Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Frederic Chiluba

(c) The Post Newspaper, Zambia
Yesterday, Frederic Chiluba, second president of Zambia, was laid to rest. He died just over a week ago at his house in Kabulonga, Lusaka (not far from where we used to live). It is not confirmed but suspected that it was from a heart attack.

Chiluba came to power in 1991 after Kenneth Kaunda was persuaded (in the face of protests) to allow multi-party democracy. KK had been President since independence in 1964 and there were great hopes and expectations from President Chiluba. By all accounts he quickly brought some stability to the country and government which may have saved Zambia from implosion. He also encouraged foreign investment in Zambia.

But they say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Chiluba sought to change the constitution to allow a third term in power, but this was defeated. Nevertheless, his protogee, Levy Mwanawasa, was elected in 2001 who, presumably to Chiluba's surprise, tried to eliminate (well, at least reduce) the corruption in the country. A large part of that was prosecuting Chiluba. They lost after 6 years of court cases in Zambia, but won a case in London (although the multi-million dollar fine was never enforced in Zambia).

It is hard to know what to say about Chiluba. Corruption is endemic in Africa, and Zambia is no exception. When we were living there the latest list of 'most corrupt nations' came out and we celebrated the increase from 9th to 11th most corrupt within the year. Not the most glorious of matters to celebrate! Yet stories abounded about Chiluba. Allegedly, when he was voted out, there was an entire container of Italian designer suits found which, he stated, had been bought entirely from his salary as President. Can that be true?

Whatever his record, he is only the second Zambian president to die (Levy Mwanawasa having died during his second term in office in 2008) and had a funeral like most of us expect: with family there, mourning the loss of a loved one. For Zambia, it is another milestone in its short history.

His detailed obituary is on the BBC here, and details about his funeral from a Zambian newspaper here

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