NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 14 – President Mwai Kibaki on Friday joined other Kenyans and international dignitaries in a memorial service at the Holy Family Basilica to celebrate the life and spirit of the late global environmentalist and Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai.,
In his tribute, President Kibaki noted that despite her demise, the late Prof Maathai had bequeathed the nation and indeed the entire world a remarkable legacy that would continue to inspire both current and future generations.
The President remarked, “We gather here today to celebrate the life of our fallen heroine, the late Prof Wangari Maathai. In the passing on of Prof Wangari Maathai, we lost an illustrious and passionate environmental icon.”
Affirming that the country shall remain indebted for the late Prof Wangari Maathai’s self sacrifice to protect our environment, President Kibaki thanked God for the enduring legacy she leaves behind and for sharing her vision with others.
The Head of State stressed that her brainchild organisation, Green Belt Movement, is a testimony of how a visionary could impact millions of lives by empowering citizens to change their circumstances of life.
She thanked the departed heroine for teaching Kenyans and the world at large how to take care of the delicate mother earth and in the process attaining an impressive feat of overseeing the planting of over 47 million trees mainly by women groups in the country as well as in the region.
He observed, “As a result of that unique initiative, more than 47 million trees in Kenya, and all over East Africa, have been planted by the Green Belt Movement. It is encouraging that this program has largely been carried out by women groups in the villages.”
In order to arrest environmental degradation and to stem the tide of the climate change that threatens man’s own existence, President Kibaki urged all Kenyans to sustain environmental care even in absence of the Prof Maathai.
He further extolled Prof Maathai for her simplicity and humility adding that she freely interacted with people from all walks of life despite her tremendous achievements both locally and internationally. The President urged Kenyans to emulate such an admirable personality.
The President said, “The late Prof Wangari Maathai chose to live a simple life. She practiced what she believed and mingled humbly with all persons across the social, political and economic spectrum. Such simplicity and humility is indeed worthy of emulation.”
He underscored that Prof Wangari Maathai inspired everyone to do their best to change our world and challenged every citizen to emulate her commitment of changing the country and world for the better, in however small ways.
“In doing so, let us remember, as she taught us, that each of our individual contributions, however small, when put together will be enough to change our country into the prosperous nation we all desire,” affirmed the Head of State.
President Kibaki prayed that the Almighty God rests the soul of Prof Wangari Maathai in everlasting peace.
In his tribute, Prime Minister Raila Odinga described the late Prof Maathai as a fighter who never lived to see the difference her contribution made to the lives of the nation and humanity.
The Prime Minister said the country had lost a champion of human rights and a woman of character.
As a tribute to her, the Prime Minister pledged to rally Kenyans to conserve the environment by planting more trees to restore the degraded forest cover.
The main celebrant was the Most Rev. Peter Kairo, Archibishop of Nyeri Catholic Church. The memorial service was also graced by the representative of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in Kenya, His Excellency Archbishop Alain Paul Lebeaupin.
Other dignitaries included Cabinet Minister Charity Ngilu, former Vice President Moodi Awori, the Most Rev Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala, and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya and members of diplomatic corps among others.