Video- Wangari Maathai given State send-off
The curtains formally came down on the late Nobel Laureate, environmentalist and human rights activist this morning, in a somewhat watered down state funeral, at the Freedom Corner in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga led a host of dignitaries in paying tribute to the global icon. Wangari’s final journey ended at the Kariokor crematorium.
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Kenyans of all walks of life turned up Saturday to pay their last respects to befallen Nobel laureate and environmentalist Wangari Maathai.
Massive crowds line up along the procession route to bid farewell to the Kenya’s heroine who was accorded a state funeral and also catch a glimpse of the bamboo-framed casket.
The coffin made out of water hyacinth and papyrus reeds and draped in the Kenyan flag was wheeled out of Lee Funeral Home and into a hearse to take the fallen heroine on her final journey.
The coffin, specially made by three artisans from the Kisumu Innovation Centre Kenya, is in fulfillment of Prof Maathai’s final wish not to be buried in a wooden coffin.
The procession drove down through Valley Road, past Serena Hotel and into the Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park where an Inter-denominational mass funeral service was held and official rites made in her honour.
The environmentalist was accorded a send off befitting her iconic stature with a moment of silence being observed as bells rang at All Saints Catherdaral.
After playing of the National Anthem by the Kenya Prisons Band and opening prayers, Maathai family and the Green Belt Movement members proceeded to plant one Olea Africana tree.
This is one of the highly regarded indigenous trees known as Mutamaiyu by the Kikuyu, Kumunyubuti by the Luhya and Kang’o by the Luo.
It is a very versatile tree, able to tolerate a wide variety of environments.
Traffic was disrupted in all roads leading to the Kenyatta Avenue/ Uhuru highway roundabout after most of them were close by police to give way for the procession.
Dignitaries and government officials turned up to show their respect. President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta were among government leaders present.
Envoys from across the globe including former Habitat boss Anna Tibaijuka representing Tanzania’s President Kakaya Kikwete were present.
The leaders described Maathai as a great visionary who beat odds in her relentless effort to save the environment.
Tibaijuka, said the Tanzanian nation is united with Kenyans in sending off African’s outstanding daughter.
United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, through a representative, said Prof Maathai was globally recognised as champion of human rights and women empowerment.
The public ceremony ended shortly before midday after which the cortege headed for a private cremation ceremony attended only by family members in Kariokor as per wishes.
Maathai’s remains will be interred at Nairobi University, Kabete campus at her Wangare Mathai institute for peace and environmental studies.
Wangari Maathai died in Nairobi two weeks ago while undergoing cancer treatment. She was 71.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for promoting conservation, women’s rights and transparent government – the first African woman to get the award.
Maathai was an elected Member of Parliament and served as an Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in President Mwai Kibaki’s government between January 2003 and November 2005.
Ms Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, which has planted 20-30 million trees in Africa