There was an outpouring of grief with sympathisers breaking down when the casket of late Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was driven into Parliament buildings Wednesday for his funeral service.
President Mwanawasa, who died 14 days ago in Paris, France, will be buried later Wednesday at Embassy Park, opposite Cabinet Offices in Lusaka after the church service.
Paying tribute to her husband during the funeral service, first lady Maureen said in a message that Mwanawasa was the anchor of her family, noting that “Africa has lost an agent of democracy and good governance”.
“Today is your 60th birthday and it is our 20th wedding anniversary. We had agreed on a big celebration but the tables have been turned,” Maureen said in a speech read on her behalf by her private secretary.
The first lady deeply regretted that President Mwanawasa had died without achieving his dreams for the country while wishing that all the praises heaped on the late President should have been made while he was alive.
President Mwanawasa who would have been 60 years Wednesday died 19 August at Percy Military Hospital in Paris after he suffered a stroke 29 June while in Egypt while attending the African Union summit.
Among the heads of state present at the church service were African Union chairman, Jakaya Kikwete who is also President of Tanzania, South African President Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Malawi’s President Mbingu Wa Mutharika and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.
Others were DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Mozambique’s Armando Geubuza, Botswana President Ian Khama, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Lesotho Prime Minister Pakhalitha Mosisili.
Also in attendance were Vice-President of Uganda Professor Gilbert Bukenya, form er Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, Swaziland deputy Prime Minister Constance Simelane and First Vice-President of Sudan.