President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, current chairman of the Southern African Development Community, praised Mwanawasa for helping in the restoration and strengthening of regional political unity and cohesion.
But the Zambian leader broke ranks to become the first African president to speak out against Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe and the crisis in that country, which he likened to a sinking Titanic.
Mugabe was at the funeral, where he described the Zambian leader as «a frank and honest man.
Mwanawasa died Aug. 19 in the French military hospital where he had been treated since suffering a stroke in June at an African Union summit. Mwanawasa had been expected to champion the cause of ordinary Zimbabweans there.
Also at the funeral was Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whom Mwanawasa invited to an emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community in May. It was an unprecedented move and Mugabe boycotted the event in protest. Talks to resolve Zimbabwe’s electoral crisis have deadlocked over how much Mugabe and Tsvangirai would share power.
Mwanawasa’s widow, Maureen, addressing the body in a flag-covered coffin, said: Typical of you, you died on duty. You died a sad man as no one seemed to appreciate your sacrifices. Had you been with us today, I am sure these accolades could have made you happy.
Wednesday would have been Mwanawasa’s 60th birthday and the couple’s 20th wedding anniversary.
All of us have lost a great leader, a true pan-Africanist and a champion of the poor,» said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
Mwanawasa himself admitted that he had failed to lift his nation of 12 million people out of crushing poverty despite market-friendly policies that helped the country’s agriculture- and mining-based economy thrive.
At home and abroad, Mwanawasa was praised for fighting corruption and modernizing Zambia’s economy, helped by booming copper prices.
China, which has invested mightily in Zambia’s mining industry, sent Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to honor the man who told a U.S. audience: You people in the West redeem yourself before you begin attacking China.
Mwanawasa was a staunch defender of the unconditional Chinese aid that has poured into the continent.
Zambia’s former colonial power, Britain, was represented at the funeral by Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown, and Queen Elizabeth sent the Duke of Gloucester. The United States was represented by Tevi Troy, deputy secretary of health, and Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
Also at the funeral were Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president, and Frederick Chiluba, the second president and one-time mentor whom Mwanawasa targeted in his anti-corruption drive.