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First African Nobel Peace Prize winner dies

LEGACY: Wangari Maathai

THE FIRST African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize has died.

Wangari Maathai, 71, who was famed for her campaigns to save Kenyan forests, passed away yesterday (Sept 25) after a long battle with cancer.

"It is with great sadness that the Green Belt Movement announces the passing of its founder and chair, Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai, after a long illness bravely borne," a statement from her organisation, The Green Belt Movement, said.

Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a tree-planting campaign to simultaneously mitigate deforestation and to give locals, especially women and girls, access to resources like firewood for cooking and clean water, more than 30 years ago. They have since planted more than 40 million trees.

In 2004, Maathai, who was also the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was the first woman from the continent to win the prize.

"Her departure is untimely and a very great loss to all of us who knew her---as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine---or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy, and better place for all of us," said Karanja Njoroge, executive director of the Green Belt Movement.

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