Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda has passed away at the age of 97. The government declared 21 days of national mourning. Incumbent President Edgar Longo described Kaunda as a “true African icon”.
Kaunda was admitted to a military hospital in capital Lusaka three days ago with pneumonia. The missionary son was one of the last living leaders to come to power after the independence of African countries in the second half of the last century.
Kaunda was the head of state of South Africa from 1964 to 1991, which was known as Northern Rhodesia until independence in 1964. Before that it was a British colony. In the West, Kaunda was praised for his statesmanship and reconciliation policies.
During the apartheid era, for example, he hosted the South African National Congress (ANC). Some have called him the “Gandhi of Africa”. However, Kaunda supported the armed struggle against the white colonial regimes in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe).
His popularity in his country declined when he became a dictator and banned all opposition parties. In his first multiparty election in 1991, he lost to union leader Frederick Chiluba. In 1997, Kaunda was arrested and imprisoned for an alleged coup attempt against Chiluba, but this charge was later dropped.
After his presidency, Kaunda was active, among other things, as a mediator in conflicts in Africa and in the fight against AIDS.
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