Former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba dies at 68

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    Frederick Chiluba, Zambia’s first democratically elected president who fought off corruption charges after standing down, has died aged 68, local media reported on Saturday.

    The cause of death was not immediately clear. Chiluba suffered from a chronic heart problem and had been hospitalised in the past.

    A former trade unionist, Chiluba led the copper-rich country for just over a decade after ousting liberation hero Kenneth Kaunda in multi-party elections in 1991.

    Fredrich Chiluba

    Hailed as a democrat for helping dismantle Kaunda’s socialist single-party rule of 27 years, Chiluba was later charged with stealing nearly $500,000 of public funds.

    He was acquitted of all charges in 2009, while two business executives accused with him were found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.

    Foreign governments, including the United States, questioned Zambia’s commitment to fighting graft after the ruling.

    In 2007 a British judge ordered Chiluba to repay $58 million to compensate for money he was accused of stealing during his decade in office.

    That ruling, hailed as a turning point in Africa’s fight against corruption, was made in London, where Zambian officials filed a civil case to try and recover assets owned by Chiluba and his friends in Britain and other European countries.

    A Zambian court later decided that local laws did not allow the enforcement of overseas rulings.

    A popular figure in Zambia, Chiluba remained a close ally of the current president, Rupiah Banda. Chiluba had maintained the charges against him stemmed from a political witch hunt.

    REUTERS