Former Zambian President and independence leader Kenneth Kaunda has died at the age of 97.
His death was confirmed by Zambia’s current President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, who said in a Facebook post Thursday: “I learnt of his passing this afternoon with great sadness.”
“On behalf of the entire nation and on my own behalf I pray that the entire Kaunda family is comforted as we mourn our First President and true African icon,” the President added.
Kaunda was being treated for pneumonia at a military hospital in the capital Lusaka.
Kaunda was Zambia’s first president following the southern African country’s independence from Britain. He ruled from 1964 until 1991 and is known as one of the giants in the continent’s fight against colonialism.
Kaunda is revered for his struggle for Zambia’s independence, which sought freedom from white minority rule in the 1950s.
His agitation to liberate Northern Rhodesia — which would later become independent as the Republic of Zambia — from what he described as the “worst form of segregation” from a repressive colonial regime, spurred independence movements across Africa.
Kaunda was imprisoned in the late 1950s for his “troubles.”