The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams, and Jody Williams. These women—representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa-bring together their extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality. Their goal is to meaningfully contribute to building peace by working together with women around the world. Please visit them online to learn more about their work: www.nobelwomensinitiative.org.
Time to Show Greatness by Wangari Maathai
Maathai speaks out against violence in Kenya
This column is provided by The Nobel Women's Initiative
In the face of growing political unrest and escalating violence, sister Laureate Wangari Maathai speaks out against violence and urges peace and reconciliation in Kenya. Full transcripts of her statements are below.
Wangari Maathai's Calls for Peace:
- Listen to Wangari Maathai speak to CNN reporter about the political clashes in Kenya, 3 January 2008
Time to Show Greatness
by Wangari Maathai
The situation in my country, Kenya, is shocking and dangerous. We must act to end the violence and senseless killings, which erupted after the announcement by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) that President Mwai Kibaki had won the presidential elections. It is important to understand that there has been longstanding underlying discontent and mistrust between some ethnic communities, which has been fed by generations of politicians.
The current political situation had its genesis when President Moi stepped down in 2002 and anointed Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor. Senior politicians who hoped to succeed Moi decamped from his party and joined in opposition with Kibaki, creating the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc). In December 2002, Kenyatta was defeated and Narc came to power with Kibaki as president.
In opposition, Narc's two constituent groups had signed an agreement to share power when victory was secured. This was not honoured, and deep disappointment and discontent led to divisions. In 2005, these caused the defeat of a government-backed draft constitution. In the 2007 election, the Kibaki-led camp campaigned as the Party of National Unity, while the other camp, led by Raila Odinga, became the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Both were strongly backed by their ethnic communities, with deep mistrust on either side.
Before the results were announced, claims of rigging and irregularities were widespread among ODM supporters; at least one electoral commissioner also raised this charge. After Kibaki was declared the winner, the ODM claimed it had been robbed of victory, and election observers (local and international) also admitted irregularities. When Kibaki rejected ODM demands to step down, members of communities that mainly supported the party turned on those communities perceived to have voted for Kibaki. These have included the Kikuyus, Kisiis and Luhyas. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands displaced, and properties have been burned and looted.
There is frustration among ODM supporters because they believe victory was denied them. We now have a great divide in the country that can only be resolved through truth and reconciliation. Given the admission from the ECK chairman that the election tallying process was irregular, we should have the votes recounted by an independent body, or we should rerun the elections. To expect Kenyans to accept the flawed results would be unfair and undemocratic.
An equally important step is for the two leaders to engage in dialogue. It is challenging for some to exercise restraint, but greatness is demonstrated at times like this. The country's future depends on how the ODM leadership shapes its reactions and how the government responds. We need political maturity and respect for our laws.
Part of the way forward could also be a power-sharing arrangement, which should be constitutional and put in place by parliament. It would allow the political and economic affairs of the country to return to normality within the shortest possible time.
Even as political leaders play their role, citizens should refrain from violence. All 42 communities in Kenya are bound by geography and history to live as neighbours. Killing, destroying property and displacing our brothers and sisters creates a legacy that will haunt our children and their children.
Let us stand up for each other, irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions. Injustice to one is injustice to all of us If we, individually and collectively, are not the conscience of our country, then who is?
*Read Wangari Maathai's full statement - Greatness is demonstrated at times like this
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The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. We six women -- representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa -- have decided to bring together our extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.
Only 12 women in its more than 100 year history have been recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize is a great honor, but it is also a great responsibility. It is this sense of responsibility that has compelled us to create the Nobel Women’s Initiative to help strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world - work often carried out in the shadows with little recognition.
We believe that peace is much more than the absence of armed conflict. Peace is the commitment to equality and justice; a democratic world free of physical, economic, cultural, political, religious, sexual and environmental violence and the constant threat of these forms of violence against women – indeed against all of humanity.
It is the heartfelt mission of the Nobel Women’s Initiative to address and work to prevent the root causes of violence by spotlighting and promoting the efforts of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations working to advance peace, justice and equality. By sharing a platform with these women, the NWI will spotlight their tireless work to prevent violence against women. By helping to advance the cause of women, we believe we advance all of humanity.
United by our desire to combat all forms of violence against women in all circumstances, we also recognize that specific issues for women vary around the world. One element of our work will be to sponsor international meetings of women every two years -- in a different region of the world -- to highlight issues of concern to women there. The objective of these meetings is to underscore our commonalities and differences by providing inclusive and energizing forums that ensure meaningful dialogue and networking by women’s rights activists around the world -- but with a view to action.
It is our commitment to action that brings us together. Therefore, our meetings will be linked with concrete work in the target region leading up to the conference, along with post-conference plans of action to address the issues addressed at the conference. In this way, the Nobel Women’s Initiative will support meaningful work on the ground.
We believe profoundly in the sharing of information and ideas. By networking and working together rather than in competition, we enhance the work of all. The Nobel Women’s Initiative is committed to supplementing and enhancing existing work and is determined to avoid duplicating the work of others. We want to open new ground for discussion, debate and change.
We hope you share our excitement about the potential of the Nobel Women’s Initiative to meaningfully contribute to building peace with justice and equality by working together with women around the world.
For more information, visit www.nobelwomensinitiative.org