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Obama mourns death of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner

(Xinhua)

14:23, September 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday mourned the death of Wangari Maathai, Kenya's Nobel Peace Prize winner and an ecologist professor, calling her "a remarkable woman."

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Professor Wangari Maathai," Obama said in a statement. "On behalf of all Americans, (First Lady) Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Professor Maathai's family and the people of Kenya at this difficult time."

He called Maathai a "remarkable woman" who devoted her life to peacefully protecting what she called "our common home and future. "

Maathai started the Green Belt Movement in 1977, working with women to improve their livelihoods by increasing their access to resources like firewood for cooking and clean water. She became a great advocate for better management of natural resources and for sustainability, equity and justice.

In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She died of cancer in Nairobi on Sunday at the age of 71.

"The work of the Green Belt Movement stands as a testament to the power of grassroots organizing, proof that one person's simple idea -- that a community should come together to plant trees -- can make a difference, first in one village, then in one nation, and now across Africa," Obama said.

"Professor Maathai's tireless efforts earned her not only a Nobel Peace Prize and numerous prestigious awards, but the respect of millions who were inspired by her commitment to conservation, democracy, women's empowerment, the eradication of poverty, and civic engagement," he added. "Her legacy will stand as an example to all of us to persist in our pursuit of progress."

Obama himself won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009 due to "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people," as the Nobel Committee put it.

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