African leaders jet in Malawi for Mutharika’s burial

Four African heads of state and government Sunday afternoon jetted in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre separately to attend burial of former President Bingu wa Mutharika.

The four leaders include Namibia’s Hipikepunye Pohamba, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki and late Mutharika’s close ally, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who was also the last to land.

Malawi’s Vice President Khumbo Kachali welcomed the heads of state and government at Chileka International Airport.

Speaking upon arrival the presidents of Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe expressed deep shock at the sudden death of Mutharika, whom they described as a gallant son of Africa.

Mugabe: Grief-stricken

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki refused to talk to the media claiming he was deeply touched with the death.

“Our relation was so solid that his loss is our loss… we are together, we mourn together, we are very sorry,” mourned Mugabe.

And Kikwete grieved: “We received the news with great shock. He was a great neighbour with great vision, his death is not only for Malawi but Africa and the world as a whole. We join the people of this country in this trying moment.”

Mozambique’s Armando Guebuza and South African deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are expected to land in the country on Monday morning.

Also arriving in the country Sunday was Zambia’s Vice President Guy Scot who will represent President Michael Sata, late Mutharika’s political foe.

The fallen Malawian head of state arrested President Sata in 2007 when he was Zambia’s opposition leader and deported him through Mchinji Boarder.

Others who also arrived in the country were Southern African Development Corporation (SADC) Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomão and Jean Ping, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU).

Earlier in the day, Chileka Airport welcomed the arrival of Angolan Speaker of the National Assembly António Paulo Kassoma who was followed by Burundian Minister of Home Affairs, Edward Nduwimana.

Also arriving in the country were senior envoys of Presidents Omar al-Bashir and Hu Jintao ho of Sudan and China respectively who landed through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe.

However, leading the foreign delegates’ arrival in the country was the Zambian based Paramount Chief Kalonga Gawa Undi, head of Chewa people in Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi, who arrived on Saturday.

Several other representatives of governments and international institutions have also reportedly arrived in the country unannounced while others are expected Monday morning.

The foreign delegates will pay their last respects Monday morning before a procession to his final resting place, a spendthrift mausoleum he christened Mpumulo wa bata, which stands some 500meters away from his mansion and next to his first wife and former First Lady, Ethel who died in 2007 of cancer.

President Joyce Banda will welcome her fellow leaders at Ndata Farm and thereafter lead Malawians in burying their former president, described by many as a dictator.

Late Mutharika, who ruled Malawi from 2004 until his death on April 5 after suffering a cardiac arrest, was born on 24thFebruary 1934 at Kamoto Village, in the area of TA Chimaliro in Thyolo district, Southern Malawi.

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