Raila Odinga calls on Africans to unite at Malawi VP’s funeral service

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga during a press briefing on the status of Kenya's candidacy for the African Union chairmanship in Nairobi, Kenya on June 5, 2024. PHOTO | WILFRED NAYARAGESI | NMG

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called on African leaders to unite and push for the continent’s rightful share of global resources.

Speaking in Lilongwe, Malawi, where he had gone to pay his last respects to deceased Vice President Saulos Chilima during the funeral service at Bingu National Stadium, Mr Odinga expressed Kenyans’ solidarity with Malawians during their time of mourning and conveyed President William Ruto’s message of condolence.

Saying the continent had lost a young and promising leader “whose vision transcended his country’s borders”, Mr Odinga, who is eyeing the Africa Union Commission (AUC) chairperson’s seat, urged African leaders to fight for what rightfully belonged to the continent. He was accompanied by two members of his AUC campaign secretariat, former envoy Elkana Odembo and ex-Nyeri Deputy Governor Catherine Karugu.

“Mr Chilima stood for the rights of the people of Malawi and wanted to ensure fairness in the distribution of resources,” said Mr Odinga, sparking applause from the mourners.

Shocking news

Describing the death of the vice-president in a plane crash as “shocking news,” Mr Odinga drew parallels with a similar accident in Kenya’s Sindar area in Elgeyo Marakwet County that claimed the life of former Chief of Defence Forces General Francis and nine other people.

“We heard the news of this tragedy with great concern. Two months ago, the people of Kenya also witnessed a similar incident when the head of the Kenya Defence Forces was involved in a helicopter crash and died with nine other people,” he told the mourners, adding that Dr Chilima’s dream for Africa should not be forgotten.

“Kenya and Malawi share a history of being colonised by the British. Malawians bravely fought colonialism and gained independence; 60 years later, the country is showing signs of rising up,” he said.

Mr Odinga also took a swipe at western nations for impoverishing Africa through their activities, citing the devastating effects of climate change and the scramble for minerals that has left many of its nations poor.

“Africans are bearing the brunt of climate change. I see that there has been drought in this part of Africa. In East Africa, there are floods,” Mr Odinga said. “This is the effect of climate change for which Africa has contributed very little but is suffering the worst. Africa needs to unite and negotiate so that it can be compensated.”

He outlined his vision for a borderless continent that speaks with one voice, trades with itself and gets its rightful share of the earth’s bounty.

“I want to see a day when Africa, the richest continent on earth, will be able to speak with one voice and ensure that our people get their rightful share. We aren’t begging for charity but demanding fairness,” he stated.

“We want to see Africans add value to raw materials and earn respect. We want to see that we can expand trade among our people. That we don’t need a visa to go to Malawi or Zambia. Africa will stand together.”

His sentiments seemed to echo President Ruto’s pan-African dream as outlined in Nairobi during the first Africa Climate Summit (ACS), where ten action points were agreed upon, including compensation for loss and damage.

Visa-free approach

Kenya also recently hosted the International Development Association (IDA) for African heads of state and government co-hosted by Kenya and the World Bank to discuss the financial model, during which Dr Ruto touted a visa-free approach for a borderless continent.

Other dignitaries during the funeral were Mozambique Prime Minister Adiano Maleniane, Tanzanian Vice President Philip Mpango and Zambian Defence minister.

Dr Chilima was also the president of the United Transformative Movement party.

Mourners had turned up in their number to bid farewell to Dr Chilima, who was also eulogised by his son, Mr Sean Chilima, and elder brother Dr Ben Chilima.

Chilima’s son eulogised his father as a great role model, leader, and religious family man, who taught him and his sister humility. Dr Ben Chilima said the dreams of the Chilima family and others had been shattered by his demise.

He praised him as one who was dedicated to his country.

He called upon the Malawian government to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident.

President Lazarus Chakwera, who led the nation in mourning his VP, described him as a true patriot.

Dr Chilima will be buried today, Monday, 17, 2024, at his home in Nsipe Ntcheu District.