Zambians are paying their final respects to President Michael Sata who will be buried today at Embassy Park in the capital, Lusaka, alongside former presidents Fredrick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa.
Sata’s body has been lying in state since it was returned last month from London, where he died.
Zambia held a final requiem service for Sata ahead of his burial.
Religious leaders from different faith groups led prayers in parliament in a ceremony attended by diplomats and politicians, including the country’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda and Sata’s predecessor Rupiah Banda.
The public had until Sunday been streaming in to view the body of the 77-year-old leader who died on October 28 in a London hospital while undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness.
Eight foreign Heads of State all drawn from the SADC region except Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya have made the trip to mourn Sata and are expected to join in the final send-off.
Only 2,200 people have been allowed access to the Embassy Park with some big screens expected to be mounted at Nkoloma Stadium, Woodlands and Nationalist Stadium.
Sata is Zambia’s second leader to die in office after Levy Mwanawasa’s death in France in 2008.
“His wish and desire was to develop this country. His wish and desire was to bring economic development,” said Bishop Alick Banda. Banda called on the country’s new leader to fulfil Sata’s wish of enacting a new constitution, a process which has been marked by delays.
Sata had promised to deliver a new draft in the run-up to his election in 2011.
It is still unclear who the successor would be and that the confusion has thrown the competition wide open. Vice President Guy Scott has taken over as acting president until an election is held within 90 days. Scott – born of British parents and Africa’s first white leader since South Africa’s apartheid era – cannot run because Zambia’s constitution bars candidates of direct foreign lineage.
Credit: Al Jazeera and agencies