(Reuters) – Zambian president Michael Sata appeared in public on Thursday, allaying concerns about the health of the 77-year-old leader that had mounted during a largely unexplained three-month absence from the public eye.
Sata’s appearance at a political campaign rally in Solwezi, 500 km (300 miles) northwest of Lusaka, was meant to quench speculation that the health of the southern African leader was failing, analysts said.
The privately owned Muvi TV showed Sata walking unaided from a plane on arrival in Solwezi. It also showed footage of him addressing the rally, stressing the importance of providing education to children.
“Some of these children have been expelled from schools because their parents cannot afford to pay their fees,” Sata said, pointing at children in the crowd.
Sata disappeared from view after a June 19 meeting, broadcast on state television, with visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao.
His prolonged absence fuelled speculation about a serious illness although aides repeatedly said he was in good health and working as normal.
Sata suffered a heart attack in 2008 and his opponents said he collapsed during a six-week election campaign in 2011, a report the president denied. The next election is due in 2016.