Thursday, October 27, 2011

Befitting sent off for environmental champion

President Mwai Kibaki addresses mourners at Uhuru Park's Freedom Corner during the state funeral for Nobel Peace Laureate Prof. Wangare Maathai. On his left is the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga and the Vice President Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka (r)
Prof. Maathai's children (from left) Muta Mathai, Waweru Mathai and Wanjira Mathai (right) together with her son-in-law Lars Linkdvist and granddaughter Ruth Wangari plant a tree during the funeral service at Freedom Corner 
Kenya Forest Service officers carry the casket containing the remains of the Late Prof. Wangari Maathai at Lee Funeral Home
Members of the public mob the hearse carrying the remains of Prof. Maathai on its way to the Kariokor Crematorium
Students of Limuru Girls High School carry seedlings at Lee Funeral Home. Prof. Maathai received her high school education at the institution
 The world said its final farewell to the planets leading environmentalist and Nobel Peace Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai in a state funeral, only Kenya’s third, attended by the country’s top most leaders including President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka among a host of international and local dignitaries and her family members. 

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) played its small part by providing pollbearing services at the ceremony where the late Professor lay in state in a special casket made of bamboo and water hyacinth and clad in the national colours. It was her wish not to be buried in a wooden coffin in her enduring quest to save even if just one tree.  

In various speeches made by guests including the President, the late Wangari Maathai was hailed as a true African daughter who fought tirelessly for the preservation of her mother land. Speakers remembered her long and painful struggle to protect the environment and especially forests against encroachment by private developers and sometimes even government. For her struggles, Karura Forest and the historical Uhuru Park are now safe while forests country wide are experiencing a resurgence.  

The brief and elaborate ceremony saw her three children Muta Mathai, Waweru Mathai, Wanjira Mathai, her son-in-law Lars Linkdvist and granddaughter Ruth Wangari plant a single but culturally significant African Wild Olive tree, also known as Mutamaiyo in Kikuyu. The ceremony was witnessed by thousands of mourners who thronged Freedom Corner at Uhuru Park to pay their last respects.

The body was then driven through Nairobi to the Kariokor Crematorium where it was cremated in a private ceremony witnessed only by her close family. 

Story by Caroline Kahuria and pictures by Vicky Nyaga

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