Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda was buried Wednesday after a 21-day mourning period, with President Edgar Lungu declaring April 28, his day of birth a National Holiday.

Kaunda, who was in office from 1964 to 1991, was buried at the Embassy Park, a burial place for the country’s presidents, in Lusaka, the country’s capital. He died on June 17 at the age of 97.

The private burial ceremony was preceded by a church service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Both President Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema, the main challenger in next month’s general elections, were in attendance during the church service, which was also attended by high-profile people, including former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano and former Zambian President Rupiah Banda.

The church service, held under strict COVID-19 regulations and televised live by the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, the state broadcaster, was characterized by a somber mood with people clad in black attire and some carrying white handkerchiefs, a trademark of the former president symbolizing peace.

It was the last of the church services held in all 10 provincial towns where the body was taken as part of the mourning period.

The casket, wrapped in the country’s flag colors, was carried by brigadier-generals from the country’s three defense forces into the church with a red carpet laid down along the path.

In his message, President Lungu urged citizens to honor Kaunda by continuing his legacy of promoting unity and peace, saying the first president was a champion of love as he lived a life of selflessness and patriotism.

According to him, there was a need for all citizens to be patriotic and speak well about the country. Lungu also said citizens should not allow anything or anybody to divide the country.

Trevor Mwamba, president of the opposition UNIP, the country’s first ruling party which was led by Kaunda, said the only way to honor the former president was to ensure peaceful elections next month.

Panji, Kaunda’s firstborn son, urged Zambians to honor his father by keeping his vision of having a united country, saying it was important for politicians to ensure that peace prevailed in the country by denouncing the violence that has characterized the country in the run-up to next month’s general elections.

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