Maathai attacked while on conservation bid

August 1, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – Leading environmentalist Wangari Maathai and her supporters including Water Minister Charity Ngilu were on Saturday attacked by a group of hired youth as they demolished a number of houses being constructed on wetlands in Nairobi’s Spring Valley area.

The Nobel Laureate had led hundreds of people in setting ablaze apartments under construction, when the gang threw stones and arrows at them. No one was injured in the confrontation as the youth were overpowered by Ms Maathai’s supporters and chased away.

“Let’s protect the wetlands,” a protestor said. Another shouted: “Enough is enough. We are tired of this impunity and we are taking charge.”

The founder of Green Belt Movement had on Friday launched a national campaign dubbed ‘Enough is Enough’ aimed at conserving wetlands and forests.

Mrs Ngilu who also took part in the demolition said the action was necessary because there was no political will in the country to protect wetlands and other water towers.

“This has happened over the years and you will find that the person who is developing these projects is (probably) very highly placed in the government itself and therefore protected,” she said.

The Cabinet Minister warned that the country was likely to see more and more Kenyans taking the law into their own hands to protect the environment if her colleagues in government continued to ignore conservation pleas.

“What we are witnessing here today is show of anger from the citizens because those who have been charged with the responsibility of protecting (the environment) have failed,” Mrs Ngilu said.

The protestors had accompanied Prof Maathai to demolish the houses and plant trees when their campaign degenerated into a violent clash with hired youths who went on a looting spree.

Police eventually arrived at the scene dispersing the two groups.

“I have a right to come here. I am on public land. Mr DC, or whoever is in charge, where were you when these people built on these wetlands?” a protester defended.

“They (police) have shot into the air to intimidate us,” he said.


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