African leaders gathered in Zambia yesterday for a state funeral for Kenneth Kaunda, the country’s first president and a proponent of African nationalism.
The service was held at the National Heroes’ Stadium in Lusaka, where the leaders paid tribute to the late leader, who was considered one of the last generation of African leaders who fought colonial rule and became President after Zambia gained independence in 1964, and backed nationalist movements fighting to bring majority rule to the southern African states of Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
His peers at the time
He collaborated with other newly independent African leaders, including Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Senegal’s Leopold Senghor, Guinea’s Ahmed Sekou Toure, and Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, on a plan to transform the continent, gain independence from former colonial powers, and achieve self-sufficiency.
Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, and Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe came into Lusaka to pay tribute to Kaunda, who died last month of pneumonia and will be buried on July 7.
The event was presided over by Zambian President Edgar Lungu, who saw Kaunda’s casket, wrapped in the country’s flag, carried in by a military guard who fired a 21-gun salute and a flypast by air force jets.
There is a national mourning period.
Following his death, the government imposed a three-week period of national mourning, during which all types of entertainment were prohibited. Zambia’s military sent his body to each of the country’s ten regions so that people from all walks of life may pay their respects.
The memorial and funeral, which will be place in private next Wednesday, have also been declared public holidays by President Lungu.
Kaunda was a major supporter of initiatives in South Africa to remove apartheid.
He was also a strong supporter of Mozambique’s and Zimbabwe’s independence struggles.
Chairman of the African Union
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Chairman, said Kaunda was a “giant among men” and “the last of the founding fathers who handed independence to more than just his own territory” during the ceremony.
“We are forever indebted to Kenneth Kaunda and the people of Zambia,” Mr Mahamat added. “Had it not been for the selfless efforts of his generation, I would not be before you today as the African Union would not exist.
The Zambian military carried his casket to the Lusaka Show Grounds draped in his country’s flag. It was a fitting tribute to the founding father of African nationalism.
White hankerchiefs were waved in the air.
Ordinary Zambians flocked to pay their final respects. In grief, they waved their white handkerchiefs. It was something he kept with him when detained during the quest for freedom.
African leaders from the past and present were in attendance. They, too, spoke about Kaunda’s legacy, describing him as a liberator with a kind heart and a leader who prioritized Africa’s interests over his own.
In the 1950s, Kaunda rose to prominence as a significant member in Northern Rhodesia’s independence campaign from Britain. For his nonviolent approach to activism, he was dubbed “Africa’s Gandhi” by some.
His leadership is exceptional.
Kaunda then led the country through decades of one-party government as the leader of the left-leaning United National Independence Party. His domestic popularity deteriorated as he became more dictatorial, and he stepped down in 1991 after losing multi-party elections.
After one of his sons, Masuzyo, died of an AIDS-related sickness, Kaunda dedicated his latter life to the fight against HIV. “We were fighting colonialism. In 2002, he told the Reuters news agency, “We must now employ the same zeal to battle AIDS, which threatens to wipe Africa out.”
Kenneth David Kaunda, the first President of Zambia, was born on April 28, 1924, at the Lubwa Mission near Chinsali in Northern Rhodesia.
His father had left Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1904 as a priest and teacher, and his mother was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia.
Kaunda began teaching at Lubwa in 1943 after finishing his study in the early 1940s, and served as headmaster from 1944 until 1947. He subsequently traveled to the copper mining area, where he created a farmers’ cooperative, worked as a mine welfare officer (1948), and taught at Mufulira Upper School from 1948 to 1949.
Career in politics
African nationalism flourished in the urbanized copper region. Kaunda helped to create the African National Congress in response to racial prejudice in central Africa.
Northern Rhodesia’s first prominent anti-colonial organization. From 1953 to 1958, he served as the ANC’s secretary general under President Harry Nkumbula.
Early on, Kaunda grew committed to India’s Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolent teachings, a position bolstered by his visit to India in 1957. From 1958 to 1959, he was the President of the Zambia African National Union, replacing Nkumbula.
When the party was banned due to civil unrest, Kaunda was sentenced to nine months in prison. In 1960, after his release, he became the President of the newly formed United National Independence Party. He was elected to the Legislative Council on October 30, 1962.
In 1962, he served as Minister of Local Government and Social Welfare in a coalition government with Nkumbula’s ANC.
Zambia gradually worked its way through the difficulties of independence. Kenneth Kaunda’s deft diplomacy was credited with much of the accomplishment, as he was able to soothe the fears of the large European and lesser Asian communities that black leadership would overlook their concerns. Zambia was founded in October 1964, with Kaunda as its first President.