NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 8- The remains of the late Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai were on Saturday cremated at the Kariokor Crematorium in accordance to her final wishes.
Thousands gathered for a requiem mass for Prof Maathai held at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner led by President Mwai Kibaki, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in honour of the environmental crusader.
A tree was planted at the Freedom Corner in honour of the environmentalist whom President Kibaki hailed as the most outstanding champion of environmental sustainability in Kenya.
“Besides being a woman of great courage and tenacity the late Prof Wangari Maathai demonstrated by example the virtue of selfless service to the nation. Indeed it was her concern for the plight of the rural women that saw her initiative for environmental conservation,” President Kibaki said.
In his tribute, Prime Minister Raila Odinga described the late Prof Maathai as one of greatest leaders and heroines of Kenya whose legacy goes beyond the country’s boundaries.
He eulogised that the country and the world at large had lost a great, dedicated and selfless patriot whose achievements will continue to live and inspire other citizens of the world many years after her death.
“Wangari’s legacy goes beyond Kenya, as her efforts have made an impact all over the world. We have lost a great, dedicated and selfless Kenyan. She will live in the hearts of the people of Kenya and continue inspiring the whole world,” the premier said.
On his part Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka depicted the distinguished conservationist as a trailblazer whose achievements and commitment to combating environmental hazards such as global warming and climate change will linger on for many decades to come.
The Vice-President thanked the international community for sharing the grief with Kenyans and joining hands in bidding farewell to the departed heroine.
“The efforts of the green movement will leave on; this is just the beginning of the commitment by all of us to bring to fruition what our sister stood for. She stood for environmental justice and I think a lot of us are now wiser from her efforts,” he said.
Other speakers during the ceremony included Norway’s Ambassador to Kenya, Per Ludvig Magnus, former Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) Dr Anna Tibaijuka, and UN Secretary General Representative Sahle-Work Zewde.
This was the country’s third state funeral following that of the first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta on in 1978, and the eighth vice-president Wamalwa Kijana in 2003. However unlike those two, little pomp and glamour was lacking this time round.
The family of the late Prof Maathai had requested for a largely private function, with no viewing of the body by the public.
The coffin was specially made out of water hyacinth and papyrus reeds in fulfilment of Prof Maathai’s final wish not to be buried in a wooden coffin and was draped in the Kenyan flag.
Prof Maathai, 71, died at the Nairobi Hospital after a long battle with ovarian cancer diagnosed in July 2010.
She is survived by three children Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta, and granddaughter Ruth Wangari.
The Nobel laureate led a sustained campaign for environmental conservation, respect for human rights and democratic values, making the Moi regime subject her to frequent arrests, beatings and incarcerations.
In 2004, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded her the Nobel Peace Prize a first for an African woman.