By Enyichukwu Enemanna
As the family of Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda awaits answers from Moscow on how he was recruited into the army while serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia, authorities in Zambia have said officials will be dispatched next week to Russia to repatriate the corpse of the 23-year-old student killed while fighting for the Russian military in Ukraine.
Zambian ministry of information and media spokesperson Thabo Kawana confirmed that the ministry of foreign affairs is spearheading efforts to bring the body of the late Nyirenda back to Zambia for burial.
Kawana said the minister of foreign affairs is in contact with Nyirenda’s family and has visited them.
“The government is also offering support during this trying moment and doing everything they can to arrange for the funeral and repatriation of the body back to Zambia,” Kawana said. “Using our diplomatic channels and our all-weather cooperation between Russia and ourselves, we will be able to get to the bottom of this matter.”
Nyirenda, a student, was born to a middle class family of lecturers at the University of Zambia, Edwin and Florence Nyirenda. He was the youngest of four children.
Nyirenda had a twin brother, Tivo. Their older sister Munangalu Nyirenda said Lemekhani had big dreams to develop Zambia. She said her close-knit family is devastated by his death.
“He was our baby brother, they have robbed him of his bright future,” she said. “Why? Why? This hurts so bad, we need some answers from Russia.”
Peter Daka, a close friend of Nyirenda’s who is based in Moscow, described him as a determined and brilliant young man.
“He was certainly a good boy, serious and determined at what he was doing; he is the guy who knew exactly what he wanted and went for it,” Daka said. “In whatever scandal he found himself in in 2020 personally I never understood, it’s sad that in the end we lost him.”
The Russian Embassy in Lusaka refused to comment on the matter despite having agreed to a press request, VOA report says.
Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stanley Kakubo said last Monday that Nyirenda, who had been studying at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, was serving a nine-year prison sentence for a drug offense.
He said Nyirenda was killed on the front lines in September, but Russian authorities had only just informed Zambia of the death.
Kakubo said that Zambia had demanded answers over the student’s death and why he had been sent to Ukraine.