Yesterday was cold yet under a baking sun in Africa as Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president and liberation hero, died at Maina Soko Medical Center, a military hospital in Lusaka, where he was being treated for pneumonia.
“I am sad to inform [members] we have lost Mzee [the old man]. Let’s pray for him,” Kambarage (Kaunda’s son)
said via the late president’s Facebook page on Thursday.
He battled pneumonia at 97 but lost the fight. But he truly didn’t lose, his legacy is a continuous win for us all.
The government has declared 21 days to mourn the liberation hero.
“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,” President Edgar Lungu posted on Facebook.
How do you tell a story of a man like KK — one they call the African Gandhi?
Calling Kaunda an African icon, hero, is not hyperbolic. It is what it is. KK as he is affectionately called is a fighter. He never stopped fighting for the wellness of his people.
He fought for Zambians during colonial rule, and became the first president of the country when it was liberated in 1964. He stood up to white minority rule in Southern African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
He ruled Zambia for about 27 years as a result of a longtime one-party system.
As a former Zambian president, he continued fighting not for Zambians alone but for Africans in the fight against HIV/AIDS, an illness that claimed one of his sons.
One would think, KK started his political career right from the presidential seat. No, he began as the organising secretary of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress (NRANC) in the Northern Province of Zambia.
In 1958, he formed Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) breaking away from NRANC. A year later, ZANC was suspended and KK was imprisoned at the capital, Lusaka, by the colonial authorities. He was in for 9 months.
After his release, ZANC became the United Party for National Development (UNIP) in 1959, and he became president of the nationalist, left-of-centre UNIP.
He led the civil disobedience known as the Cha-cha-cha campaign. But greatly influenced by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, KK took the non-violent approach helping Zimbabwe gain its independence from white minority rule in 1980.
African Gandhi also provided logistical help to African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. With his support, ANC’s Radio Freedom was allowed to broadcast from Lusaka. Under his wings ANC waged an armed struggle, then a diplomatic one against apartheid.
It will be impossible for an article to cover KK’s heroic legacy unless we write a book.
Across Africa, countless streets, buildings and airports are named after Kenneth Kaunda, the African Gandhi.
By Elijah Christopher
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.