Saturday 9 October 2004

The Nobel Peace Prize

Looking through the list of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates reveals a very, er, spotty record. For example:
1971 Willy Brandt
1973 Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho
1994 Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin
2002 Jimmy Carter
Of course, there have been less controversial awards too. Mother Theresa was a shoe-in, and she'll score a Sainthood too.

The latest award has gone to someone who's done a lot of practical good in Africa, Professor Wangari Maathai. At least, I think she's done some practical good.
The Nobel Committee praised her for taking a "holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular." She thinks globally and acts locally, they said.
Fully Buzz-phrase compliant. But further reading shows that she actually did do something useful.
The feminist, crusader and environmentalist was motivated by widespread deforestation in Kenya to mobilize rural women to plant trees to sustain their fuel needs, as well as to combat the effects of soil erosion.

But on the other hand... she has a few odd ideas.
Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, today reiterated her claim that the AIDS virus was a deliberately created biological agent.

"Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys (since) time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that.

"Us black people are dying more than any other people in this planet," Ms Maathai told a press conference in Nairobi a day after winning the prize for her work in human rights and reversing deforestation across Africa.

"It's true that there are some people who create agents to wipe out other people. If there were no such people, we could have not have invaded Iraq," she said.

"We invaded Iraq because we believed that Saddam Hussein had made, or was in the process of creating agents of biological warfare," said Ms Maathai.

"In fact it (the HIV virus) is created by a scientist for biological warfare," she added.

"Why has there been so much secrecy about AIDS? When you ask where did the virus come from, it raises a lot of flags. That makes me suspicious," Ms Maathai said.

Africa accounts for 25 million out of the estimated 38 million across the world infected with HIV, and the vast majority of infected Africans are women, according to UNAIDS estimates.

The United States on Friday congratulated Ms Maathai on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but tempered its praise over her claims about AIDS.

"She said (HIV/AIDS) was invented as a bio-weapon in some laboratory in the West," a senior State Department official said.

"We don't agree with that."
I can see why not.

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