Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s First President Passes Away at 97

Kaunda was an anti-colonial and liberation hero, who ruled Zambia from 1964, after Zambia won its independence from the white minority rule. He was president till 1991.

Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president has passed away at age 97. He was an anti-colonial and liberation hero, who ruled Zambia from 1964, after Zambia won its independence from the white minority rule. He was president till 1991.

He was being treated for pneumonia at Mania Soko Medical Centre in Lusaka. 21 days of mourning have been declared in Zambia. President Edgar Lungu in a statement put up on Facebook 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 is known for his role as an anti-colonial figure, who stood up to the white minority rule in Southern African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

After his presidential reign which ended in 1991, he became a key figure in HIV/AIDs activism in the country.

Early Life:

He was born in April 28th, 1924, and was the youngest of 8 children. His father passed away at an early age. His mother was a teacher. He did menial jobs to earn money to pay for school, after his father passed. He later worked as a teacher and a mine welfare officer. He started his political career as the organising secretary of Northern Rhodesian African National Congress (NRANC) in Zambia’s Northern Province. In 1958 however, he broke away from the NRANC to form the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC). The organisation was banned a year later by colonial authorities, with Kaunda even being imprisoned in Lusaka for 9 months. Once Kaunda was released from Prison, he was elected president of the nationalist party, UNIP.

Kenneth Kaunda with Martin Luther King

He was largely responsible for organising the civil disobedience movement named the Cha cha cha Movement. Zambia won independence in 1964, with Kaunda as its President, ruling from the UNIP party.

Solidarity with other movements:

Kaunda has provided logistical support to other African liberationary struggles such as 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. He let Nelson Mandela’s ANC make a ‘home in exile’ in Lusaka, during the three years in which the party was banned in South Africa.

In 1980, Zambia provided assistance to Zimbabwe in its freedom struggle against the White minority rule in the country. After his son Wezi Kaunda died in 1999, Kaunda announced that will be withdrawing from domestic politics, and stated that he will be concentrating on halting the spread of AIDS through the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation.

Many streets, areas, and public places have been named after him throughout the continent of Africa.  And even in his old age, he  often raised his voice against injustices against minorities. He led a quiet life in his old age, but did make an appearance for few public functions from time to time.

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