Why Zimbabwe wants the body of Lincoln homicide victim returned

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The recent death of Zimbabwe-born Kupo Mleya has made an international impact.

On Dec. 23, 38-year-old Mleya was shot and killed in Lincoln.

Danvas Mabeya, a board member on the Midwestern African Museum of Art in Lincoln, said Mleya’s death hit the African community hard.

He said much of the African population in the U.S. came here to avoid the dangers of their home countries.

“To me, this has been a shock to learn that our own has also been killed in the U.S.,” Mabeya said.

He said the killing shows that Africans still have to be careful here.

“Anybody can be involved in a mishap and that is that,” he said.

Now, as his family travels from Zimbabwe to Lincoln, the African community is asking that his remains be returned to his home country.

“This is a tragic loss,” said Seth Riek, a founder of the museum. “A tragic loss of a very very young man, and also a tragic loss for the entire African community in Nebraska.”

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Several African news outlets say Mleya’s father was declared a national hero in Zimbabwe after his death in 2007.

Now the acting president has requested that Mleya’s remains be returned for the proper ceremonies.

“The fact that our brother, Kupo, was the son of a very big hero back in their country, I think doing something like that would give a sort of closure to the entire country,” said Sarah Sudi, the development director of the art museum. “At least they can perform their rituals, they can perform any duties that they’re supposed to go through, so everybody can have their right to say their final goodbyes.”

The burial of national heroes and their families is an essential aspect of African culture.

It provides an opportunity for the hero to make their last journey home.

SEE ALSO: Lincoln man ‘freaked out’ and shot victim after crash, court documents allege

Francis Jor, the executive director for the Metropolitan African Museum of Art in Washington, said there is incredible diversity throughout Africa in mourning traditions.

“In particular, when someone dies abroad, like in the U.S. here, each community will have their own ways of how they want their child to be taken home,” he said. “Culturally, it’s very crucial to be taken home. For Zimbabwe in particular, it’s very important.”

Ancestral rites are also performed with the return of the remains, and it is believed that the spirit of the deceased will not find peace until they are completed.

The funerals of national heroes and their families are often attended by people from all over the nation, who come to honor their life.

“This is not just for closure for Kupo’s family, but for literally the entire country of Zimbabwe,” Riek said.

Riek said Africans believe that the more people attend, the more peaceful the deceased person will be.

SEE ALSO: GoFundMe for Lincoln gunshot victim’s funeral raises $22,000

The museum said it stands with Zimbabwe’s plea for Mleya’s remains to be returned.

It plans to collect, catalog and share Mleya’s story.

Mleya is survived by a 12-year-old daughter.

Channel 8 has reached out to his family traveling from Zimbabwe, who said they will be in touch when they arrive in Lincoln.

SEE ALSO: Lincoln Police make arrest in Friday morning homicide

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