media captionFormer president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, has passed away aged 97

Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's first president and a key figure in its independence struggle, has died at the age of 97, his family has confirmed.

Kaunda was admitted to a hospital in the capital Lusaka on Monday suffering from pneumonia. His aides said he did not have Covid-19.

In the 1950s, Kaunda was a key figure in what was then Northern Rhodesia's independence movement from Britain.

He became president following independence in 1964.

  • Kenneth Kaunda: A pioneer of African independence

As head of the left-leaning United National Independence Party (UNIP), Kaunda then led the country through decades of one-party rule.

He stepped down after losing multi-party elections in 1991.

Kaunda – popularly known as KK – was a strong supporter of efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. He was also a leading supporter of liberation movements in Mozambique and what is now Zimbabwe.

"I am sad to inform we have lost Mzee," Kaunda's son, Kambarage, wrote on his late father's Facebook page, using a term of respect. "Let's pray for him."

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionKenneth Kaunda ruled Zambia for 27 years