Paying rich tributes to Zambia’s founding President Kenneth Kaunda, who passed away at the age of 97 on Thursday, African leaders said the continent has lost a great leader and a liberation hero.
In a statement Thursday night, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We bow our heads in grief at the passing of a beloved and rightfully revered father of African independence and unity – President Kenneth Kaunda.”
Ramaphosa said Kaunda supported South Africa in its fight against apartheid by offering the Zambian capital Lusaka as the headquarters of the African National Congress (ANC) fighters who were in exile.
“He devoted himself and the Zambian people to supporting the liberation movements around our region in their quest for independence and freedom,” Ramaphosa said and declared 10 days of mourning to honor the former Zambian president.
He said under Kaunda’s leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee different countries of their birth.
“He stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of our greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of our freedom,” Ramaphosa recalled.
A giant of a man
African leaders from across the continent stood united in sadness with the Kaunda family and the government and people of the Republic of Zambia, expressing their condolences and praising Kenneth Kaunda, a pioneering champion of a decolonized, united and prosperous Africa.
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob said in a statement Africa has lost “a giant of a man,” adding: “Kenneth Kaunda was a generous, affable, and a resolute leader who freed our region from colonialism.”
Geingob said Africans and Namibians are eternally grateful for Kaunda’s stellar contributions to the freedom on the continent.
“I wish to convey our deepest condolences to the Kaunda family on the passing of HE Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, a liberator and leader, and the first president of an independent Zambia,” Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter.
He said his country’s thoughts and prayers are with the Kaunda family and the people of Zambia at this time. He also announced three days of mourning with national flags to fly at half-mast.
The secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional block of 16 countries, said Kaunda greatly contributed to the formation of the regional body and will forever be appreciated.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta sent a message of condolence to Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, expressing his government and people’s condolences.
“Former President Kaunda was a great leader, full of wisdom who remained actively engaged in promoting the interests of the African continent for many years after leaving office. We will always remember and cherish his huge contribution to the welfare of the people of Zambia and Africa as a whole,” he said in a statement.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Andrew Wasike contributed to this report from Nairobi, KenyaAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.