The late Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was buried yesterday at a sombre ceremony in the capital, Lusaka. There was a guard of honour and several church choirs at the funeral and the proceedings were shown on four giant screens in the capital, as well as live on national television.
About 5,000 mourners attended the funeral including several African Heads of States and top dignitaries.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was among them.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who took over from Mwanawasa as chairman of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), praised his predecessor in a speech to the mourners.
“He was a true African who believed in an African solution to various challenges the continent is facing,” Mbeki said.
The President of the African Union, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, paid tribute to Mwanawasa as a ‘visionary leader’ who worked tirelessly to promote human rights and democracy in Africa.
“He always spoke his mind,” Kikwete told the packed funeral service at a Baptist church in Lusaka.
President Robert Mugabe is one of the other African leaders who attended the funeral despite the fact that Mwanawasa openly criticized his policies.
Mwanawasa died last month at the age of 59 in a Paris hospital after suffering a stroke. Since being returned to Zambia on 23 August, his body has been taken around the country to let people pay their respects.