Final farewell for Kenya’s Maathai


The final farewell and funeral rites for Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai begins on Saturday morning in Nairobi.

Starting at 9.30am, the bamboo-framed casket made out of water hyacinth and papyrus reeds and draped in the Kenyan flag will be wheeled out of Lee Funeral Home and into a hearse to take Prof Maathai on her final journey.

The coffin, specially made by three artisans from the Kisumu Innovation Centre Kenya, is in fulfilment of Prof Maathai’s final wish not to be buried in a wooden coffin.

A programme released by the Greenbelt Movement on Friday said the procession would start at the Lee Funeral Home before proceeding to Freedom Corner, Uhuru Park, for the State funeral expected to be attended by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The procession will then proceed to the Kariokor Crematorium for a private ceremony attended only by family members. (READ: All set for Maathai’s official funeral rites)

It will be the first time in Kenya that a State funeral will be followed by cremation.

Unlike the funeral of the country’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta on August 31, 1978, and the eighth vice-president Michael Wamalwa on September 5, 2003, the Nobel laureate will not be accorded the 21-gun salute that normally accompanies the lowering of the body into the grave.

Sing National Anthem

A senior official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the government, also ruled out speculation that the casket would be placed on a gun carriage and escorted by a military platoon.

“This is an honour the military only reserves for its commander-in-chief. It only happened during Kenyatta’s burial,” he said.

Before leaving Lee Funeral Home, the family will hold a private funeral service at 8am. The cortege will make its way to Freedom Corner through Valley Road before joining Kenyatta Avenue.

It will be met at the Freedom Corner by the Kenya Prisons Band that will play the National Anthem followed by opening prayers.

The family will then plant the Olea Africana (African Olive) tree, a highly valued indigenous tree known as Mutamaiyu in Kikuyu, Kumunyubuti in Luhya and Kang’o in Luo.

It is a versatile tree and thrives in different climatic conditions. After that, President Kibaki and Mr Odinga will lead government officials and dignitaries in paying their last respects.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua told Saturday Nation that the funeral would be similar to that accorded Mr Wamalwa at his Milimani home in Kitale eight years ago






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