Second Anniversary Memorial for Professor Wangari Muta Maathai
On the morning of the 25th September 2013, Karura Forest was a welcome sight to behold. The forest was alive with birdsong from the nearby Lily lake- they chirped with such abandon it seemed as if they were welcoming the guests to this splendid place: the venue for Professor Wangari Maathai’s second memorial anniversary.
It was in this very place on 8 January 1999 that Wangari Maathai led a group of determined citizens to face off and defeat illegal land–grabbing developers. After being attacked by a group of men hired to see the protesters off, Professor Maathai was bloodied but unbowed and ultimately protection of Karura Forest was secured.
Today, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) Board Members, staff, members of GBM’s tree nursery groups, and the public came together to pay homage to our fallen heroine with some very special guests.
The event kicked off at 10 am with the arrival of the guest of honour, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya. To welcome her, Ruth Wangari Lindkvist, granddaughter to Wangari Maathai, was waiting with a flower bouquet in her hands. The First Lady, with Ruth Wangari’s help, then planted a ceremonial tree in honor of Professor Maathai.
Addressing the assembled guests, the First Lady remembered Wangari Maathai as a courageous and inspiring woman who endured many hardships to save Karura Forest and other green spaces like Uhuru Park and Jevanjee Gardens in Nairobi. The First Lady urged Kenyans to support initiatives by GBM to conserve the environment by planting more trees for prosperity. “We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder," she quoted Wangari Maathai.
She noted that GBM’s Peace Tent is as relevant today as when it was started in 2008, to promote peace and conflict resolution during times of tension and difficulty. She encouraged all Kenyans to plant trees as a means of healing the environment.
“Let's face it; we would not exist as we do if there were no trees. What many people don't realise is that the forest also acts as a giant filter that cleans the air we breathe. Trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife.”
Environment, Water and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Judi Wakhungu commended GBM on having planted more than 50 million trees in the Aberdares, Mount Kenya and Mau water towers.The Cabinet Secretary reaffirmed her commitment to continue working with GBM and the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environment Studies to sustain conservation of forests and the environment to honour the legacy of Wangari Maathai.
In a special tribute, GBM Board member, Prof. Vertistine Mbaya spoke fondly of her friendship with Prof Maathai, dating back to more than 30 years ago. She moved the audience as she recalled the times she shared with Wangari Maathai from the fight for Karura Forest to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2004.
Judy Kimamo spoke on behalf of the GBM staff to reaffirm our commitment to the work that Prof Maathai started working with community groups to protect the five forested water towers of Kenya.
Finally, in giving the vote of thanks GBM’s Executive Director Pauline Kamau urged all those present to keep Wangari Maathai’s legacy alive by being hummingbirds and doing “the little things they can to make a difference”.