the hot dogs and in the process she gave them a talk on environment and a seedling to plant,” she recalled.
“She had a brilliant mind with a human touch and her legacy shall not wane,” stated Mrs. Chege.
An 11 year old Juliet Mweni from Sparky school in Mombasa eulogized Wangari in an eloquent and special way that touched the hearts of the hundreds who had attended the service.
“I had expected to meet her in Nairobi school a few months ago where 400 students in the first ever children festival had met for an awards ceremony on environment. I wanted to meet her and introduce her to the other students. Being the first woman in East and Central Africa to attain a PHD is just inspirational,” stated Mueni.
“She loved the nation and respected nature. She taught us to respect the environment, she lives in us all,” stated Mueni..
An environment Minister from Congo broke down while recounting how Wangari had helped to restore the Congo forest.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga gave an equally commendable tribute. “ She was a great Kenyan, when everyone else was still asleep, she woke up and crew, when everyone woke up she showed them the top of Mt. Kenya and how the ice had melted,” stated Raila.
“Wangari was clear that the saying that goes “behind every successful man there is a woman” was useless. “She went ahead before the man and did everything in her power to be a great woman,” recounted Raila.
The prime minister was at pains recounting that during independence Kenya’s forest cover was over 12.5% and that now it was below 2%.Wangari Maathai with her green belt movement to date has planted over 40 million trees. There is also the presence of the movement in other African countries.
“Wangari fought for the respect of human rights, she was tear-gassed, stripped naked to ensure that the environment wasn’t taken for granted. She wanted Kenya to be democratized and she told people if you do not stand with me for this cause, we shall either be hanged together or each separately,” stated Raila.
Raila added that she was a champion for human rights, a woman of character, and courage and happily responded to Archbishop Tutu’s assertions saying that he had no problem being led by a woman and that Africa’s women should unite as they have nothing to lose.
President Kibaki spoke of Wangari as an environmental icon. That it is a consolation that even as she was gone, she has left behind a remarkable legacy for many generations to come.
“We thank God for the good times we shared with her. We will forever remember her self-sacrifice to protect the environment. She is a testimony of how a visionary can change lives – the green belt movement – . I urge Kenyans to sustain the programme and ensure that we arrest environmental degradation,” urged the president.
“She lead a simple life and she practiced what she believed in and she is worthy of emulation, let us follow the precedence for the betterment of the country,” added the president.
By Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications