Zuma mourns Chiluba as Kenya’s Odinga says he was a pioneer of democracy in Africa



Jacob Zuma and Raila Odinga

President Jacob Zuma of South Aafrica has extended his sympathies to the people of Zambia following the death of former president Frederick Chiluba, that countrys department of international relations and co-operation said on Saturday.

“On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, we would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathies to the government and people of the Republic of Zambia as they try to come to terms with the loss of their own,” Zuma said in a statement.

Chiluba, 68, who ruled the country from 1991 to 2001, died at his home early on Saturday.

He had been suffering from heart and kidney problems.

And Kenya has expressed deep sorrow over the death of former Zambian President Fredrick Chiluba who passed on early on Saturday.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in a statement that Mr Chiluba’s victory in Zambia in November 1991 served as a significant morale booster “for those of us then involved in the struggle for the re-introduction of multi party politics in Kenya.”

Mr Odinga described Mr Chiluba as a reformist who fought for change and brought democracy to the people of Zambia.

“His election was the clearest signal to us that we were not fighting a lone or losing battle in Kenya, that Africa was in the mood for another sweeping political change and that it was possible for independence parties that had run our countries to ruin since independence, to be defeated,” the premier said.

A trade unionist, Mr Chiluba was credited for the reintroduction of multiparty politics in Zambia and liberalising the economy when he won the 1991 elections after seeing off the challenge of the then incumbent Kenneth Kaunda.

But after unsuccessfully trying to stay in power beyond his scheduled 10-year term, and as evidence of his personal excesses mounted, he was derided as a little more than a common thief and convicted by a court in London of pocketing $46 million of state funds.

Last year a judge in Zambia dismissed a 2007 ruling by a British court that found him and his associates guilty of stealing $46 million in public funds during his presidency.

“As a ruler, he may have strayed from his promises, but his initial expansion of civil and political rights made Zambia get seen as a model of democracy on a troubled continent. It is unfortunate that he eventually slipped into Kaunda’s own methods of suppressing opposition and was dogged by corruption allegations into his retirement. Such are the perils of leadership without adequate constitutional checks, balances and guarantees,” said Mr Odinga.

Mr Chiluba consistently denied any wrongdoing, accusing his hand-picked successor president Levy Mwanawasa of trying to destroy his legacy through an anti-corruption crusade.

Mr Odinga has also called on African leaders to embrace equality and empowering the populous to challenge government on issues that they feel were not going right.

“On behalf of the people of Kenya, and the rest of our continent still struggling with issues of democracy, good governance, accountability and reforms, I mourn President Chiluba. I wish that we could draw lessons from his pioneering role in introduction of opposition politics, learn from his mistakes and be stronger in our resolve to move our countries and our continent forward,” he said.



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