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Zambia's founding president Kenneth Kaunda dies aged 97

Former President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda in Qunu on December 15, 2013. [Reuters]

Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's founding president and liberation hero, has died aged 97 at a military hospital in Lusaka where he was being treated for pneumonia, his son Kambarage said on Wednesday.

Kaunda ruled Zambia from 1964, when the southern African nation won its independence from Britain, until 1991, and afterwards become one of Africa's most committed activists against HIV/Aids. 

"I am sad to inform (members) we have lost Mzee. Let’s pray for him," Kambarage said on the late president's Facebook page.

The former president had been feeling unwell and had been admitted to the Maina Soko Medical Centre in Lusaka earlier this week.

Although Zambia's copper-based economy fared badly under his long stewardship, Kaunda will be remembered more for his role as an anti-colonial fighter who stood up to white minority-ruled South Africa.

Kaunda was among the continent's few surviving liberation heroes.

"He has had a recurring problem of pnuemonia for several years and this has come again," Kaunda's administrative assistant Rodrick Ngolo told Reuters.

Ngolo said in a statement on Monday that Kaunda had been feeling unwell and had been admitted to the Maina Soko Medical Centre in Lusaka.

President Edgar Lungu on Monday urged the nation to pray for the former president and said the government would ensure that he received due medical care.