September has been a nightmare for my country, Kenya. Just the other day we were from taking a historic initiative to feed our brothers and sisters dying of hunger. Road accidents are literally wiping away our loved ones, illicit brews making our thirsty countrymen dig into their own graves, oil spills drinking away our slum dwellers, and…we are weeping. We just lost a great woman the other day in the name of Wambui Otieno, now, we have to come into terms with the demise of Professor Wangari Maathai.
Yes, the whole world knows her for her colourful achievements, but for me, there’s a little more. Inside her was a woman who discovered her purpose in life, and lived up to it. Born 71 years ago, I am sure beyond doubt that her parents had no idea what they had brought to the earth, but just a simple girl in Nyeri. She was strong-willed, a quality that led to her husband filing a divorce against her arguing that she’s too strong and difficult to control. She was way much ahead of her time. Maybe Kenya just wasn’t ready for such a force. But each time Wangari was out there fighting for something, you were sure she was going to get through.
I fell in love with her will to stand for the things she believed in. In 2007, when she lost the Tetu seat just because she did not dish out money in order to be re-elected to parliament, she was never intimidated, as she knew inside her mind that she was just helping a lost generation of voters. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 put her into a global front. Now we learn about her in the Environmental Science course in University.
We have Uhuru Park today because there was a woman who stood firm to oppose the building of a KANU complex by the then president, Mr. Daniel T Arap Moi and his blind team, and even though most of us were young then, history tells us everything we need. She was fierce and feared no one. She spoke, did, and simply thought everything within her capacity to save the environment by greening planet earth….Kenya, the country she served with all her heart. I wonder what the likes of the leaders who harassed her in the Moi regime felt when they saw her succeed, and even now that she is deceased. Kenya is a rich country governed by poor hearted leaders, because they are bright in the mind, but have no feelings for their fellow countrymen, the people they are supposed to serve with all their might.
The late professor is my heroine. We were not aware that she had been ill. From her clips during her 71st birthday, she said she had never been to hospital that much in her life, but she thanked God that she was going through it quite well. That was just in April. Five months later and she’s no more…Wangari is gone…
The pain she has left behind, her soul knows, but that notwithstanding, it is her legacy that we celebrate. Her efforts to teach us the importance of planting trees is what will remain within us for the rest our lives, much as she was appreciated more by the outside world than in the world she was born. Her never-say-die spirit that enabled her stand against the great men of the day, her tenacity, her joy, her love and simplicity, simply the vital virtues we shall live to remember her for. Pretty many lessons to evaluate.
Long live her legacy. Let’s plant trees. Let’s continue from where Wangari left. Wangari, our mother, our sister and friend…