Former Zambian leader laid to rest

2011-06-27 12:21

Members of former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba’s family, including children as young as seven, wept uncontrollably and screamed “Daddy! daddy!” as his coffin was lifted into the packed Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the capital Lusaka today.

Dressed mostly in black and white and seated on the floor next to the podium, the Chilubas agonised as the army ushered in the brown casket, wrapped in the national colours of green, black, yellow and red.

Chiluba (68), the country’s second democratic president since independence, ruled the 13-million population nation for 10 years between 1991 and 2001.

The charismatic leader, who led the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) for 17 years until he took over as the country’s president, died at his home in Lusaka on Saturday of heart-related conditions.

The country’s senior politicians and foreign dignitaries, including former president Kenneth Kaunda, DRC leader Joseph Kabila and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, were among those who attended his state funeral.

Sorely missed
After thanking her father “for being a part of us”, Verocia, one of Chiluba’s nine children, had to be helped off the stage in tears.

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy,” the teenager screamed.

Dalinton, another of Chiluba’s children, told mourners: “We will miss your smile, laughter and the assurance of your hands. Papa, goodbye.”

Chiluba’s wife, Regina, referred to him as a loving husband and a friend who always promoted unity within his family and had a special relationship with each of his family members.

“I apologise for the time I misunderstood you. I love you,” Regina said in a statement read out to the mourners.

Ordinary Zambians – trade unionists, opposition parties and church leaders – credited Chiluba for introducing multi-party democracy, allowing them civil and political rights; freedom of speech and free press, among others.

Celebrated tenure They said his tenure saw increased economic development and the opening of the airwaves for private investors.

This increased the number of community radio stations to 55 from one, they added, while seven private radio stations were introduced.

As a result, divergent socioeconomic and political views were heard.Many believed the 166 corruption charges Chiluba once faced, of which he was largely acquitted, had been trumped up.

Archritius Mwanakayaya (34), a hotel cook, said he would remember Chiluba as the man who also improved the transport sector and declared Zambia a Christian country.

“One of the attributes that we liked about him was that he was bold when it came to decision making. He was charismatic. You will talk ill about him, and when you see him you will smile. You will talk bad about him but he would not re-act,” Mwanakayaya said.

Zambians went into an eight-day of mourning for Chiluba, starting from June 20 till today, which saw flags flying at half-mast and broadcasters playing only solemn music between 6am and 6pm.

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