Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai visits Hiroshima

by Toshiko Bajo, Staff Writer

Wangari Maathai, 69, a Kenyan environmental activist and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on February 12. She offered flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and learned about the horrific consequences of the atomic bombing.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba guided Ms. Maathai through the park, including to the Atomic Bomb Dome. She also took part in the planting ceremony for a cherry tree that was the seedling of an A-bombed tree. She spoke at the ceremony, saying, "The planting of a seedling of an A-bombed cherry tree is a message to world leaders urging them to abandon all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons."

After the ceremony, Ms. Maathai toured Peace Memorial Museum and shed tears when she listened to the A-bomb testimony offered by Keijiro Matsushima, 81, a Hiroshima resident who experienced the atomic bombing at the age of 16. "Protecting the environment is the same as respecting life," Ms. Maathai said. "Nuclear weapons nullify the efforts to save our planet. I want all people from around the world to come to Hiroshima to learn."

Ms. Maathai launched the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya in 1977. This movement seeks to protect the environment and improve the status of women by providing payment for tree planting. She is also one of the signatories to the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates released by the Chugoku Shimbun last year. Ms. Maathai arrived in Japan on February 10 and her visit to Hiroshima was the result of her own strong desire to see the A-bombed city.

(Originally published on February 13, 2010)