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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Kenya buries vice-president
Wamalwa's coffin carried on his final journey
The state funeral in Kitale followed two weeks of mourning

Kenya has held a state funeral for Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa, who played a key role in securing victory for the opposition National Rainbow Coalition in December.

Thousands of mourners - many of them from Wamalwa's Luhya ethnic group - attended a five-hour Roman Catholic service at his farm in Kitale, western Kenya.

Wamalwa died from heart failure on 23 August, aged 58, at London's Royal Free Hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment for several weeks.

In a tribute to him at the service, President Mwai Kibaki said the vice-president had "dedicated his life to the building of a prosperous and democratic Kenya".

"We should honour him by striving to build a prosperous and democratic country.

Former opposition stalwart

"We should perpetuate the ideals of democracy, unity, hard work, selflessness and even the sacrifice of personal ambition for the welfare of our people," Mr Kibaki said.

Ministers from many African countries also attended the funeral.

Wamalwa's body was placed overnight in a traditional hut constructed for the occasion.

Late Kenyan Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa
Wamalwa was "a gentleman and patriot", Kibaki said

The Associated Press reports that some mourners climbed trees to get a view and others threatened to riot after being denied access to the service. Riot police kept order, although several hundred people fainted.

Wamalwa, a British-trained lawyer who left the ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) in the early 1990s, is credited with having persuaded Luhyas to back the opposition in the December elections.

Kanu, led by former President Daniel arap Moi, had ruled since independence in 1960.

Kenya's Minister of Roads and Public Works, Raila Odinga, is seen as a leading contender to succeed Wamalwa.

Obituary: Michael Kijana Wamalwa
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