The death of the first President of independent Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda has not only robbed Zambia of its liberation leader, but also deprived southern Africa of a strong campaigner for African unity and deeper regional integration.
President Kaunda, who was popularly known as KK died 17 June in a hospital while undergoing treatment for pneumonia.
In a statement, President Edgar Lungu urged the Nation to be calm and united during this sad moment for the country.
It is with deep regret and sorrow that I announce to the nation and the international community the passing of our beloved founding father, icon, and global statesman Kenneth Kaunda, First President of Zambia, President Lungu said, adding that the country has declared 21 days of national mourning.
Condolence messages from the region and the rest of African and global community have continued to flow, describing Kaunda as a true son of Africa.
Kaunda was a strong campaigner for African unity and deeper regional integration, and in April 1980 hosted that historic summit in Lusaka that gave birth to the establishment of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) now known as the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Since the establishment of a regional body in southern Africa, the region has achieved a number of milestones aimed at advancing political and economic freedom.
These achievements include the launch of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2008, the establishment of a SADC Standby Force as well as the creation of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), where regional utilities are afforded the platform to sell and buy surplus electricity from each other, thereby helping some countries to meet their growing demand for energy.
SADC chairperson, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique said the late Kaunda was a great leader who fought for the defence of peace, independence and security in Africa
He said that SADC and the entire African continent will remember Kaunda as a great leader who played a crucial role in the movement that led Zambia to self-determination and full independence.
The SADC region and the entire African continent are very grateful for the important contribution of former President Kenneth Kaunda to our common efforts to bring about and defend independence, peace and security in the region and across the continent, he said.
In fact, his gigantic legacy will shine forever and will inspire the present and future generation of leaders in Zambia, in the region, across the African continent and beyond.
Incoming SADC chairperson, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi concurred, saying Kaunda was a true pan-Africanist.
We have lost a part of our history and a pan Africanist, he said, adding that Zambia and Malawi share a common liberation history.
President Samia Hassan Suluhu of the United Republic of Tanzania, who is the outgoing chair of SADC said the region is saddened by the loss of Kaunda since Africa has lost a liberation fighter, and patriot.
Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana said the region will never be the same again without its icon, Kaunda.
I have learnt of the demise of Kenneth Kaunda the founding father of Zambia, a great statesman, and African leader, he said.
Kaunda was Botswanas best friend and together with the likes of Sir Seretse Khama, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere championed the liberation and independence of our region.
President Masisi said in honour of the contribution that Kaunda made to deepen regional integration, Botswana has declared a seven-day mourning period.
Incoming chairperson of the Organ, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa described the late Kaunda as a pioneering champion of a decolonised, united and prosperous Africa.
We bow our heads in grief at the passing of a beloved and rightfully revered father of African independence and unity President Kenneth KK Kaunda, he said, adding that we recommit ourselves to building the Africa of KKs vision an Africa of peace, justice, prosperity and innovation.
Outgoing chair of the Organ, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe also paid his tribute to Kaunda saying our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Zambia at this time.
The late Kaunda was one of the SADC Founders, who together with other selfless leaders of his generation including the founding Presidents of Tanzania and Botswana, respectively Julius Nyerere, and Seretse Khama, sacrificed the economic freedom of their countries to ensure that the rest of the region achieved political independence.
They formed the core leadership of the Frontline States which led the liberation struggle and laid the foundations for the formation of SADCC in 1980, and its transformation into SADC in 1992.
Born on 28 April 1924 in the northern province of Northern Rhodesia, as Zambia was then called, Kaunda was the Founding President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991.
After leaving politics, the late Kaunda committed most of his time fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Details of his funeral are still being finalized by the country and would be announced soon. sardc.net