Wangari Maathai: Nobel peace prize winner 2005 --
and much more

Interview with Wangari Maathai
By Amitabh Pal
The Progressive
May 1, 2005

..."People, especially in Africa, must invest in peace, must invest in preventing conflict. We must allow our children to grow, to go to school, instead of carrying guns to shoot each other. You cannot have security by putting borders around yourself.

You cannot be secure by using your power to control resources and deciding that you can’t share them with the rest of the world. You will not realize peace that way. You will have conflict.

The metaphor that I have adopted is the metaphor of the African stool. The usual African stool has three legs, and the three legs represent for me peace, democracy, and sustainable, equitable management of resources..."

Africans Can Do it for Ourselves

By Wangari Maathai,
adapted from a speech given on July 2, 2005
London's African Diaspora & Development Day.

"...As I travel across the world, I find that people are concerned about this shift in the concept of peace and security. There can be no peace without sustainable management of resources, justice and fairness.

Indeed, most of the conflicts and wars are over resources: who will access, exploit and utilize them? Who will be excluded? Those who feel excluded, exploited and humiliated can threaten peace and security.

One of the worst outcomes of injustices is poverty. It robs human beings of their dignity. When people are poor and when they are reduced to beggars, they feel weak, humiliated, disrespected and undignified. They hide alone in corners and dare not raise their voices. They are neither heard nor seen. They often suffer in isolation and desperation.

Yet all human beings deserve respect and dignity. As long as millions of people live in poverty and indignity, humanity should feel diminished. This historic time gives all of us, especially those in leadership, the opportunity to reduce poverty.

There is a lot of poverty in Africa. Yet Africa is not a poor continent. It is endowed with human beings, sunshine, oil, precious stones, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land and agricultural products. So what is the problem? ..."

Cover By Caitlin Kuhwald
..."Besides the Nobel, she has been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, the Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize, and the U.N.’s Africa Prize for Leadership. She currently serves on the board of several international organizations, including the U.N. Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament and the Jane Goodall Institute..."

-- Progressive interview

Kenyan environmentalist and human rights campaigner, first African woman to be awarded the peace prize:

"I know that African people everywhere are encouraged by this news. My fellow Africans, as we embrace this recognition, let us use it to intensify our commitment to our people, to reduce conflicts and poverty and thereby improve their quality of life. Let us embrace democratic governance, protect human rights and protect our environment. I am confident that we shall rise to the occasion. I have always believed that solutions to most of our problems must come from us..."

from her Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
10 December 2004

“Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee | October 8, 2004 | Oslo

Environmentalist and political leader, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977. The movement's members have planted more than 10 million trees to prevent soil erosion and provide firewood for cooking fires. Ms Maathai worked in veterinary medicine research at the University of Nairobi, where she earned a Ph.D. She went on to become the first woman head of a university department in Kenya. In 1991, she was arrested and imprisoned for her environmental activism. In 1997 Wangari Maathai ran for the presidency of Kenya. In December 2002 Wangari Maathai was elected to Parliament. Since January 2003 she is Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife.

Nobel Peace laureate says cultural revival may be the only thing that stands between the conservation or destruction of the environment." Read her article on Alternet, 12 November 2004

For more information:

Green Belt movement:

The Wangari-Maathai Foundation "is focussed on three specific areas: cultural diversity, greening the Earth, and good governance. It will compliment the work of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and promote activities in other African countries."

"The genius of Wangari Maathai"
Anna Lappé and Frances Moore Lappé, International Herald Tribune, 14 October 2004
"Several prominent Norwegians have questioned the Nobel Committee for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai. Why honor environmental activism in an era when war, terrorism and nuclear proliferation are even more urgent problems?
What they miss is Dr. Maathai's special genius."

more prizes and links:

In April 2004, Dr. Maathai was awarded the Petra Kelly Prize. Read her acceptance speech. (in pdf format)

Sophie-Prize in 2004

Right Livelihood Award in 1984

Support the Green Belt Movement through the Marion Foundation.