His Excellency the President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has declared a seven (7) day mourning period in Botswana following the death of the founding President of the Republic of Zambia Dr Kenneth Kaunda, also popularly known as KK.
His Excellency has also decreed that all flags must fly at half-mast during the mourning period.
Dr Kaunda who died today aged 97 was the first Head of State to visit Botswana shortly after independence in 1966. His four-day State Visit to Botswana, from May 21st, to May 24th, 1968, ushered in a period of unparalleled excellent bilateral relations between Botswana and Zambia; after Zambia attained its own independence from British colonial rule which saw Dr Kaunda assuming the first presidency of the country in 1964.
Dr Kaunda was to rule Zambia until 1991, during which period Dr Kaunda played a pivotal role in the liberation struggles in southern Africa, from racist regimes, after being at the forefront of the struggle for independence in his own country.
It was during Dr Kaunda’s presidency, that bilateral relations between Botswana and Zambia blossomed over the decades, and so did the personal relations between him and the founding President of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama.
Scores of young Batswana professionals were trained in Zambia during the nascent stages of Botswana’s independence. Zambian expatriate personnel were also among the first to help Botswana form its institutional framework from scratch.
The relations strengthened even further after the death of Sir Seretse Khama in 1980, when Sir Seretse’s long-term friend and Vice President Sir Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana.
With his self-cultivated brand of a white handkerchief, Dr Kaunda traversed the region and beyond in shuttle diplomacy as the liberation struggle in southern Africa intensified.
In his message of heartfelt condolences, His Excellency the President Dr Masisi expresses profound sorrow, and commiserates with the mourning nation of the Republic of Zambia.
Dr Masisi describes Dr Kaunda as an iconic statesman of the highest credentials and selfless dedication to the interests of his own country as well as the wellbeing of neighbours and humankind at large.
Dr Masisi says Dr Kaunda was Botswana’s best friend during the worst of times when the country was battling to find itself during the trying times of early independence when it needed friends the most.
President Masisi said the charismatic former President of Zambia is a grave loss to his compatriots and to all peace loving people, in Botswana and elsewhere.
The President reminisced about Dr Kaunda’s famous phrase, “One Botswana, One Nation, One Zambia, One Nation”, which he entrenched in the minds of enthusiastic audiences in Botswana each time he visited the country.
Andrew O. Sesinyi