President of Zambia and champion against colonialism Kenneth Kaunda dies at 97

17 June 2021, 17:44

Kenneth Kaunda
Kenneth Kaunda was the first president of Zambia (Moses Mwape/AP). Picture: PA

Kaunda led the campaign to free Zambia, then called Northern Rhodesia, from British rule and was the country’s first president.

Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, has died at the age of 97.

The announcement of his death was made by the country’s president, Edgar Lungu, on Thursday.

Zambia will have 21 days of mourning, Lungu said.

Kaunda’s son, Kamarange Kaunda, also gave the news of the statesman’s death on Facebook.

“I am sad to inform we have lost Mzee,” Kaunda’s son wrote, using a Swahili term of respect for an elder. “Let’s pray for him.”

Kaunda had been admitted to hospital on Monday and officials later said he was being treated for pneumonia.

The southern African country is currently battling a surge in Covid-19 cases and the country’s founding president was admitted to Maina Soko Medical Centre, a military hospital which is a centre for treating the disease in the capital, Lusaka.

At the time, Kaunda asked for “all Zambians and the international community to pray for him as the medical team is doing everything possible to ensure that he recovers,” according to the statement issued by Kaunda’s administrative assistant, Rodrick Ngolo.

Kaunda was a leader of the campaign that ended British colonial rule and he became Zambia’s first democratically elected president in 1964.

He led the country, which became a one-party state, until 1991 when he was defeated in an election following the introduction of multiparty politics.

During his rule, Kaunda made Zambia a centre for anti-colonial groups fighting to end white minority rule in southern African countries including Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Kaunda allowed the guerrilla organisations to maintain military bases, training camps, refugee centres and administrative offices.

By Press Association