LUSAKA, June 18 (Xinhua) -- China has joined African countries in sending messages of condolences following the death of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's first president.
Messages of condolences from all over the world have continued pouring in in honor of Kaunda, the last surviving member of African leaders who fought for the liberation of the African continent from colonial oppression.
Kaunda, 97, died on Thursday. A 21-day mourning period has been declared by the government. He led Zambia from 1964 to 1991.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Zambia said it learned with deep sorrow the passing away of Kaunda whom it described as an "old friend of the Chinese."
"Dr. Kaunda was a founder of China-Zambia, China-Africa friendship and made remarkable contributions to China-Zambia, China-Africa relations," the statement said.
It added that the friendship between China and Zambia established by Kaunda and the older generation is all-weather in nature and has an important status and wide-ranging influence.
United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also sent his government's condolences on the passing away of Kaunda.
In a release, he said Kaunda was a defining figure in Zambia's independence movement and laid the successful foundation of the southern African nation through his leadership, vision and "One Zambia, One Nation" mantra.
African Union (AU) Chairperson Moussa Faki-Mahamat said in a statement that Kaunda's death was an indescribable loss not only to Zambia but the entire African continent.
During the commemoration of this year's Africa Day, the AU awarded Kaunda a distinguished award for the role he played and the immense contribution he made to the liberation of Africa and its people.
The United Nations (UN) in Zambia described Kaunda as a significant figure in the history of Africa who not only fought for the liberation of the continent but also supported the fight against HIV/AIDS at a time when few were willing to speak out publicly.
"The United Nations notes Dr. Kaunda's contributions to the liberation struggle in Africa that led to political independence in many countries, and his generous support to thousands of refugees escaping conflict in their own lands," UN Resident Coordinator Coumba Mar Gadio said in a statement.
She said Kaunda's support for the fight against HIV/AIDS was demonstrated when he served as ambassador for the Brothers for Life campaign to encourage more men to be tested for HIV.
In 2018 he was presented with a UNAIDS leadership award for his remarkable contributions, she added.
The governments of Botswana and South Africa have since declared seven and 10 days of national mourning respectively in honor of Kaunda.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, in his message of condolences, said it was during Kaunda's tenure that relations between the two countries blossomed.
He described Kaunda as an iconic statesman of the highest credentials and lauded his selfless dedication to the interest of his own people as well as the wellbeing of neighbors.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his country will forever cherish the role Kaunda played not only in the liberation of Africa but South Africa in particular.
"Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth," he said in a release. Enditem