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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Kenya: Wangari Maathai Attacked

Kenya: Wangari Maathai Attacked
Date distributed (ymd): 990124
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several documents relating to the January 8 incident in which Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai was beaten as her group tried to plant trees at Karura Forest, near Nairobi. The first (a letter with accompanying background information) were widely distributed electronically by sources in Nairobi and London, in contact with Maathai's Green Belt Movement. The second is from Amnesty International's Urgent Action Network. For more upto -date information and background please contact the sources mentioned in the postings directly.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introductory notes by APIC
compiled from news wires,
including AFP, IPS, BBC and The Daily Nation (Nairobi).

Others injured in the attack on the demonstration by private security guards included three opposition legislators, two German environmentalists, and a number of local and foreign journalists. Approximately 200 guards, hired by a company claiming ownership of part of the forest, were reported to be involved in the attack on the group of some 20 protestors. Karura Forest, in Nairobi's afluent northern suburbs and the target of real-estate developers, is located close to the world headquarters of the UN Environmental Protection Agency.

The attack on Maathai, winner of UNEP's "Global 500 Award" and a member of the UN's Advisory Board on Disarmament as well as a candidate in Kenya's presidential race last year, resulted in protests from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UNEP director Klaus Toepfer. Last week the Kenyan Daily Nation reported that Attorney-General Amos Wako had apologized to Mrs. Maathai and promised an investigation into the incident. Mrs. Maathai told Kenyan TV that her group would continue the protests.

The Gaia Foundation
18 Well Walk,
Hampstead, London NW3 1LD
Tel: 171-435-5000


Saturday 9 January 1999

Dear Friends

Please find attached news from Kenya which we need to act upon immediately.

On Friday 8th January 1999 Wangari Maathai, Greenbelt Movement Co-ordinator, and other supporters were attacked as they attempted to plant trees in the Nairobi forest.

It is vital that we publicise this shocking act of violence by writing letters, sending faxes to the appropriate people listed below. The letters need to express shock and outrage that the police did not protect the concerned citizens from the gangsters. It is a fundamental democratic right that people should have free and safe access to public property. The forest involved is one of many public forests, including Mount Kenya, which is being appropriated by private and commercial interests. Those Kenyans who are courageously standing up against these gangsters should be protected.

The police had been requested to accompany the Green Belt Movement supporters to the forest. They did not arrive and it is believed that they informed the gangsters. When the supporters reached the police station to report the incident and to get the police to return to the forest to identify the attackers, the police actually ran away.

This incident, and the struggle that Kenyan citizens are having in getting a government response, indicates a dangerous breakdown in responsible democratic governance. We call on President Daniel Arap Moi, Chief Justice Chesoni, and Commissioner of Police Duncan Wachira to protect the democratic rights of its citizens and to prevent the disintegration of the rule of law in Kenya, through hooliganism.

We also call upon Prince Bernard of the Netherlands to revoke the Golden Arc Environmental Award given to President Moi in the mid-nineties; it is a disgrace that he should remain the holder of the award after his violations against the environment and democracy. This is a critical issue, and Moi, by failing to protect democratic rights, is colluding with the gangsters.

Warm wishes
Charlotte Aldridge on behalf of Liz Hosken


Saturday 9th January 1999
11am Kenya Time

Liz Hosken

On Friday afternoon, 8th January, Wangari Maathai and many Greenbelt Movement Supporters were pounced on by thugs in the Karura public Forest in Nairobi, Kenya, as they were on their way to plant more trees in the area that had been destroyed by real estate developers.

Wangari was the first one attacked. She has a gash in the top of her head which is still bleeding. Although doctors say her skull is not damaged, she is on a heavy dose of painkillers and will stay in hospital for the next few days.

Others were also badly beaten as the group tried to escape from the gangsters through the forest. Some cars were also attacked so they could not escape easily.

Wangari requests that people publicise this violation of justice and public rights widely and write letters to the people listed below - President Moi, Chief Police Commissioner, Chief Justice and others, and also to the Kenyan press.

For further information call:

Mr. Makanga, a friend of Wangari's Work : 00254 2 331 744 Cell Telephone: 00254 072 513910

Muta Maathai, Wangari's son Tel: 00254 2 603 867 Fax: 00254 2 504 264

Hospital for information: Tel: 00 254 2 722 160

Wanjira Maathai, Wangari's daughter in the USA Work: 001 770 488 4504 Home: 001 404 370 1284

Please write letters to:

His Excellency, President Daniel Arap Moi Tel: 00 254 2 227 441 Fax: 00 254 2 211 660

Chief Justice Chesoni Tel: 00254 2 221 221 Please contact for fax number (we are unable to obtain fax no. at present).

Commissioner of Police, Duncan Wachira Tel/fax: 00254 2 333 641

The Kenyan Ambassador/High Commissioner in your country

Prince Bernard of Netherlands

Wangari also requests letters of support to be sent to the following:


  • Daily Nation fax: 00 254 2 21 39 46
  • Sunday Newspaper fax: 00 254 2 21 40 48
  • People Daily fax: 00 254 2 22 33 44
  • International Press: fax 00 254 2 21 07 54
  • KTN (Broadcasting Line): 00 254 2 21 44 67
  • Law Society of Kenya fax: 00 254 2 22 39 97
PO Box 67545 Nairobi Kenya
Tel: 00 254 2, 603 867; Fax: 00 254 504 264


Electronic distribution authorised

This bulletin expires: 22 February 1999.

PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 32/02/99

11 January 1999

UA 05/99 Ill-treatment/Fear for Safety


Wangari Maathai

A peaceful demonstration against the handover of public land to developers at Karura Forest, northern Nairobi, was violently broken up by security guards on 8 January 1999. Police at the scene did nothing to stop the violence, suggesting the security guards acted with the support of the government. The demonstrators intend to return to the site, and Amnesty International is concerned for their safety.

A group of about 20 protesters including MPs and journalists had gone to the forest to try and plant seedlings on land that had been cleared for development. Police were seen talking to the security guards, who were reportedly armed with machetes, clubs, whips and bows and arrows, moments before the demonstration was broken up, and made no effort to intervene.

Private development of public forest land has been extremely controversial in Kenya, with senior government officials reportedly benefiting from the land allocations. The non-violent Greenbelt environmental group, which organised the Karura demonstration, has vowed to fight the development of public land by replanting trees. Greenbelt is led by Wangari Maathai, a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience and human rights activist. She was apparently hit with a club during the break-up of the demonstration, and needed stitches to a head wound, from which she lost a lot of blood. She is still in hospital.

Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns described above. If you would like to join with them in this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action network or Amnesty International in general, please contact one of the following: Ray Mitchell, (UK); Scott Harrison, (USA); Guido Gabriel, (Germany); Marilyn McKim, (Canada); (Belgium); Anne Nolan, (Ireland)

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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