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Maathai awarded the Peace Prize

NOBEL INSTITUTE (TV 2 Nettavisen): The Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai confirmed that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2004.

The news was leaked at 10:40 a.m. Friday, 20 minutes before Ole Danbolt Mjøs, the leader of the Nobel Committee, made the announcement. It was expected that this year's Peace Prize winner would come as a surprise.

«I received a call from the Institute and the Norwegian embassy in Nairobi,» said the Peace Prize winner to TV 2. «I am so grateful, and I want to thank the Norwegian people.»

Maathai is a professor and deputy Minister of the Environment in Kenya. She was awarded the Sofie Prize for her work in June of this year.

Maathai was one of the people behind the tree planting movement in Africa, the Green Belt Movement, and she is considered to be one of Africa’s most influential and respected environmental activists. The last 30 years she has been fighting for the environment, social justice, and human rights, according to the Ministry of the Environment’s own web pages.

«We have during the past years planted more than 30 million trees, but that is not the most important thing,» Maathai explained on the phone from Nairobi. «The most important thing is the change in how we think about the environment and how we treat it.»

She said she did not know what to do with the prize money yet.

«I have never had that much money in my entire life,» Maathai said.

Maathai was also a central figure in the democracy movement in Kenya until the presidential election in 2002. She has been described as a sharp debater and a critic of the poor leaders in Africa and the West’s exploitation of the third world.

The Peace Prize was awarded to Iranian Shirin Ebadi last year.

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