Funeral held for former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Frederick Chiluba, former President of Zambia, has been laid to rest in the capital, Lusaka. Chiluba is credited with introducing democracy to the nation.

Chiluba led protests that caused then-President Kenneth Kaunda to agree to an election, which Chiluba won in 1991. During his two terms in office he allowed foreigners to invest in the nation. He relinquished his post in 2001 after attempts to modify the constitution to allow a third term saw his turn to face protests.

Chiluba was a figure of some controversy, being implicated in various corruption allegations. Charged locally in 2002, a six-year trial produced an acquittal but a separate trial in London saw a fraud conviction in 2007. The British court ordered a repayment of £36 million, but the Zambians never enforced the ruling. Chiluba also faced accusations of heavy-handed approaches to his opposition; outspoken journalists were imprisoned, and politicians were dismissed for critical remarks.

Public opinion has remained sympathetic to the former ruler, whose funeral was attended by hundreds. It was projected on large screens and broadcast on state TV. Current President Rupiah Banda, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Joseph Kabila, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and numerous provincial chiefs were among those present.

Mozambique's President, Armando Guebuza, sent condolences; both Mozambican Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Eduardo Bacio Koloma and Ambassador to Zambia Maria Leocadia attended the funeral at Belvedere Lodge. Chiluba's widow Regina and ex-wife Vera Tembo both attended.

Chiluba was buried beside his successor Levy Mwanawasa, who died in 2008. Only former Presidents are buried at the cemetery. Chiluba's final years were spent at home on the grounds of ill-health; he was already unable to leave the country owing to the confiscation of his passport.

Koloma said the leader would be remembered beyond Zambia for his championing of democracy. Mwaba Mushota, a friend of Chiluba, praised the man's representation of workers.

No cause of death has been released for Chiluba, who died at his Lusaka home more than a week ago.