Zambian President Michael Sata has died in London, where he had been receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness, a government source confirmed today.
The 77-year-old leader died on Tuesday evening at King Edward VII hospital in Regent's Park, London.
Sata left Zambia for medical treatment on 19 October with his wife and family members, according to a brief government statement which gave no further details regarding health.
He disappeared from the public eye without explanation in June and concerns over his illness increased as he was then reported to have sought medical care in Israel.
A Zambian government source told Reuters: “It is true. We lost the President. The acting president will make a statement soon.”
An interim president is likely to succeed Sata and two candidates include defence minister Edgar Lungu, who stood in recently as acting president, and vice-president Guy Scott, who would become Africa's first white head of state since South Africa's FW de Klerk in 1994.
The constitution says a new presidential election must be held within 90 days, with most analysts saying Scott is unlikely to run because of citizenship restrictions.
The Zambian kwacha currency was largely unchanged by the events and "everything should still be on track", one trader said in the capital city Lusaka.
While being treated for his illness, Sata missed out on the landlocked south African nation's 50th anniversary of independence from Britain last week, which was instead led by Lungu, secretary general of Sata's Patriotic Front party.
Sata also missed a scheduled speech at the UN General Assembly in September amid reports that he had fallen ill in his New York hotel.
A few days before that, he had attended the opening of parliament in Lusaka, joking: “I am not dead.”
Sata has not been seen in public since he returned to Zambia from New York in late September.