Zambia’s former President Kenneth is dead.
Kaunda, who ruled Zambia from 1964 when the southern African nation gained independence from Britain to 1991, died on Thursday, June 17.
His death comes just three days after he was hospitalised with pneumonia at the Maina Soko Military hospital in Zambia’s capital- Lusaka.
Kaunda was among Africa’s few surviving liberation heroes. He died at the age of 97 years.
In an interview with Reuters, Kaunda’s administrative assistant Rodrick Ngolo said that he had a recurring problem of pneumonia for several years.
On Monday, President Edgar Lungu had urged the nation to put the former president in prayers so that “God may touch him with His healing hand.”
During his rule, Kaunda made Zambia a center for anticolonial groups fighting to end white minority rule in Southern African countries, including Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Kaunda allowed the armed organizations to maintain military bases, training camps, refugee centres, and administrative offices.
Later in life, he regained stature as one of Africa’s political giants, helping to mediate crises in Zimbabwe and Kenya.
He was affectionately known as “KK”, Kaunda was the head of the main nationalist party, the left-of-center United National Independence Party (UNIP).
Kaunda also became an AIDS campaigner, announcing publicly one of his sons had died from the illness.
Also nicknamed “Africa’s Gandhi” for his non-violent, independence-related activism in the 1960s, he charmed mourners at Nelson Mandela’s burial in December 2013.
When organizers attempted to usher him away from the podium after he ran over his allotted time, he drew laughs by saying they were “trying to control an old man who fought the Boers”, or Afrikaners — the white descendants of South Africa’s first Dutch settlers.