By MAIMBO MWEEMBA
Botswana has declared a seven day mourning period following the death of Zambia’s founding President Kenneth Kaunda.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has also decreed that all flags must fly at half-mast during the mourning period.
Dr Kaunda who died yesterday aged 97 was the first Head of State to visit Botswana shortly after its independence in 1966.
In his message of heartfelt condolences, President Masisi has expressed profound sorrow, and commiserates with the mourning nation of the Republic of Zambia.
“Dr Kaunda was an iconic statesman of the highest credentials and selfless dedication to the interests of his own country as well as the wellbeing of neighbors and humankind at large, he also 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,” he said.
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.
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.
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.
This is according to a statement issued by Botswana’s Permanent Secretary Government Communications, Andrew Sesinyi