Former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, the country’s first democratically elected leader, was buried today in Lusaka, the capital.
The casket containing his body arrived at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka at 9:15 a.m. local time and was later moved to Embassy Park, where he was buried. The televised ceremonies were attended by regional leaders including Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister of neighboring Zimbabwe.
Chiluba, 68, died of a heart attack on June 18. In 1991 the former labor union leader replaced Kenneth Kaunda, the southern African nation’s first president after independence from Britain, and ruled the country for a decade, becoming a leading figure in regional politics and overseeing the start of the sale of state-owned copper mines to private investors.
Chiluba left office in 2002 after failing to win support to amend the constitution to secure a third term and later faced corruption charges. He was found guilty by a U.K. court in 2007 of stealing $46 million. In 2009, a Zambian court dropped more than 60 charges of theft against him, amounting to more than $40 million, because it didn’t have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
“We must remember the late President Chiluba for his privatization policies that are benefiting Zambia now,” Rupiah Banda, the country’s current president, said in a live broadcast on Radio Phoenix.
Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, is aiming to produce 1 million metric tons of the metal by 2015, according to Mines Minister Maxwell Mwale. Copper output declined steadily from the early 1970s to about 250,000 tons in 1999 before rebounding after the state sold assets in the industry, according to the government.
“Stop criticizing him now that he is gone and use his departure to unite the country,” Banda said.