November 21, 2014
My first month in Lusaka has been a time of happiness and sorrow.
My family and I couldn’t be happier to finally be back in Africa and especially to be in beautiful Lusaka. To have arrived while the Jacaranda trees were still in bloom was a special treat. We fell in love with them when we lived in Harare ten years ago.
In many ways Lusaka reminds us of Harare – only better. The people are equally warm and friendly and the cities are similar in appearance – green and leafy and peaceful. But below these surface similarities there is a big difference. Lusaka is filled with vibrancy and growth whereas Harare remains mired in a decade old economic crisis.
In Lusaka we see new roads, and new housing, and new businesses all around us. Much of the improvement to Lusaka’s infrastructure, indeed to Zambia’s, was at the behest of the late President Michael Sata. His death, coming within days of the country’s Jubilee celebration of its independence, has cast a pall over my first month as U.S. Ambassador to Zambia.
It will always be a source of regret for me that I never met him in person. But I was privileged to attend his funeral November 11. The ceremony was a fitting tribute to a long and productive life. It was filled with music and dancing and many poignant tributes to the late President from his bereaved family and his colleagues and friends. Rest in peace Michael Sata — secure in the knowledge that you left a great legacy behind you for your country to build on.
The day before, November 10, I attended a different funeral, for one of the Embassy’s Zambian employees: Wilfred Chomba. I also never met Wilfred but I know from the grief of his family and of the Embassy community that he was beloved and that he will be greatly missed. His funeral was also filled with music and dancing and tributes from those who loved him. I was privileged to be there as well and found it deeply moving. Rest in peace, Wilfred Chomba, secure in the knowledge that you lived a good and fruitful life and left behind you a loving family and an Embassy Community that is the better for having known you.