Kenneth Kaunda, who led Zambia to independence in 1964 and remained its president till 1991when he lost a multi-party election, was among the finest Pan-Africanists and humanists ever produced on the African continent, according to the Anambra State Government.
Kaunda died on Thursday, June 17, in a military hospital in Lusaka, age 97.
In a message to the Zambian High Commission in Abuja today signed by Governor Willie Obiano, the State Government compared Kaunda to the late Tanzanian leader, Julius Nyerere, for their love of humankind, especially Africans.
“Though each operated a one-party system, which was up to the early 1990s the fashion in much of Africa as a social engineering effort to promote national unity and integration on the continent, none used the system to oppress their opponents or exploit their countries”, Governor Obiano declared in the letter made available today to newsmen in Awka, the Anambra State capital by the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba.
Describing both statesmen as among Pan Africanists inspired by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who led Nigeria to independence in 1960, Chief Obiano said both Kaunda and Nyerere were exemplary because of their commitment to humanism.
“They believed in the dignity of the human person and led their countries for decades without being tyrannical to their citizens regardless of creed, colour, gender, occupation or status”, according to the governor.
Chief Obiano recalled that it was easy to see Kaunda cry in public, which led critics to dub him the crying president.
“He was constantly moved to tears by the human condition, as exemplified by the apartheid system in South Africa which he fought with every fibre in him as a Frontline African president”, said the Anambra governor.
Chief Obiano revealed that when he ran into Kaunda in Abuja in 1998 in company of Sir Quett Masire, a former Botswana president who led his landlocked Southern African country to unprecedented prosperity, he lauded the erstwhile Zambian president for being a great humanist, adding: “I commended him in particular for his strong commitment to lessen the suffering of the Eastern Nigerian people during the 30-month Nigerian Civil War which ended in January, 1970”.
On the withdrawal of Kaunda’s Zambian citizenship by President Fredrick Chiluba who succeeded the Zambian founding president, Obiano said “it was a tragedy of colossal proportions, just as his disqualification from the presidential race in the 1990s and the spurious accusation that he was involved in a military coup plot.
“The good news is that he overcame these challenges with philosophical equanimity”.
Governor Obiano, who clinched the first prize in the essay competition organized by the American Embassy in 1974 among secondary school students throughout Nigeria, also praised Kaunda for his literary skills.
“On account of the literary heights attained by Zambia Shall Be Free, as well as the historical import and political significance of the book, Kaunda’s autobiography has remained for decades a recommended literature text for secondary school students by such bodies as the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)”, stated the Anambra State chief executive.
“As students, we learned so much from this book, which was edited by a great son of Anambra State, Professor Chinua Achebe, under the Heinemann African Literary Series.
“There were a lot of students who knew about the gravity of apartheid and racial discrimination in Northern Rhodesia, as Zambia was then known, as a result of their reading this fine book.
“There were students whose knowledge of nationalism and Pan-Africanism deepened as a result of reading this book, and they have ever remained pan-African activists and advocates”.
The governor, made a Knight Commander of St Gregory on January 15, 2019, by Pope Francis at the Vatican City in Rome, pledged that his family would request special prayers from different churches in Anambra State for the repose of the soul of the former Zambian president “who did his best to ensure that Eastern Nigerians did not die en masse at a critical time in history. A friend in need is a friend indeed”.
C. Don Adinuba
Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment.