Various African countries declared days of mourning in honor of one of Africa’s iconic leader Kenneth Kaunda, who influenced the independence of several African countries after he secured the Independence of former Northern Rhodesia to Zambia from British colonial rule.
While in power he hosted many of the movements fighting for independence or black equality in other countries around the region, including South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC).
The government of Zambia declared 21 days of national mourning, with flags flying at half-mast, and suspended all forms of entertainment.
While neighbouring Botswana, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has declared seven days of mourning in honour of the man he described as “charismatic” and “selfless leader” with the highest credentials for an iconic African statesman.
Kenneth Kaunda known by his initials KK, was the founding President of Zambia and head of the main nationalist party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) that led the country after British colonial rule. Mr. Kaunda espoused what he called African humanism, a political philosophy he devised that extolled private initiative while promoting welfare-state programs and a spirit of community.
A living legend of Pan African history and political activism Kenneth Kaunda was charismatic in his approach and extended that belief to other African states under the choke of imperialist powers.
Kaunda dominated the politics of his Southern African country for a generation, beginning in the mid-1960s. He was an impassioned orator who could bring an audience to its feet and to tears; a former schoolteacher who quoted Lincoln and Gandhi; and a physically striking man who brushed his hair to stand at attention so that it added inches to his six-foot-tall stature.
As chairman of Black Africa’s frontline states, Mr. Kaunda rallied international opinion in support of censuring and imposing economic boycotts on racist regimes close by, and he permitted Black nationalist movements from these countries to set up guerrilla bases in Zambia.
A man modeled in the character of India’s Ghandi nonviolence approach to activism, Kaunda was nicknamed by some as “Africa’s Gandhi” for his role in achieving success in independence-related activism in the 1960s.Many supporters saw him as a minor deity. Biblical parables and the hymns Kaunda had grown up with laced his speeches. On occasions while delivering speeches, he will fetch a guitar to accompany himself and, with his rich baritone voice, lead his followers in songs.
His audiences would fall in, enraptured, as he evoked a humbling and sometimes sorrowful memory, like the one of his father, a Presbyterian minister, who was forced to sit on a plain wooden bench in a church while white ministers sat on cushions.
Among many African leaders, dead and alive, Kenneth Kaunda stood out, a passionate leader who identified with the ordinary Zambians. It’s on record that while many other Africa head of states of his time spotted totems of power and respect like exotic animal tails, carved ivory walking sticks etc, Kaunda at every appearance, would be seen with crisply laundered handkerchief, an emblem of emotional bond with the ordinary Zambians as he is known to have wiped tears from eyes swelling from emotion laden voice while he delivers a speech
In a show of respect to the Zambian leader, the largest opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), temporarily halted all election campaigning ahead of the August 12 vote as the people of Zambia take advantage of the mourning period to reflect on the service and sacrifices of the man, they all referred to as ‘Papa KK’ In a statement by the Nelson Mandela Foundation; “We will not forget Kaunda’s contributions to the struggles against colonialism and apartheid.” One of KK’s last appearance was in honor of the funeral ceremony of Late Nelson Mandela, another iconic Africa leader whom in line with Kaunda’s philosophy fought for the emancipation of the black man to be able to stand for himself. Then at the age of 89, KK jogged up to the podium to pay tribute.
“This is really a dark day for Zambia,” said a 50-year-old Lusaka resident Herbert Simbeye, who attended the same church as Kaunda, and had placed flowers in the hands of his son for KK during his 90thbirthday
Cabinet secretary Simon Miti had addressed the public on the 17th June that Kaunda “died peacefully” at 2:30pm at a military hospital where he had been receiving treatment over the week.
Zambia current President Edgar Lungu expressed deep sense of sorrow and described the iconic leader as “true African icon.”
Kaunda ruled Zambia for 27 years and lived a very quiet healthy life after retiring from politics in 1991 when he eventually ceded power to trade unionist Fredrick Chiluba who died in 2013 while in office. A man who had experienced attempted assassination, house arrest and efforts to deport him from the country he had established. Kenneth Kaunda has outlived many African rulers of his time and all other Zambia rulers after him till 17th Thursday 2021, a great African leader, fulfilled and loved by all despite his shortcomings during his active political days.