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    LUSAKA, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) — Zambian first lady Maureen Mwanawasa has urged nationwide unity during absence of President Levy Mwanawasa and thanked Zambians for their love for the president, who has been in Paris for medical treatment since July 1, this year, according to The Post on Wednesday.

    In an exclusive interview in Paris on Tuesday, Maureen said the love, respect and prayers that Zambians from all walks of life have shown and given to President Mwanawasa are a great source of encouragement and comfort to the family.

    The Zambian newspaper quoted her as saying “I just want to say that President Mwanawasa’s illness has brought both sadness and joy.”

    Maureen said calmly that “sadness in the sense that he is a leader of our nation, and at a personal level he is a leader of our family; he is a husband, father and uncle. He is also a friend to so many people in Zambia and beyond our borders.”

    His illness has brought sadness in the sense that he fell ill at the height of the peak of his leadership, when he has so many things to do for the country he holds in very high esteem. He is committed to the country, she said.

    “His Presidency has put Zambia to where it was shortly after independence in terms of good governance, transparency and accountability. He has created a new breed of leadership in our country. In short, Zambia has become an icon on the continent,” she said.

    However, Maureen said the unity that Zambians have displayed during President Mwanawasa’s illness is a source of joy.

    “His illness brings joy in the sense that people have become more united than ever before,” Maureen said. “It is unprecedented that in the whole country, regardless of age or gender, people have prayed and have continued to pray for the recovery of President Mwanawasa.”

    “This has helped the family to cope with the challenge that we face at the moment. I want to say that on behalf of the family, we are very grateful for the love that has been shown to President Mwanawasa during this trying moment,” the first lady said.

    “I would like to urge all Zambians to continue praying because this is also testing the faith of our country since we are a Christian nation. I also want to say that God has got His own way and time of answering our prayers,” she said.

    “I can only say that the government is responsible to report on the health of the President and this they have done adequately. He is the President of the country so government is responsible to report on his health.”

    “All I can say is that the President is making satisfactory progress. We are grateful to the government of France for receiving him in their military hospital and the doctors and nurses are looking after him very well. The President is responding to treatment. That is all I can say,” the First Lady continued.

    Meanwhile, Maureen urged all Zambians to build on the unity, respect and love that have come to the fore during President Mwanawasa’s illness.

    “During this period that President Mwanawasa is unwell, we hope that the unity that has been shown by Zambians can transcend through our party structures, can transcend through the government systems as a reflection for the respect and love that we have for the President,” Maureen said.

    “One hopes that through that unity, love and respect, all organs that are mandated to govern our country should be able to carry on what they are supposed to do even if President Mwanawasa is not physically at home. The party and the government have got established structures of how work should be done. They should do it for him so that when he comes back home, he will be very proud to see that the party and the government have been able to continue with the work in his absence,” She added.

    President Mwanawasa suffered a stroke on June 29 in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt where he was attending the African Union (AU) summit. He was admitted at Sharm-el-Sheik International Hospital and later was evacuated on July 1 to Percy Military Hospital in Paris, France where he is still admitted.

Editor: Sun Yunlong