Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Noble Laureate Wangari Mathai Should do more

The winner of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 honourable professor Wangari Mathai has narrowed her roles as a Nobel Laureate and started to concentrate on political lobbying that can damage her international stature. The Nobel Prize comes with greater responsibilities and expectations. That is why many Kenyans expected a lot from professor Mathai. In the past few months, Professor Mathai has spent too much time in boardrooms to coin for a political party for President Kibaki’s re-election without realizing that Kenyans are watching her. We need to see an active Professor detached from tribal politics if she is ready to be seen as an international figure above political party lobbying. Her status globally supersedes her current behaviour. Kenyans don’t want to be compelled to call our respected hero and environmentalist an opportunist. President Kibaki has been in politics longer than our professor and sane enough to make his decisions as a politician. It’s therefore imprudent for a person of professor Mathai’s calibre with many national and international responsibilities to waste time on political strategies which might reflect connotations of nepotism in her part, given the fact that they come from the same community with the current President. She has many better things to do for Kenya , Africa and the World on the environment; her area of expertise. A lot of things have happened in this Country requiring Wangari Mathai to voice her concern especially the Ndungu land report which was never made public; withstanding the fact that, when we talk about environmental protection, land is the primary metaphor. Kenyans expected the Nobel Laureate to take a stand on land grabbers and those who used their authority to dispose off public land. Because of her national and international acclaim, it was not prudent to remain lukewarm especially during the 2005 constitutional referendum. She has been silent on many bills especially when Parliament voted to forgive those responsible for looting of public coffers. Kenyans expected her to register displeasure when her fellow Parliamentarians decided to award themselves terminal benefits; a toll on the exchequer and a loosing end to the taxpayers. Our Country is privileged to host three global environmental bodies; Habitat, UNEP and the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). All these coupled with our Noble Laureate, the World expected the Country to be the cleanest and the best habitat for humanity. Instead, what we see in our rural and urban centres is the opposite. We are a laughing stock of the World with UNEP, Habitat, ICRAF and A Nobel Laureate awarded on environmental protection all in town. A number of environmental challenges faces the Country and requires urgent remedies. The garbage dumping at Dandora and the Air pollution from Webuye Paper Mills in Bungoma are healthy hazards to the locals. The debilitating conditions of the Nairobi River , rampant flooding in Budalangi, Kano plains, Alego Usonga, drought in the semi arid regions of Kenya , dwindling of water regimes in our Rivers and Lakes, Soil erosion, mass infestation of the water hyacinth in Lake Victoria are environmental human catastrophes. The professor would have visited flood prone areas like Budalangi, as an environmentalist not a politician to see the best way the problem can be addressed. We realize that the professor alone cannot solve all the envirmental troubles of our country but if she can detach completely from her current political entanglements or quit politics altogether, she can make a very big impact to build a better habitat for Kenyans by reaching out to donor nations and agencies help out in the said catastrophes. We laud Professor Mathai’s role especially on protecting Karura forest, Uhuru Park and many reforestation campaigns in the Country through the Greenbelt Movement and fighting for the human rights. However, in the recent past, nothing is hard of the Greenbelt Movement the best time the body to be seen as more dynamic and spread to the entire African Continent to champion environmental issues. We can’t narrow environmental protection on planting trees alone. It must broadly cover areas like: improved sanitation in urban and rural areas, provision of clean water, proper sewage management, land reclamation in arid and semi arid areas and reduction of all forms of pollution. To have another role model and source of inspiration like Professor Wangari Mathai, might take Kenya another century. The opportunity she has is golden and must be utilized to its full potential for the benefit of this nation. Therefore, spending a lot of time on general election politics is stooping too low as a global environmentalist and Nobel Laureate.
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