Lemekani Nyirenda: Zambian student who died fighting for Russia in Ukraine buried


The Zambian student who died in combat in Ukraine was buried in a private ceremony in his home country on Wednesday, a family spokesperson told CNN.

Lemekani Nathan Nyirenda died on the front lines of the war in Ukraine while fighting for the Russian mercenary group Wagner in September last year.

Her family’s representative, Dr. Ian Banda, spoke to CNN on Wednesday morning as the family made their way to Nyirenda’s final resting place in her village.

“We’re going to bury him now…. We are in a convoy… His mother and father (from Nyirenda) are in a vehicle behind me. They are crying right now,” Banda told CNN.

Nyirenda’s body was brought back to Zambia last month. Upon his arrival on December 11, his remains were taken to the morgue at the University of Zambia Hospital for post-mortem examinations in accordance with Zambian laws.

“Funeral gathering at the Nyirenda family residence, burial and memorial service formalities will not commence until completion of the aforementioned mandatory statutory procedures,” a statement from the family said at the time.

Banda told CNN that the forensic investigation into Nyirenda’s body had been “confirmed”, without giving further details.

Nyirenda is not the first African student killed on the Ukrainian front fighting for Russia in a development that has sparked fury across the continent.

A Tanzanian national, identified as Nemes Tarimo by his country’s foreign ministry, was killed last October while fighting with Wagner in exchange for money and amnesty, the ministry said in a statement. statement tuesday.

Tarimo was a master’s student at Moscow Technological University, studying business computing before he was sent to prison for seven years on undisclosed criminal charges in March last year, the ministry said, adding that his body had been sent from Russia and was due to arrive in Tanzania soon for burial.

Nyirenda, 23, was sponsored by the Zambian government to study nuclear engineering at the Institute of Engineering and Physics in Moscow, but was convicted in 2020 of unspecified crimes in Russia and imprisoned for nine years and six months, the Zambian foreign ministry said in a statement. statement announcing his death in November.

In a follow-up statement last month the ministry explained that Nyirenda was pardoned by the Russian government in August ‘to join a military operation in return for amnesty’ and ‘was killed in September 2022 while taking part in military activities’ .

Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, admitted to recruiting Nyirenda from a Russian prison, saying he chose to fight to “repay (Africa’s) debts” to Russia and that he was ” died a hero”.

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