Rwanda yesterday joined the rest of the world to mourn departed Kenyan Nobel Prize Laureate, Prof. Wangari Maathai.
The renowned conservationist and politician passed away on Sunday night at the Nairobi Hospital after a long battle with cancer.
Maathai, who was 71 at the time of her death, is the founder of the Greenbelt Movement, an environmental conservation organisation that often praised Rwanda’s approach to environmental conservation and commended several policies the country had put in place.
Just last week, Prof. Wangari Maathai spoke about Rwanda’s National Forest Policy, which won the 2011 Future Policy Award as the world’s most inspiring and innovative forest policy.
She said that Rwanda had laid out not only impressive polices on the environment, but also women empowerment and health.
“Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s rights and creating a healthy environment,” Prof Maathai said.
Reacting to the news of her death, the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, said that the World had lost an icon who always advocated for a better environment globally.
“The demise of Prof. Wangari Mathai is a big loss for Africa and the whole World indeed,” Kamanzi said.
“She will always be remembered as an inspiring advocate in our efforts to keep our planet environmentally safe, so to sustain global socio-economic development. May her Soul Rest in Peace”.
The Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Dr Rose Mukankomeje, described the death of the Kenyan activist as a massive loss to the environment conservation community worldwide.
“The death of Mrs. Wangari Maathai is not only a loss for Kenya, for Africa, but also for the whole environmental community worldwide.
“In the environmental sector, she has done a lot and her work has been internationally recognised,” Mukankomeje said..
“She advocated for environmental sustainability in her own country, but her voice reached beyond Kenya. It was not an easy task.
Our sincere condolences go to her family and to all Kenyans. We have to continue the work she has initiated and commit for a better future for Africa.
Kenezio Kayima, the Managing Director of Air Water Earth Rwanda (AWE) SARL said the death is a major blow to the region.
“This is a great loss for the region as far as environmental conservation is concerned. She had a strong passion for the environment and her legacy in East Africa and beyond will live on,” Kayima said.
Cassien Havugimana, the Programs Manager of Health Development Initiative (HDI) said that Maathai’s advocacy on not only environment issues but in human rights and women empowerment as well, will be greatly missed.
The Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, issued a message of condolence to the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and also served on the Commonwealth Commission for Respect and Understanding.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the family of Wangari Maathai, and to the people of Kenya,” Sharma said.
“As an activist on both environmental and social issues, Professor Maathai epitomised the Commonwealth theme for 2011 'Women as Agents of Change'. We pay tribute to her many abiding contributions and achievements.”
Sharma joined other prominent world figures including South African Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, who hailed the legacy of Maathai, defining her as a “true African heroine”.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation hailed her as an “exceptional environmental activist”.