Mandela, Tutu hail Maathai as a 'true African heroine'
South African Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu on Monday hailed the legacy of Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai, calling her a "true African heroine".
"She understood and acted on the inextricable links between poverty, rights and environmental sustainability. One can but marvel at her foresight and the scope of her success. She was a true African heroine," Tutu's office said in a statement.
"Our condolences go to Professor Maathai's family, to the people of Kenya, and to the countless women (and men) across Africa and the world to whom she was an inspiration," it said.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, responsible for carrying on the work of South Africa's first black president, hailed her as "exceptional environmental activist".
"She has left a lasting legacy in greater awareness and work in protecting our environment and the world," said Achmat Dangor, the foundation's chief executive.
Maathai died of cancer on Sunday at age 71, according to the Green Belt Movement she founded.
Maathai became a key figure in Kenya after founding the movement in 1977, staunchly campaigning for environmental conservation and good governance.
She won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her reforestation work in her native Kenya -- the first African woman, the first Kenyan and the first environmentalist to receive this honour. Her organisation has planted some 40 million trees across Africa.
© 2011 AFP