Former Ghanaian leader Jerry John Rawlings was buried with full military honours on Wednesday after a state funeral attended by representatives of world leaders.
Rawlings, who died in November aged 73, held power for two decades in Ghana, first as military ruler and later as elected president.
He was buried in a coffin draped in Ghana’s national colours of red, yellow, green and black, and an officer’s cap was placed at the head of the closed coffin with a glittering gold-plated sword.
Rawlings, a former air force pilot, was given a guard of honour at Independence Square — a symbol of Ghana’s victory over colonial Britain — in the nation’s capital Accra.
Hundreds of Ghanaians earlier this week paid their final respects as his coffin laid in state during two days of national mourning under strict COVID-19 protocols.
“You took pride in your fatherly duties… you’re passionate and open-hearted,” said his widow Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings in a tribute.
“Your gift of sharing knew no bounds. You never hesitated to help in the passing of laws to protect the vulnerable in society. Jerry, I know that God created us for each other. You did your best and I played my part,” she said, breaking down in tears as her daughter Princess Amina read out her tribute.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo described Rawlings as a “charismatic and fearless leader.”
Papa J, as Rawlings was known, was buried at a military cemetery in Accra after a three-hour ceremony of tributes, prayers, cultural displays and songs.
Behind the scenes, Rawlings’ family, traditional chiefs and political figures have been at odds over the legacy of the former air force flight lieutenant, who twice overthrew governments but was widely seen by the poor as their champion.
Rawlings got his first taste of power in 1979 when he banded together with other junior officers frustrated over widespread corruption to take control.
He quickly handed the reins to an elected president, but was soon back at the top following another coup on December 31, 1981.
The son of a Scottish father and Ghanaian mother, he became a national icon as he headed Ghana for 20 years until 2001, being voted in as president at the ballot box in 1992 and ushering in democracy.
The service was said to have been presided over by the Archbishop of Lagos Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos/Bishop of Remo Diocese, Rev Dr Adesina Fape.
“Shortly after the burial service, the interment took place at the Church cemetery located behind the church, with Obasanjo leading family members to pay the dust to dust rites.
“The former President later paid homage to the four traditional rulers at Ode and Isara areas of the local government.
“The monarchs include Oba Mukaila Akanbi Olabinjo (Isara), the Iraye Remo, Oba Samuel Olatunji Kalejaiye, the Eleposo Eposo Ode Remo, Oba Albert Adebose Mayungbe and the Alaye Ode, Oba (Suvr.) Adetunji Osho,” the statement partly read.
One of the kings, however, praised Obasanjo, saying the ex-President has shown “how true and respected Yoruba son he is, by visiting their domains despite coming on personal engagement to the area.
“We shall continue to learn from your wisdom. The entire people of Ode are proud and appreciate this visit.”
“In close consultation with the governments of Lagos and Oyo States, the date for the burial ceremony has been announced. Barring any changes, his body will be interred at the Senator Ishaq Abiola Ajimobi Central Mosque at Oke-Ado, Ibadan at 12noon on Sunday the 28th of June 2020 after the traditional Muslim prayers.
“To ensure that strict COVID-19 protocols are adhered to and in light of the current circumstances of our national health challenges, the family appeals to the public to observe strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in their participation.
“Furthermore, details of the live media coverage of the funeral ceremony will be made public by tomorrow,” the statement partly read.
Ajimobi died on June 25 after battling with the deadly coronavirus.
Until his death, the APC chieftain was 70 years old.
Bollywood stars joined family members for the funeral Monday of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, whose death aged 34 has sent shock waves through the Indian film industry and rekindled a national debate about mental health.
Rajput was found dead on Sunday in his Mumbai apartment, with police saying he took his own life.
A star of hits on the big and small screen, Rajput died just days after the shock death of his former manager, Disha Salian.
Those attending the funeral included Shraddha Kapoor, who starred with Rajput in his last movie release, “Chhichhore”, which dealt with societal pressure and mental health.
Others, including actress Kriti Sanon and producer Ekta Kapoor, joined Rajput’s family in heavy monsoon rain to pay their last respects as his body was cremated according to Hindu rituals.
The young actor’s death has sparked emotional discussion on social media about mental health, with stars including Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma posting messages about the importance of seeking help.
Padukone, who has previously shared her struggle with depression, tweeted with the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone.
“As a person who has had lived experience with mental illness, I cannot stress enough about the importance of reaching out,” tweeted Padukone.
“Talk. Communicate. Express. Seek help. Remember, you are not alone. We are in this together. And most importantly, there is hope.”
Sharma, the actress wife of Indian national cricket team captain Virat Kohli, also tweeted condolences.
She too had previously opened up about struggling with anxiety.
“Sushant, you were too young and brilliant to have gone so soon. I’m so sad and upset knowing that we lived in an environment that could not help you through any troubles you may have had.”
Born in the eastern state of Bihar, Rajput quit engineering studies to pursue a career in acting and dance.
He got his big break in 2013 with “Kai Po Che”, a film about cricket, love, and politics that won acclaim at the Berlin film festival.
He was lauded for his portrayal of Indian cricket hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the 2016 hit “M S Dhoni: The Untold Story”.
He told AFP about the emotional rollercoaster he experienced while filming the movie, which also showed the heartbreak suffered by the ex-skipper when his former girlfriend died.
“It was very difficult because, after we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.
His most recent films were the comedy-drama “Chhichhore”, and action movie “Drive” — both released last year.
He had been working on a string of projects, including a Hindi remake of the Hollywood romance “The Fault in Our Stars”, titled “Dil Bechara” (“Poor Heart”).
Bollywood is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of two luminaries, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, who died in April after long illnesses.
George Floyd’s funeral will be held in his native Houston Tuesday after mourners paid their respects to the African American whose death in custody ignited global protests against police brutality and racism.
Thousands of well-wishers filed past Floyd’s coffin in a public viewing Monday as a court set bail at $1 million for the white officer charged with his murder last month in Minneapolis.
Many made the sign of the cross as they approached the open casket to say a last goodbye, while others took a knee or bowed their heads in silent prayer for a man who has become emblematic of America’s latest reckoning with racial injustice.
The six-hour viewing at The Fountain of Praise church — which drew more than 6,000 people, organizers said — was the final stage in a series of ceremonies paying tribute to Floyd before he is laid to rest next to his mother in his hometown.
In Washington, Democratic lawmakers knelt in silent tribute to Floyd before unveiling a package of police reforms in response to the killing of unarmed black Americans by law enforcement.
The congressional move came a day after the Minneapolis authorities pledged to dismantle and rebuild the police department in the city where the 46-year-old Floyd died during a May 25 arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old white officer who was filmed pressing his knee on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, made his first court appearance on Monday.
The 19-year veteran, who appeared by videolink from prison, faces up to 40 years if convicted on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin did not enter a plea and the Hennepin County District Court judge set his bail at $1 million with conditions, or $1.25 million without.
The conditions would require him to surrender his firearms, not work in law enforcement or security in any capacity, and have no contact with Floyd’s family.
Three other policemen involved in Floyd’s arrest appeared in court last week to face a charge of aiding and abetting his murder.
All four officers have been fired.
‘Bringing us together’
In Houston, mourners waited patiently in stifling Texas heat, wearing face masks because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s bringing us together as a country,” said Kevin Sherrod, 41, who was accompanied by his wife and two sons, aged eight and nine.
“Being here with my boys means a lot,” Sherrod added. “It is a time in history and they will remember they were part of it.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden flew to Houston on Monday for a private meeting with Floyd’s family.
“He listened, heard their pain, and shared in their woe,” said Benjamin Crump, the Floyd family attorney. “That compassion meant the world to this grieving family.”
Floyd’s death, the latest in a litany of similar deaths of black men at the hands of police, has unleashed protests for racial justice and against police brutality in the US and beyond.
Some US cities have already begun to embrace reforms — starting with bans on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
– ‘We hear you’ –
In Washington, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and two dozen other lawmakers knelt in silence at the US Capitol for the eight minutes and 46 seconds that Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground.
Democrats then unveiled a wide-ranging police reform bill, one of the chief demands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets for the past two weeks in the most sweeping US protests for racial justice since the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Justice in Policing Act, introduced in both chambers of Congress, would make it easier to prosecute officers for abuse, and rethink how they are recruited and trained.
“The protests we’ve seen in recent days are an expression of rage and one of despair,” House Democrat Steny Hoyer said.
“Today, Democrats in the House and Senate are saying: ‘We see you, we hear you, we are acting.'”
It is unclear what support the proposed reforms might find in the Republican-controlled Senate — or whether President Donald Trump would sign such legislation into law.
Trump has adopted a tough approach to putting down the protests and he voiced his support for the police at a roundtable on law enforcement at the White House on Monday.
“There’s a reason for less crime. It’s because we have great law enforcement,” he said. “There won’t be defunding, there won’t be dismantling of our police.”
Trump has accused “Radical Left Democrats” of seeking to “defund the police,” but Democratic leaders did not include any such language in their bill and Biden has also flatly rejected the suggestion.
Britain’s Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined regional leaders in Oman on Sunday to offer their condolences to the royal family after the death of long-reigning Sultan Qaboos.
A ceremony at Muscat’s Alam Palace drew figures from across political divides in the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was among those who met the new sultan, along with Tunisian President Kais Saied, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy was also in attendance at the ceremony, which took place a day after the new royal ruler Haitham bin Tariq was selected and sworn in.
Distraught relatives gathered Friday for the first funerals of some of the 74 people killed when a fire ripped through a crowded train in Pakistan, with many of the victims’ residents of a single town.
Sobbing family members crowded a government building in Mirpurkhas overnight as the first bodies covered in white cloth began arriving by ambulance from the scene of the disaster.
After morning prayers, with women watching from nearby rooftops, more than a hundred men attended the first funeral — of a car mechanic named Mohammad Saleem, who was in his late 40s.
It was held at the Bismillah Mosque, from which at least 42 pilgrims had left to board the train one day earlier, bound for a religious festival near Lahore.
Officials say as some of the train’s passengers cooked breakfast around dawn Thursday, two of their gas cylinders exploded, sending flames racing through three carriages as the train passed near Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab province.
At least 74 people died, some after jumping through windows on the still-moving train to escape the blaze.
Rescue officials found bodies and some injured passengers along a two-kilometre stretch of track, Dawn newspaper reported.
The train was a daily express service that runs between the southern port city of Karachi and Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad.
Trains on that route can reportedly hit speeds of up to 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour. Local media said that the speed may have helped fan the flames.
Journalists were allowed inside the interior of the carriages early Friday. The fire appeared to have burned them entirely, with virtually no space visible that was not blackened and charred.
One of them — Wagon No.12 — was carrying mainly people from Mirpurkhas, the town’s deputy commissioner, Attaullah Shah, told AFP.
“There was never such a tragic incident to happen to Mirpurkhas,” he said.
Eight of the bodies had been confirmed as being residents of the town so far, he said.
Twenty-four Mirpurkhas residents were among the injured.
But at least another 40 are still missing, he said.
Officials in Rahim Yar Khan have said many of the bodies are charred beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing — a process that could take up to one month.
Shah said the government was arranging to send families of the missing from Mirpurkhas to the hospital in Rahim Yar Khan where the bodies have been taken.
– ‘Mistake’ –
Mirpurkhas, a town of some half a million people surrounded by farms and mango orchards, was largely shut down Friday as businesses closed in mourning.
“These were such people that we can not ever forget them,” Mohammad Anwar, the 57-year-old headmaster of a government school, told AFP at the Bismillah Mosque.
He said that among the missing was his nephew, as well as the mosque’s imam. Most of those who left from the mosque had known one another or lived nearby.
Yawar Hussain came to the deputy commissioner’s office overnight in hopes of finding his brother Mohsin, 20.
Clutching a photograph of his brother wearing a starched beige shalwar kameez and sunglasses, the 23-year-old described rushing home after hearing of the accident.
“I consoled my father, and my mother and sisters were crying,” he said.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.
Gas cylinders are supposedly banned on trains. Pakistan’s railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Thursday that it had been a “mistake” to allow the cylinders on board, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered an inquiry.
Some witnesses told local media the fire had not been started by the cylinders at all, but by some kind of fault on the train.
The train had been diverted Thursday to carry pilgrims to the annual Tablighi Ijtema, one of Pakistan’s biggest religious gatherings, which sees up to 400,000 people descend on a tented village outside Lahore for several days to sleep, pray and eat together.
Relatives, teammates and hundreds of cycling fans gathered at the church of Saint Willibrordus in Knesselare on Tuesday for the funeral of young Belgian cyclist Bjorg Lambrecht who died during last week’s Tour of Poland.
The 22-year-old crashed on the third stage of the race after losing control of his bike and colliding with a concrete bridge over a ditch. He died as a result of his injuries.
The cycling world was led at the funeral by Lambrecht’s Lotto-Soudal teammates and team manager Marc Sergeant. German sprinter Andre Greipel was also present.
A giant screen on the wall of the church showed black and white photos of Lambrecht and a Lotto cycling jersey was placed on the coffin.
Lambrecht was one of Belgium’s great cycling hopes. He won the Under 23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished second in the Tour de l’Avenir in 2017 behind this year’s Tour de France winner Egan Bernal before turning professional last year with Lotto-Soudal.
This year he placed 12th at the Criterium du Dauphine, winning the best young rider category, fourth in La Fleche Wallonne and sixth at the Amstel Gold Race.
Ethiopia on Tuesday held a funeral service for its army chief who was assassinated by his bodyguard over the weekend, an incident believed linked to an alleged coup bid in northern Amhara state.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wept and mourners wailed as the coffin of Seare Mekonnen, draped in the Ethiopian flag, was carried to the front of a room filled with soldiers in military fatigues, in footage carried by state media.
Ethiopia has been left reeling after this weekend’s violence, a massive blow to Abiy who has embarked on an ambitious project of economic and political reforms in the nation.
However, his efforts have unleashed ethnic violence and turmoil as different groups jockey for resources and power.
On Saturday, what the government described as a “hit squad” entered a meeting of top Amhara officials and opened fire, killing regional president Ambachew Mekonnen, his top adviser and the state’s attorney general.
A few hours later in Addis Ababa, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) away, army chief Seare was shot dead by his bodyguard. A retired general visiting him was also killed.
The government said he was coordinating the response to the “attempted coup” at the time.
Abiy’s office also said it appeared to be a “coordinated attack” without giving more details.
Ethiopian authorities have pinned the blame on Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige, who was gunned down by police while on the run on Monday.
Asaminew was only released last year from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot, under a mass prisoner amnesty that began under former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and continued under his reformist successor Abiy.
Analysts describe him as a hardline Amhara nationalist who was likely facing removal from his job over efforts to form a militia and rhetoric pushing for territory in neighbouring Tigray to be reclaimed.
The motives of Seare’s assassin meanwhile, are completely unknown.
Internet services were down Tuesday across Ethiopia for a fourth consecutive day.
The funeral of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala took place in his home village in Argentina on Saturday three weeks after he was killed in a plane crash.
A public vigil was held in a gymnasium in Progreso, the modest village in the province of Santa Fe which Sala left as a teenager to forge a career in Europe.
The 28-year-old died last month just two days after completing a Cardiff club-record £15 million ($19.3 million, 17.1 million euros) move from French club Nantes.
The single-engine private plane carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala had returned to Nantes to say goodbye to his former teammates before flying back to Wales.
George H.W. Bush was to be laid to rest Thursday, concluding a four-day tribute to the 41st president that saw America briefly set aside its political divisions.
After a state funeral, Wednesday in Washington that was attended by the country’s five living presidents and foreign dignitaries, Bush’s flag-draped coffin was flown to Houston.
He will lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bushes worshipped for decades until he is buried.
Bush will be interred at his presidential library in College Station next to his wife Barbara, who died in April, and their daughter Robin who died of leukaemia at age three.
At the memorial service, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania shared a front row pew in the National Cathedral with past presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and their wives as an honour guard brought Bush’s casket into the prayer hall.
Former president George W. Bush tapped the casket twice when he walked up to deliver a rousing eulogy, fighting through tears as he sang the praises of his father and predecessor as commander-in-chief, who died Friday at age 94.
“He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country,” Bush said.
“He was born with just two settings — full throttle, then sleep,” he said. “To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light,” he said in a reference to his father’s signature call to volunteerism.
Wednesday’s funeral capped a national homage that saw Bush lie in state in the US Capitol rotunda, where thousands paid respects to a statesman who steered the nation through turbulent times including the end of the Cold War — and in a style dramatically different to the current president.
An uneasy truce
Since Bush’s death, Trump has traded his usual provocative posture for one of solemnity, tweeting before the service about “a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.”
“He will be missed!” Trump wrote.
At the funeral, Trump and his Democratic predecessors appeared locked in an uneasy truce.
Trump arrived and shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.
But his greetings stopped there, and the body language turned cold as he failed to acknowledge Hillary Clinton, his defeated Democratic rival in 2016.
Clinton stared straight ahead and the two made no eye contact.
It was a marked contrast when Bush Jr. arrived minutes later and shook hands with the current and past presidents and their wives — and handed Michelle Obama a piece of candy, as he did during the memorial service for Senator John McCain in the same cathedral in September.
Bells tolled while the casket was carried down the aisle, as dignitaries including Britain’s Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Polish president Lech Walesa, and former US vice presidents and cabinet officials looked on.
Bush was a decorated World War II aviator who nearly died when he was shot down on a bombing mission.
He served as a congressman, envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president to Ronald Reagan before winning the White House.
Trump’s ascendancy to the head of the Republican Party saw him exchange vitriolic attacks with the Bushes, notably slamming the presidential son’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and mocking candidate Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries.
Bush Sr meanwhile branded Trump a “blowhard,” and revealed he did not vote for him.
President Donald Trump was to greet the Bush family Tuesday in his latest show of peacemaking with the political clan he once fought bitterly.
Trump, whose ascendancy to the head of the Republican Party saw him exchange vitriolic attacks with the Bushes, has taken pains to demonstrate unity since the death Friday of former president George H.W. Bush, aged 94.
Ahead of Wednesday’s state funeral — where Trump will reportedly sit in the front row, but not deliver a eulogy –, the president tweeted he would visit the “wonderful Bush family” at the presidential guest residence Blair House across from the White House.
Also, Laura Bush, wife of former president George W. Bush, was coming over “to the White House this morning to be given a tour of the Christmas decorations by (First Lady) Melania,” Trump said.
Trump’s relations with the Republican establishment have been rocky since his insurgent campaign took him to the party’s nomination and then a shock election win in 2016.
He did not attend the funeral this year of George H.W. Bush’s former wife Barbara Bush, even though former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were there.
Melania Trump represented the current White House.
Trump also did not attend the funeral in August of another Republican giant, former senator John McCain.
The Bush family has assured Trump that eulogies at Wednesday’s funeral will avoid any criticism of him, The Washington Post reported.
George H.W. Bush’s body continued to lie in state Tuesday at the US Capitol, where officials said that 13,600 people so far had come to pay their respects.