Zambia and all of Africa have suffered a great loss with the passing of President Levy Mwanawasa a leader of vision for both his nation and the region.
He served Zambia well at the highest levels of government for many years, fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria, and working to modernize the economy of a nation that while rich in natural resources, finds most of its people still engaged in subsistence farming. Named vice president in 1991, he resigned three years later to protest the graft and cronyism he saw around him. Yet his stature was such that even those he criticized supported him when he ran for and was elected to the presidency in 2001.
Mr. Mwanawasa represented the second generation of post-colonial government in Africa. Contrary to some of the original liberation leaders, Mwanawasa led the drive for true multi-party democracy in his country. His success in this regard will be put to the test as his country prepares for the national election to be held some time in the next 90 days as required by the Zambian constitution.
His spirited leadership was also seen in his work heading the Southern African Development Community over the past year, where he was instrumental in pushing for a solution to the crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe.
The United States valued Mr. Mwanawasa's friendship, his dedication to improving the welfare of his countrymen and his outspoken promotion of democratic values and human rights throughout the region. He will be dearly missed.