Zimbabwe's unresolved political crisis loomed large Wednesday as African leaders gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, for the funeral of President Levy Mwanawasa, who died on August 19 in Paris at the age of 59 after suffering a stroke in June at an African Union summit in Egypt.
Mr. Mwanawasa was laid to rest on the day he would have turned 60.
South African President Thabo Mbeki delivered the principal eulogy at the state funeral, calling Mr. Mwanawasa’s passing a great loss to Africa.
Zambian Information Minister Mike Mulongoti told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mwanawasa was honored by colleagues in death as in life.
U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and British Minister for Africa Mark Malloch-Brown were also on hand.
President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change founder Morgan Tsvangirai both traveled to Zambia to attend the funeral ceremonies.
Upon arriving in Lusaka, President Mugabe praised Mr. Mwanawasa, describing him as "frank." Mr. Mwanawasa on a number of occasions in recent years was openly critical of Mr. Mugabe and his government, calling his controversial re-election June 27 “embarrassing.”
The crisis in Zimbabwe hovered over the funeral proceedings. So serious do some African leaders consider the crisis that Foreign Minister Bernard Membe of Tanzania, currently holding the African Union chair, said an ad hoc summit should be held in Lusaka after the burial.
talks in progress since late July were on hold, although some sources said they might pick up again later this
week in Harare.
Membe said this week that the negotiations should be wrapped up soon and recommended a 50-50 division of executive powers between Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
But Reuters quoted Tsvangirai as telling a Johannesburg radio station Wednesday that the negotiations have broken down and were unlikely to resume soon.
Independent political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Zulu that the region has lost a voice of reason in Levy Mwanawasa.