Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday mourned his Zimbabwean counterpart Morgan Tsvangirai as an African hero who had worked to liberate the oppressed.
Mr Odinga, a close ally of Mr Tsvangirai with whom they had formed a close working relationship since 1993, said the Movement for Democratic Change leader had dedicated his life to serving others.
“In this coffin here lies a great African, a great Zimbabwean, and a hero, who should have been accorded a proper hero’s burial in Zimbabwe,” Mr Odinga told mourners in Buhera, some 300 kilometres from Harare where the MDC leader was laid to rest.
Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Odinga, who both served as prime ministers in a coalition government after disputed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe, had formed a friendship that saw Mr Tsvangirai frequent Kenya both on family and political visits.
While Mr Odinga was fighting against President Mwai Kibaki, Mr Tsvangirai, who died last week after a long battle with colon cancer, was running against Africa’s strongman Robert Mugabe, who resigned last year.
“In his death, Zimbabwe and Africa have lost one of the flag-bearers of emancipation and democratic change in Africa,” Mr Odinga said.
When Mr Odinga’s first born son Fidel Makarios Odhiambo Odinga died in 2015, Mr Tsvangirai was at the burial in Bondo, Siaya County, to condole with the Odingas.
Mr Tsvangirai was also present when Mr Odinga was named ODM presidential elections flag bearer in December 2012.
His death, Mr Odinga said in a statement last week, leaves a gap in a country that still needs strong and vigilant forces of change to return to the path of democracy and freedom.
“Morgan dared to dream of democracy, freedom and justice for his country and his people despite the firm hands of dictatorship that held sway,” said Mr Odinga.
He condemned political oppression in Africa as he addressed supporters of Tsvangirai whose electoral ambitions, like Odinga’s, were thwarted at controversial polls.
“Africa is littered with elections which are rigged,” Odinga told the crowds.
Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of presidential polls in 2008 but narrowly fell short of the total required to win outright, according to the official vote count.
Tsvangirai pulled out of an election run-off following violence which, he said, claimed the lives of at least 200 of his supporters.
Odinga insists he was the rightful winner of the August 8 presidential poll, which extended President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rule.
“We need to have clear and proper transparent elections in Africa. Rigged elections will not help Africa,” Odinga told mourners.
“Morgan’s election victory was stolen a year after mine was stolen in Kenya,” Odinga said, referring to the 2007 elections which he alleges were rigged to ensure Kenyatta’s victory.
Mr Odinga was accompanied by Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, his sister Beryl Achieng’, and his daughter Winnie Odinga.