Zambian President Michael Sata has died at age 77 in the United Kingdom, the government announced on Wednesday.
Dubbed “King Cobra” for his abrasive remarks, the late African leader passed away Tuesday evening after receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment at London’s Kind Edward VII hospital.
"President Sata's demise is deeply regretted," Cabinet secretary Roland Msiska told the nation.
In 2011, Sata won the presidential election after running three previous times. His promises included cracking down on corruption and creating jobs. But critics argue that he became increasingly intolerant, particularly of opposition groups, during his term, AP reports.
Rumors of Sata's being seriously ill began circulating when his public appearances began dwindling after returning from the UN General Assembly in September. Local reports also revealed that he had gone abroad for a medical check-up, fueling speculations.
Vice President Guy Scott has been named acting president, making him the first white leader of a sub-Saharan African country since South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk in 1994.
A permanent successor will be elected within 90 days, Defense Minister Edgar Lungu told BBC.
"The period of national mourning will start today. We will miss our beloved president and comrade," Reuters news agency quoted Scott as saying.
A constitutional clause states that the president must be a “third generation” Zambian, so Scott, whose parents were not born in the African country, may be prohibited from running.
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(Photo: Meng Chenguang/Xinua/Landov)