Kenneth Kaunda, founding president of Zambia and one of Africa’s last surviving liberation leaders, died in a military hospital in Lusaka, where he was being treated for pneumonia. He was 97 years old.
Kaunda ruled the southern African nation from 1964, when it gained independence from Great Britain, until 1991, and is respected across the continent as one of the generations that fought to free its nations from colonial rule.
He was admitted to the Maina Soko hospital on Monday with pneumonia.
“I am sad to report [members] we’ve lost Mzee. Let us pray for him, ”his son Kambarage said on the late president’s Facebook page on Wednesday.
Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar said that Kaunda was the last of a generation that had personified the liberation struggle in Africa.
“His passing is the end of an era. We are forever grateful for their services to Zambia and the mainland, ”he said. said on Twitter.
“A big tree has fallen. Africa hurts, ”said Professor Thuli Madonsela, a former public protector in South Africa.
Kaunda, the youngest of eight children of a minister in the Church of Scotland, was a teacher by training like his parents, but was soon drawn to politics.
He founded and led the main nationalist party, the United National Independence party, which campaigned against British colonial rule. Influenced by Gandhi’s strategy of non-violence, Kaunda spent nine months in prison and then developed his own humanist, socialist, and pan-African philosophy.
As president of Zambia, Kaunda supported the struggle of other countries against repressive and racist regimes in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia.
However, as support for his government waned, Kaunda introduced a one-party state and was the only candidate in three elections during the 1970s and 1980s.
After losing the 1991 multi-party elections following massive protests against his government, Kaunda accepted defeat.
This set an important precedent for Zambia and the continent, said Nic Cheeseman, professor of African politics at the University of Birmingham.
“He had much more respect and legitimacy than many others of his generation. He was successful in building the nation and never played at dividing and governing with the communities, and that was very important to build stability.
“But there will also be people who were jailed or beaten under one-party status for whom Kaunda will be far from a positive figure,” Cheeseman said.
After a failed attempt to return to political office, Kaunda became deeply involved in the fight against HIV in Zambia and throughout Africa. The disease claimed one of his sons.
Many blame the Maoist-inspired statist economic policies introduced by Kaunda for Zambia’s lack of development under his rule. The country now suffers from a huge debt burden and other deep economic problems.
Zambian leader President Edgar Lungu faces an election in August amid accusations of authoritarianism.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism