Kenya Nobel laureate Maathai dies in hospital

By George Obulutsa and Kevin Mwanza


Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmentalist Wangari Maathai has died in hospital where she was undergoing treatment for cancer, her organisation the Green Belt Movement said on Monday.

Maathai, who won the 2004 Nobel Prize, was the founder of Green Belt Movement, a civil and women rights activist and also served as a Member of Parliament.

“It is with great sadness that the Green Belt Movement announces the passing of its founder and chair, Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai, after a long illness bravely borne,” the organisation said in a statement on its website.

“Prof. Maathai passed away on the 26th of September 2011 in Nairobi. Her family and loved ones were with her at the time,” the statement, signed by the movement’s Executive Director Karanja Njoroge, added.

Wangari Maathai, who was also a veterinary anatomy professor, rose to international fame for campaigns against government-backed forest clearances in Kenya in the late 1980s and 1990s.

She branded the clearances a political ploy that caused irreversible environmental damage. The courts blocked her suits and Green Belt lawyers complained that their cases were dismissed on technical grounds or their files were mysteriously lost.

“Her departure is untimely and a very great loss to all of us who knew her — as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine — or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy, and better place for all of us,” Green Belt said in its statement.

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