News24

No wooden coffin for Kenya's Maathai

2011-09-27 22:26

Nairobi - The family of the late Kenyan Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai was on Tuesday considering alternatives to a wooden coffin to bury the environmentalist who opposed chopping trees to make caskets.

"She was one of those who did say that we better think of something else besides cutting down trees for caskets so we will try to circumvent using wooden coffins," family spokesperson Vertistine Mbaya told reporters.

Maathai died on Sunday of ovarian cancer. The disease was diagnosed last year but was never made public.

The death of the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel peace prize triggered worldwide tributes to her commitment to environmental protection and conservation, women's rights and democracy.

Maathai, 71, was an icon in her native Kenya where she rose to fame when she came out against a project by authoritarian former president Daniel arap Moi to build a skyscraper at a park in central Nairobi and pressed for the release of political prisoners.

World leaders and environmentalists hailed her courage and her determination.

US President Barack Obama expressed his "great sadness" to Maathai's family.

"The world mourns with you and celebrates the extraordinary life of this remarkable woman who devoted her life to peacefully protecting what she called 'our common home and future'," said Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Maathai as "a tireless advocate for the environment, for women and for all those in the developing world who are unable to realize their potential".

Maathai's family is yet to announce a burial date, but said prayers were to be held at a Nairobi church from Wednesday.

"By tomorrow we should have final details on how to celebrate the life and times of Wangari Maathai," Mbaya said. "People must plant trees in honour of Wangari."