Last Thursday, the first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, changed dimensional plane to join his ancestors. At 97 years old, he was one of Africa’s last surviving liberation leaders. To a generation of Africans, and to many of us, Kenneth Kaunda epitomized the African struggle for independence.
Born into a family of 8 children in Lubwa in the north of then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Kaunda was the last born of parents who immigrated from Nyasaland (Malawi). He trained as a teacher, then became involved in politics, first as secretary of the local young men’s farming association and later as a founding member of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress in 1949. In 1955, both him and Harry Nkumbula, party president were imprisoned for 2 months. Later Kaunda broke away from the ANC, to found his own party, the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958 which was short-lived. In March 1959, the ZANC was banned and Kaunda was sentenced to 9 months‘ imprisonment, which he spent first in Lusaka, then in Salisbury When he was freed from prison in 1960, he joined the principal nationalist party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which campaigned and fought against British colonial rule. He was influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. and Kwame Nkrumah, both of whom he met on different occasions. On 24 October 1964 he became the first president of an independent Zambia.
Kaunda started with the great advantage of leading an African state with a stronger economic base than any of its neighbors but there was a shortage of native Zambians who had the skills and training to run the country [similar to so many African colonies… the Europeans were there to pillage and exploit the resources of the countries, and not build their local forces!]. The policy of sanctions imposed by the British government on the breakaway country proved at least as damaging to the Zambian economy (similar to what they did to Zimbabwe under Mugabe– Is Zimbabwe the New Haiti?) over the years, probably as punishment for his support for the liberation of his neighbors.
Affectionately known as KK, or Mzee, Kaunda worked tirelessly towards to the freedom of the whole of Southern Africa from white rule; he supported the fight of other countries against repressive, racist regimes in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (Why the name: Zimbabwe?). It took several years, but his support never faltered.
He remained a staunch defender of the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [Robert Mugabe, Freedom Fighter and First President of Zimbabwe Lives On], and said, “I’ve been saying it all along, please do not demonise Robert Mugabe. I’m not saying the methods he’s using are correct, but he was put under great pressure.”
As a testimony, President Hage Geingob of Namibia said in a statement “Africa lost“a giant of a man. …Kenneth Kaunda was a generous, affable, and a resolute leader who freed our region from colonialism.”
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa described Kaunda as a “rightfully revered father of African independence and unity… Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth.” “He stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of our greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of our freedom. We will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude,” Ramaphosa added.
“For our founding father, it was not enough for his country Zambia to be liberated when the region and the African continent remained bonded in the shackles of colonialism and apartheid,” current Zambian President Edgar Lungu told mourners at Kaunda’s house in Lusaka … “[Kaunda] soldiered on to seek freedom for humanity.”
Please enjoy articles on the Al-Jazeera and the very good article by the Global Times [With love and respect, Chinese people cherish memory of Zambia’s Kaunda, ‘an old and good friend’]. Please watch the video I posted a few years ago on the great Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president.