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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Ugandans paying respects to Obote
Many Ugandans are surprised that Obote is having a state funeral

The flag-draped coffin with the body of former Ugandan president, Milton Obote, is lying in state in the parliament building in Uganda's capital, Kampala.

Parliament will hold a special session on Thursday to honour the former president, who died last week aged 80.

He led Uganda to independence from Britain in 1962, but was twice overthrown by military coups.

His state funeral is due to take place on Friday. He spent the last 20 years of his life in exile in Zambia.

Civil war

Mr Obote's body was brought to parliament by a police honour guard from the headquarters of Mr Obote's Uganda People's Congress Party.

Mourners filed past the coffin to pay their last respects.

Milton Obote

"He was a great man. The nation will miss him. We have gathered to see the last remains of a great man," said student Dick Kizito at the airport after the body had arrived.

But 62-year-old Betty Nomushoke was not in mourning.

"He killed so many people and thought he would not die," she told AP news agency.

"I have no tears to shed for Obote."

After the funeral ceremony in Kampala on Friday, the coffin will tour several towns across Uganda before he is buried in his ancestral home in the north on Monday.

During his exile in Zambia, attempts at reconciliation between Mr Obote and the current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni failed.

The war during the 1980s between Mr Museveni's rebel forces and the then-President Obote's national army left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.

But Mr Obote's death led to a change of heart by the Ugandan government.

Mr Obote is the fourth Ugandan leader to die in exile.

Some argue the reconciliation has come too late in a country that since its independence has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another.

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