President Muhammadu Buhari has reacted to the death of Zambia’s founding father and independence nationalist Kenneth Kaunda, describing as “one of the greatest African and world leaders of all time who loved his country and people profoundly.”
A statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as lauding his contributions to the development of not only Zambia but also Africa at large.
“We can’t forget in a hurry how Kaunda gave shelter to anti-apartheid freedom fighters from South Africa and from former Rhodesia.
“The late Kaunda was one of the loudest voices for the liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism and he did so with passion and sincerity. It is impossible to reflect on Kaunda’s legacy without acknowledging his selflessness and passion for service.”
Kaunda, Zambia’s first president and a key figure in its independence struggle, was admitted to a hospital in the capital Lusaka on Monday suffering from pneumonia
“I am sad to inform we have lost Mzee,” Kaunda’s son, Kambarage, wrote on his late father’s Facebook page yesterday, using a term of respect. “Let’s pray for him.”
He was born on 28 April 1924 at a mission station near the border between what was then Northern Rhodesia and the Congo. He became president following independence in 1964. But poor economic management caused his popularity to plummet, and he was voted out of office when free elections were held in 1991.
Kaunda was one of the pioneer leaders of a new Africa, as countries threw off colonialism in favour of independent statehood. His father, an ordained Church of Scotland minister, died while he was still a child, leaving the family in straitened circumstances.
But the young Kaunda’s academic ability won him a place in the first secondary school to be formed in Northern Rhodesia, and he later became a teacher. In the 1950s, Kaunda was a key figure in what was then Northern Rhodesia’s independence movement from Britain.
As head of the left-leaning United National Independence Party (UNIP), Kaunda then led the country through decades of one-party rule. He stepped down after losing multi-party elections in 1991.
Kaunda popularly known as KK was a strong supporter of efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. He was also a leading supporter of liberation movements in Mozambique and what is now Zimbabwe.