By Shapi Shacinda Reuters
LUSAKA: Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa died in a French hospital on Tuesday after suffering a stroke several weeks ago, Vice President Rupiah Banda said.
The Zambian leader, 59, was a favourite with Western donors for tackling corruption in the southern African country and he had been one of the strongest critics in the region of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
"Fellow countrymen, with deep sorrow and grief, I would like to inform the people of Zambia that our president Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa died this morning at 1030 hours (0830 GMT)," Banda said on state television.
"I also wish to inform the nation that national mourning starts today and will be for seven days."
Banda is expected to take over as acting president according to Zambia's constitution and elections would be called.
PRESS HERE FOR SOURCE OF STORY
Mwanawasa built his reputation as a lawyer for the former opposition, cultivating an earthy image, and was credited for turning copper-rich Zambia into a rare African success story.
The International Monetary Fund and other Western donors extended billions of dollars in debt relief after he curbed government spending and launched the biggest anti-corruption drive since Zambia won independence from Britain in 1964.
He had been more critical of Mugabe than the leaders of many of Zimbabwe's other neighbours and had said that Zimbabwean elections held earlier this year would bring embarrassment to Africa.
His economic policies helped usher in strong growth, which averaged 5 percent over the last six years, while inflation declined to single digits in April 2006, for the first time in over three decades.
Despite the debt relief package and major investments from China and India, Mwanawasa has battled a growing public perception that his strong fiscal record had done little to benefit most of Zambia's 11.5 million people.
Mwanawasa became vice president in 1991 after Frederick Chiluba ousted founding President Kenneth Kaunda in landmark multiparty elections.
Soon after winning the presidency in late 2001, he stunned observers by turning on Chiluba.
Mwanawasa narrowly defeated opposition leader Michael Sata in a presidential election in 2006. Sata accused Mwanawasa of selling out Zambia to Chinese and Indian companies.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Marius Bosch)
OIL FOR NOTHING: MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS, ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION, DEATH AND IMPUNITY IN THE NIGER DELTA
Section One: Threats to the livelihood of Communities by the operations of multinational oil corporations in the oil-producing areas of the Niger Delta
Section Two: Social and economic impacts of corporate practices on the communities in the oil-producing areas.
Section Three: Oil companies' responses to local communities' protests
Section Four: Existing contraints on grassroots activitism and the flow of information.
Strictly Come Dancing 2008
BBC Television Centre
Grab your scorecards and dust off your dancing shoes, Strictly Come Dancing is back!
BBC Studio Audienceshttp://shows.external.bbc.co.uk/inxmail1/url?vmqb000d0n4b00bwq3a15
UK-wide rate charged at no more than 01/02 geographic numbers: calls may be recorded for training.