LUSAKA (XINHUA) – Zambia on Thursday held a state funeral for the country’s fourth president Rupiah Banda.
President Hakainde Hichilema led hundreds of mourners, including foreign leaders, in paying homage to the former president who died last Friday aged 85 after battling with colon cancer since 2020 while others followed the proceedings live on state broadcaster ZNBC.
Among foreign leaders who attended the event held at the Showgrounds in Lusaka, the country’s capital, were Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Namibian president Hage Geingob, former Malawian president Bakili Muluzi, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano and former Tanzanian President Jikaya Kikwete.
People lined Independence Avenue as the vehicle procession carrying the casket of the former president moved from Maina Soko Military Hospital to the Showgrounds.
The former president was given a 21-gun salute by the army while jets flew past the Showground area in his honour.
In his address, the Zambian president said Banda’s death has left the country heart-broken especially since it comes a few months after the demise of the country’s first President Kenneth Kaunda.
Hichilema said a dark cloud has engulfed the country following the former president’s death but was quick to state that the many contributions he made not only to Zambia but Africa will forever be cherished.
According to the Zambian president, Banda served in many areas in the public service for more than 60 years from the time he was a youth and he showed exemplary leadership.
“President Rupiah Banda’s death has left the nation heartbroken. But even as we mourn him, we do so with a great sense of gratitude to our Creator for having given him to us,” he said, describing the former president as a patriot and peacemaker and adding that he played a pivotal role during last year’s generation elections by encouraging all the aspirants to accept the will of the people.
He said Banda’s decision to peacefully handover power when he lost the 2011 presidential election showed that he had the interest of the nation at heart which African leaders must learn from.