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Kenyan Environmentalist Wins Nobel Peace Prize

by Roddy Scheer

In what analysts are reporting as a conscious effort to eschew the politics of current events in Iraq, the Nobel committee has chosen Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder Wangari Maathai as the 2004 recipient of its annual $1.3 million peace prize.

Maathai, who currently serves as Deputy Minister for the Environment in Kenya's government, has worked tirelessly for three decades empowering African women, planting millions of trees in ravaged areas, and fighting government corruption.

"The environment is very important in the aspects of peace because when we destroy our resources and our resources become scarce, we fight over that," said Maathai. "I am working to make sure we don't only protect the environment, we also improve governance."

Never before in its 103-year history has the Nobel Peace Prize been awarded to an environmentalist. But back in 2001 the committee announced that it wanted to enlarge the scope of the prize to honor those who worked to improve the environment as well as making significant contributions to peace efforts.

"This is the first time environment sets the agenda for the Nobel Peace Prize, and we have added a new dimension to peace. We want to work for a better life environment in Africa," stated Nobel committee chairpersom Ole Danbolt.