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Friday, April 11, 2008

Nobel Laureate withdraws from Olympic torch relay

NAIROBI - Kenya's Nobel Peace Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai has withdrawn from the Tanzanian leg of the Olympic torch relay to highlight Human Rights concerns in Tibet.

Prof. Maathai, a veteran of Kenya's civil rights movement who won the Nobel prize in 2004 for her environmental work, was meant to carry the torch on Sunday in Dar es Salaam. "I think all of us who care about human rights issues are of course very sympathetic and very concerned about the events that have been unfolding in Tibet for a very long time," she told NTV, after saying she would not take part. She said she hoped Beijing would listen to protesters who demonstrated in London and Paris over China's human rights record and a recent government crackdown on monk-led protests in Tibet. "I hope the world and China will hear (the protesters') voice, because they are not doing it for fun," Maathai said. "They are doing it because they are concerned about the human rights issues in Tibet." She said she had been attracted by Chinese plans to hold an environmentally-friendly "green" Olympics, and still supported Beijing hosting the games. "I'd like to see a country that is challenged, but is addressing those challenges to the betterment of the environment and the world in general."

A noble cause, and quite commendable, I would say. But as one of our readers commented recently on the piece about the professor being tear-gassed by the government she once served in (see comments page), "[I] Hate to say it but what goes around comes around." Gathara goes on to add that "Maathai was conspicuous by her silence when the Kibaki government (of which she was a part) started to go wrong. She stuck by the system through the daylight robbery MPs perpetrated on all of us, Anglofleecing, the Standard raids, the jettisoning of both the MoU and the Bomas Draft. I think she has stained the Nobel prize by her conduct and needs to seek forgiveness from the Kenyan people whom she betrayed."

So why, we ask, is she now showing double standards? Granted, she finally broke her silence and condemned Kibaki's stolen presidency. But it was too little, too late. And she hasn't brought up the subject ever again. So when is she planning to highlight Human Rights concerns in Kenya, perpetrated by the very government she served in? With her influence and international stature, I'm sure she can do much more. It's all nice and dandy (even fashionable) to take a bold stand on the Tibet issue. But when ordinary Kenyans are dying right under your nose and you keep quiet about it, you are failing us, Prof. Maathai. When an illegitimate government digs in and refuses to go and you instead focus your attention on "more international" projects, you're failing us. When the government suspends live broadcasts and you keep quiet, you are failing us. When the government refuses to give us the Constitution we voted for and you keep quiet, you are failing us. In fact, you are doing a lot more failing than succeeding, madam.

So, as you take up the mantle of representing the people of Tibet, please remember that your services are needed most in Kenya. If we are ever going to heal and become the nation we once were, your input is required now more than ever; even if our "duly elected" leaders have not made it a point to tell you so. But then again, the Good Book says a prophet is never accepted at home...

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