A memorial service was held for one of the Founding Fathers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the First President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr Kenneth David Kaunda, in Lusaka, Zambia, on 2nd July, with various leaders describing him as a true pan-Africanist, icon of Africa’s liberation, humanist and philanthropist who championed the cause of the freedom of Southern Africa and the entire African continent.
Dr Kaunda died on 17th June, 2021 at the age of 97 and will be buried on 7th July 2021.
SADC Chairperson and President of the Republic of Mozambique, His Excellency Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, described Dr Kaunda as a great statesman who always stood up against colonial oppression and used diplomacy to garner support for Southern African liberation movements.
H.E Nyusi bemoaned the loss of one of SADC’s Founding Fathers who offered his country as a safe haven for liberation movements from Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe who were fighting against colonialism and apartheid in their home countries.
Despite economic sanctions by the then apartheid South Africa and the racist regime in the then Rhodesia, Zambia housed liberation movements such as the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, FRELIMO, South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) of Namibia, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), both of Angola, and Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), both of Zimbabwe.
As a result of Dr Kaunda’s support to the liberation movements, H.E Nyusi said, Zambia paid a huge price as it became a subject of sabotage by the Rhodesian regime and apartheid South Africa, resulting in loss of lives and damage to its economy.
He said Zambia’s independence under Dr Kaunda in 1964 was an inspiration to other countries in Southern Africa. The name Lusaka is engraved in the collective memory of Mozambique as this was where the agreement for Mozambique’s independence was brokered by Dr Kaunda between the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Portuguese colonisers in 1974, leading to independence in 1975.
H.E President Nyusi said Dr Kaunda was an ambassador of the oppressed as he used his influence to lobby for the Region’s freedom from white minority rule, and that without Dr Kaunda’s vision, Mozambique would not be where it is now.
H.E President Nyusi said Dr Kaunda had shown that working for the people does not end when one’s presidential term ends as he had gone on to champion the fight against HIV and AIDS and was involved in various philanthropic work after he left the Zambian presidency in 1994.
“SADC has lost its founder and a leader who stood against racial discrimination and inequality,” he said, adding that men of Dr Kaunda’s stature never die but their spirit lives on.
The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, described Dr Kaunda as a Pan- Africanist who believed and worked for the betterment of the African continent and its people.
Speaking through his representative, Presidential Affairs Minister Manuanina Kihimba Nana, President Tshisekedi praised Dr Kaunda for being a founding father of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which transformed into the AU, to promote unity on the continent.
Dr Kaunda was an illustrious pan-Africanist and baobab of African politics who was concerned with the well-being of Africa and its people.
H.E President Tshisekedi said Dr Kaunda’s commitment to the independence of African states saw him actively participating in the creation of the OAU and that he played a pivotal role in fostering African solidarity, leading to the independence of many African states and the end of apartheid.
The humanist and Pan-Africanist values that Dr Kaunda also shared with the younger generation were vital and should be emulated by all, he said.
The Chairperson of the East African Community and President of Kenya, H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta, said Dr Kaunda sacrificed a lot to ensure that justice and social rights prevailed on the African continent. Dr Kaunda was not satisfied with the independence of Zambia alone and committed himself to lead the struggle to ensure the people of Africa got justice and were free to determine their future, at a great cost to his country.
H.E President Kenyatta said he was inspired by Dr Kaunda, who left Zambia’s presidency graciously and with humility, showing that there was life after leaving presidential office. After leaving presidential office, Dr Kaunda went on to champion other activities, including the fight against HIV and AIDS and ensuring peace and prosperity on the continent.
H.E President Kenyatta, whose father Jomo Kenyatta worked with Dr Kaunda in liberating many African countries and in the formation of the OAU, said Dr Kaunda mentored and inspired him to political leadership and service.
He said Dr Kaunda’s spirit shall live forever and called on current leaders to continue espousing the spirit of pan-Africanism, unity and the struggle for justice for the continent.
The Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, said the death of Dr Kaunda signaled the end of an era of great African philosophers and liberation fighters in the mold of founding Ghana President Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Sekou Toure of Guinea and Leopold Senghor of Senegal.
He said when Zambia attained its independence in 1964, Dr Kaunda was consumed by the independence struggles for Zambia’s neighbours even at the risk of economic losses for his country. Zambia is one of the celebrated Frontline States which stared down the apartheid region in South Africa as Dr Kaunda offered refuge to the liberation movements from Southern Africa, said H.E President Akufo-Addo.
“That decision took courage and Zambia paid a huge price as Lusaka was ruthlessly and regularly bombed by the apartheid regime in South Africa,” said H.E Akufo-Addo.
The President of Zambia, H.E Edgar Chagwa Lungu, described Dr Kaunda as an African legend, political giant, freedom fighter, statesman, pan-Africanist, patriot, true icon and international statesman who sacrificed for the freedom of Zambia from colonial rule. He said Dr Kaunda believed that Africans should chart their own destiny and not have their natural resources plundered while they wallowed in poverty and degradation.
H.E President Lungu said at Zambia’s attainment of independence, Dr Kaunda was unfazed and embarked on nationalism and a robust programme to educate all Zambians. Dr Kaunda knew that the development of Zambia will remain a pipe dream unless Southern African countries and the entire African continent were free from colonial rule and that was why he did not buckle and hosted liberation movements despite attacks and protests from his own people.
Dr Kaunda fought for the eradication of diseases and built hospitals which offered free medical care across Zambia, including to the liberation movements. The late Zambian Founding President espoused the philosophy of humanism which entailed helping one another and assisting the needy. Dr Kaunda also loved sports and music, and encouraged the youths to take part in sport and the arts. His favourite song, Tiyende Pamodzi, encourages unity among the people.
H.E President Lungu said he learnt values of patriotism and unity from Dr Kaunda and was not surprised by the many Heads of States and foreign dignitaries that came to his funeral.
The President of Malawi, H.E Lazarus Chakwera, said the death of Dr Kaunda should not be in vain but should raise up a new generation of African leaders who will embrace his ideals of pan-Africanism and stamp out corruption in Africa.
H.E Chakwera said a new generation of African leaders in the like of Dr Kaunda were needed to set Africa on the path of economic growth, prosperity and peace. He said the burial of Dr Kaunda will not be the burial of lifeless body, but the planting of a vibrant and finest African seed from which the continent will reap.
He urged leaders to embrace the vision of Dr Kaunda, the vision of a corruption-free continent, with open borders to trade freely and sound infrastructure to smoothen trade of goods and services.
President Chakwera called upon Africans to embrace the vision of Dr Kaunda and protect the continent from those who sought to divide it.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana paid tribute to Dr Kaunda for single-handedly ushering Botswana into the OAU. He said Botswana’s independence was not an easy push due to the position of the white minority regime in South Africa and that it all fell on Dr Kaunda’s shoulders to become the microphone and megaphone for Botswana.
He thanked Dr Kaunda for forging friendship between Botswana’s founding President Sir Seretse Khama and the founding President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Julius Nyerere, leading to the creation of the Frontline States.
H.E President Masisi urged those in leadership to borrow a leaf from the attributes that Dr Kaunda personified in forging unity solidarity and a commitment to multilateralism and international peace, including doing to others what one would want one done to them. Dr Kaunda had left a rich legacy and it was up to the new generation of leaders to fulfill and carry it on.
South African President H.E Cyril Ramaphosa said Dr Kaunda was a loyal friend to the people of South Africa during the long and bitter struggle against the oppressive apartheid government.
H.E President Ramaphosa said his country can never repay its debt to Zambia and Dr Kaunda for the sacrifice made towards ending apartheid and the attainment of Independence. He said Dr Kaunda was the father of liberation in the SADC Region as he stood firm and never wavered to support the people of South Africa and the entire Region.
Under Dr Kaunda, Zambia gave moral and material support as well as refuge to leaders of the ANC who had been exiled. H.E President Ramaphosa said South Africa had seen it fit to bestow Dr Kaunda with the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo which is bestowed on foreign dignitaries or Heads of State for their solidarity with South African people.
“We will never be able to pay the debt we owe you, thank you for the great work done,” said H.E President Ramaphosa. He said like the eagle on the Zambian flag, Dr Kaunda has soared into the sunset leaving lessons of compassion, peace, dignity, humility and empathy.
Dr Kaunda was a freedom fighter who led his country to independence, and as President, he led it with humility. He walked among the people and refused to be trapped in power. He loved young people and encouraged them to play a role in nation building, said H.E President Ramaphosa.
Zimbabwean President H.E Emmerson Mnangagwa said Dr Kaunda was a torch-bearer of freedom for the whole African continent and that his deeds should forever be emulated. Africa had lost a Pan-Africanist, liberator, elder statesman, visionary leader and selfless cadre who dedicated his entire life to the independence and development of the entire continent, he said.
He said Zimbabwe had declared 14 days of mourning for Dr Kaunda in honour of the instrumental role he played in supporting the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region.
H.E President Mnangagwa said the history of Zimbabwe would never be complete without tribute to the contribution made by Dr Kaunda and the people of Zambia.
Namibian President H.E Dr Hage Geingob described Dr Kaunda as colossal of African independence, an extraordinary personality, an icon of Africa’s liberation and statesman par excellency who had left behind an indelible mark. Dr Kaunda stood for humanity and his influence stretched beyond the Southern African Region.
H.E Geingob thanked Dr Kaunda and Zambians for accommodating his country’s liberation movement and thousands of students and ordinary Namibians during the struggle for their independence. He said Dr Kaunda had personally helped him to set up a United Nations affiliated institute in Zambia when Namibians were fighting for their freedom, and that the late Zambian leader advised him to reconcile Namibians and preach the message of peace.
As a result of Dr Kaunda’s advice, H.E Geingob said, Namibia had borrowed a lot from Zambia, including its motto, “One Namibia, One Nation” which was copied from “One Zambia, One Nation” coined by Dr Kaunda.
The Prime Minister of Lesotho, the Right Honourable Moeketsi Majoro said Dr Kaunda was a remarkable leader who selflessly worked to ensure Southern Africa was liberated.
The former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E Jakaya Kikwete, speaking on behalf of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, said Dr Kaunda forged friendship ties with Julius Nyerere to work for the liberation and betterment of Africa.
He said President Suluhu Hassan had assured that the United Republic of Tanzania will work towards enhancing the existing bilateral ties between her country and Zambia as a way of honouring Dr Kaunda’s legacy.
The Vice President of Angola, Mr Bernito de Sousa Baltazar Diogo, said Dr Kaunda’s achievements go beyond Zambia’s borders and that he had become so big that there was a part of him in all the Southern Africa due to his efforts in liberating the Region.
He said Dr Kaunda was an eminent pan-Africanist who fought for dignity of the Africans, ending with the creation of the Frontline States, which later transformed into the present-day SADC. Mr Diogo said alongside the likes of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, Dr Kaunda also fought for the dignity and civil rights of African-Americans and Africans in the Diaspora.
African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson H.E Moussa Faki said the continental body would not be in existence without the input and efforts of founding leaders like Dr Kaunda.
H.E Faki said it was not easy to eulogise Dr Kaunda who is the last of the founding fathers of the then OAU.
“Dr Kaunda has left Africa lessons of unity and Pan Africanism which must be seen, applied and attained through Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” said H.E Faki.
The British Minister for African Affairs, Mr James Duddridge, said his country mourns with Zambia the loss of a respected statesman and freedom fighter. He said Dr Kaunda worked to secure Zambia’s future and the liberation of Africa.
The Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, described Dr Kaunda as an African titan, global leader, humanist and principled Christian.
Ms Scotland said the world needs to heed and apply Dr Kaunda’s ideas of peace, and that his influence and input shaped the Commonwealth into the modern organisation it has become.
“Dr Kaunda hosted the Commonwealth’s first meeting on African soil in 1979 and the Lusaka declaration and Singapore declaration speak volumes of his fight against racism and inequality and desire to build a better and peaceful world,” she said.
The Foreign Minister of Serbia, Mr Nikola Selakovic, said Dr Kaunda was a role model for freedom loving nations.
Mr Selakovic said his country enjoyed good cooperation with Dr Kaunda’s government in promoting a peaceful world, adding that he was a giant whose works will never die but live on.