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Zambia’s former president, Kenneth Kaunda, passes on @ 97

By News Desk

The Zambian founding president, Kenneth Kaunda, has died at the age of 97-year-old at a military hospital in Lusaka, the country’s capital, where he was being treated for pneumonia.

Kaunda, who was regarded as the country’s liberation hero, died three days after he was admitted at the Maina Soko Medical Centre in Lusaka on Monday.

The former president’s death was confirmed by his son, Kambarage, in a short statement posted on his social media handle on Thursday, appealing that people should his departed soul, saying I am sad to inform [members] we have lost Mzee [the old man]. Let’s pray for him.

Reacting to the ex-president’s death, the incumbent president, Edgar Lungu, declared 21-day of mourning for the liberation hero and described him as an African icon.

He said: “On behalf of the entire nation and on my own behalf, I pray that the entire Kaunda family is comforted as we mourn our first president and true African icon”.

Kaunda ruled Zambia from 1964, when the Southern African nation won its independence from Britain, until 1991, and afterward became one of the most committed activists against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Although Zambia’s copper-based economy fared badly under the deceased president, who was popularly called KK, long stewardship, meanwhile, would be remembered more for his role as an anti-colonial fighter who stood up to white minority rule in Southern African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

The youngest of eight children, Kaunda lost his father when he was eight years old. His mother was a teacher, a rare profession for Zambian women in those days.

He started his political career as the organising secretary of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress (NRANC) in the Northern Province of Zambia.

But in 1958, he broke from the NRANC to form the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC). The colonial authorities banned it a year later, and Kaunda was imprisoned in Lusaka for nine months.

ZANC became the United Party for National Development (UNIP) in 1959 and the following year, Kaunda was released from prison and elected president of the nationalist, left-of-centre UNIP. He then started organising civil disobedience known as the Cha-cha-cha campaign.

It was the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi that made Kaunda committed to non-violent principles and was not ashamed to weep in public as well as had a unique speaking style, emphasising key thoughts by repeating whole sentences, his trademark white handkerchief in his left hand.

He espoused an ideology of “humanism” mixing Christian ethics, traditional African values, and socialistic principles and often used his rhetorical skills to appeal to the public, Kaunda won independence for his nation without resorting to violence in 1964. As UNIP president, he ruled Zambia for 27 years.

In foreign policy, Kaunda provided logistical help to other African liberation movements, including the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the breakaway Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) of Southern Rhodesia and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.

The ANC’s Radio Freedom was allowed to broadcast from Lusaka and it was under Kaunda’s protection that the ANC waged an armed struggle, then a diplomatic one against apartheid.

Zambia also helped Zimbabwe gain its independence from white minority rule in 1980. But during his time in power, Zambia became a one-party state – effectively giving him absolute control.

Kaunda banned the political opposition in 1973. He was forced to reverse this decision in 1991 due to popular pressure provoked by shortages of basic foodstuffs as well as increasing international pressure for greater democracy in Africa.

He fell from power with the advent of multiparty democracy. In 1991, he lost presidential elections to Fredrick Chiluba from the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) after a fiercely contested campaign.

Kaunda accepted defeat waving his trademark white handkerchief and went ahead to engage in national politics and in 1996 tried to stand for the presidency. However, the Chiluba government changed the constitution so that anyone whose parents came from outside the country was deemed a foreigner and could therefore not run for office.

Chiluba later attempted to deport Kaunda alleging that he was a Malawian. In 1997, Chiluba threw Kaunda in jail on Christmas Day for allegedly being involved in a foiled coup attempt.

In 1999, during Chiluba’s rule, he was declared stateless by a Zambian High Court, but he challenged this decision in the Supreme Court of Zambia, which declared him to be a Zambian citizen the following year.

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