President Bharrat Jagdeo recalled Professor Wangari Maathai’s passion for justice and a better, fairer world as he joined world leaders in mourning her recent death.
According to a Govern-ment Information Agency (GINA) press release Jagdeo said over recent years he had had the privilege of spending time with Professor Maathai on many occasions.
“We frequently shared public platforms to advocate for urgent action to stabilise our planet’s climate, and for measures to protect vulnerable people from the damage caused by the destruction of the world’s priceless environment, in particular its forests,” he recalled, adding that “we also spent many quieter moments talking about injustices in the world, and the need for strong international leadership to combat them.”
He noted that on every occasion, “Wangari’s passion for justice, and her deep desire for a better, fairer world shone through.” The president said Maathai always identified with less fortunate persons, or those experiencing hardship, no matter where they were from – “and she translated this into a forceful articulation of the need for those with power to do more.
“Perhaps because she was always advocating for something better, she did not stop often enough to reflect on how she had already made the world a better place. But as she passes from this life, those of us who are left behind can see all that she achieved.”
In expressing condolences to her family, Jagdeo said he hoped that they could see that her work has not ended with her passing, and that her spirit will live on in the daily acts of the tens of thousands of people who are now carrying forward her struggle to create a fairer, more sustainable world. Professor Maathai died on Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer.
According to GINA, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 as was the first African woman to receive this honour. In recent years, she played an increasingly important role in global efforts to address climate change, and advocated for recognising the importance of protecting the world’s forests. In a message after her death, US President Barack Obama said, “Professor Maathai’s tireless efforts earned her not only a Nobel Peace Prize… but the respect of millions who were inspired by her commitment to conservation, democracy, women’s empowerment, the eradication of poverty, and civic engagement.” A message from the Office of Nelson Mandela said Maathai “has left a lasting legacy in greater awareness and work in protecting our environment and the world.”