alexa Maathai urges local leaders to emulate Obama - Daily Nation

Maathai urges local leaders to emulate Obama

Thursday November 6 2008

The Green Belt Movement founder, Prof Wangari

The Green Belt Movement founder, Prof Wangari Maathai, and Catherine Anono plant a tree at the Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park grounds, Nairobi on Thursday. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO 

By JAMI MAKAN

Planting a tree in honour of President-elect Barack Obama, Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai on Thursday called on Kenyan leaders to emulate the history-making American politician and reject ethnicity.

Ms Maathai, who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental and political activism, returned to Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner where, in August 2006, she planted a tree with Mr Obama during his visit to the country as a first-term United States senator.

On Thursday, she stood there once again, this time to celebrate the landslide victory of his ground-breaking presidential campaign.

Planting an indigenous wild olive tree, she urged all Kenyans to follow the example of Mr Obama and better both themselves and their Government.

Be inspired

“I hope the victory of Senator Obama will help us raise our bar for leadership and expand our democratic space,” Prof Maathai said, surrounded by a small crowd of onlookers.

Hopefully, she added, “we will learn to judge people on their character and capacity and not on their ethnicity, which we are so used to doing.”

She noted that she was optimistic and “quite sure that our leaders will be inspired and bring out the best of themselves”.