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Wangari Maathai was ‘very passionate about Human Rights’ as well as the environment, and was extremely supportive of Gay Kenya in its early days, the organisation recalls.

She had a very positive and supportive exchange with Gay Kenya.

Kenya woke up to the news that Prof. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Prize winner, and a great Human Rights advocate and consistently ferocious environmentalist had passed on, at the Nairobi Hospital after a long battle with cancer.

Kenya has truly lost one of its foremost determined environmentalists, who also very much against the grain of Kenyan practice started an organization - The Greenbelt Movement that will outlive her. While her stint at politics was characterised by disappointments - she, a world renowned environmentalist was appointed to the position of an assistant minister with no executive authority - but deputised a minster who did not give a hoot at the effects of the “shamba system” on the sustainability and diversity of the eco-system.

She then found herself in the unenviable position of having to fight the same government that she was a part of. Many in Kenya felt her honesty and genuine concern for the people put her at odds with Kenyan politicians known for self-interest and short-changing their own people. Many felt she ill fitted the political landscape that is never known for altruistic interest in the welfare of the Kenyan people - an indictment both to the Kenyan politicians but also to the Kenyan voters.

She was also very passionate about Human Rights, and earlier on at Gay Kenya, when we were looking for supportive voices we had reached out to her for support. She was extremely supportive and advised us not to expect it to be easy. In fact our battle for equality and non-discrimination would be just as hard if not even harder than that for the environment. When we pointed out that the Church would be our most unsympathetic source for homophobia, she pointed out that Kenyans are deeply religious, but that did not stop her from reclaiming forest land grabbed by the politically-connected religious elite. As if repeating the words of Martin Luther King Jr. Who said, “The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice...”

We know her work of environmental protection will continue, now perhaps more than ever before. At Gay Kenya, we shall continue our commitment to Social responsibility with important days marked by tree planting and protection.

Wangari Maathai’s Legacy lives on - it must live on!


* This statement first appeared on Gay Kenya..
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