Windhoek – Condolence messages are pouring in from around the world following the death of Zambian Founding President Dr Kenneth Kaunda, a revered nationalist, liberator and statesman credited for being at the centre of Southern Africa’s Independence.
Dr Kaunda died on June 17 at age 97. He led Zambia from Independence in 1964 to 1991.
Among those who have joined Zambian President Edgar Lungu in mourning KK are President Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), President Hage Geingob (Namibia), President Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe), Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat (AU Commission Chairperson), Mr Ian Khama (Former President, Botswana), and Mr Thabo Mbeki (Former President, South Africa), amongst many others.
Farther afield, condolences have been coming in from Asia, Europe, America and Oceania, signifying the impact that Dr Kaunda had on global affairs in his long political career.
President Masisi has declared a seven-day mourning period in Botswana to honour KK.
He described Dr Kaunda as an iconic statesman of the highest credentials, whose selfless dedication to the interests of Zambians and all Africans was inspirational.
“Dr Kaunda was Botswana’s best friend and together with the likes of Sir Seretse Khama and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, championed the liberation and independence of our region … Former President Kaunda’s death is a loss to his compatriots in Zambia, their friends in Botswana, and the continent of Africa. We send our condolences to the people of Zambia during this trying time,” Botswana’s leader said.
He recalled that KK was the first Head of State to visit Botswana shortly after its Independence in 1966.
“His four-day State Visit to Botswana, from May 21st, to May 24, 1968 ushered in a period of unparalleled excellent bilateral relations between Botswana and Zambia; after Zambia attained its own independence from British colonial rule which saw Dr Kaunda assuming the first presidency of the country in 1964.”
President Geingob described Dr Kaunda as a resolute man who sacrificed his life to free others.
“Africa has lost a giant of a man. Kenneth Kaunda, KK as we affectionately called him, was generous, affable and above all resolute in his commitment to freedom for Southern Africa. We have lost him.
However, Africans, and Namibians in particular, shall be eternally grateful for his stellar contributions to our freedom.”
In his tribute, President Ramaphosa said: “President Kaunda dedicated his 97 long years to the liberation and service of the people of Zambia. He devoted himself and the Zambian people to supporting liberation movements around our region in their quest for independence and freedom.”
He said Dr Kaunda was “steadfast against the intimidation of the apartheid state as he offered Lusaka as the headquarters of the African National Congress in exile”.
“Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth. He stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of our greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of our freedom. It was in honour of this remarkable contribution that the South African government bestowed on President Kaunda the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.”
President Mnangagwa, whose early political career was shaped by KK while he was in exile in Zambia, said: “The passing on of this renowned Pan-Africanist and elder statesman has robbed the Kaunda family and the people of Zambia, and indeed the rest of Africa, of an exemplary father, an astute politician and leader, whose immense contribution to the liberation of Southern African countries from colonial rule is well documented and acknowledged by the international community.”
He also said, “Our prayers are with the Kaunda family and the people of Zambia during this period of mourning. We hope that the nation will find solace in the rich legacy that the late former President leaves behind.”
AU Commission Chair Mr Mahamat said KK’s death was a loss for the whole African continent.
“Africa has lost one of its finest sons. He embodied the true sense of Pan-Africanism, placing his own country Zambia at grave risk in order to provide safe harbour for the liberation movements of Southern Africa as well as its peoples.
“His championing of the Frontline States to defeat apartheid and white minority rule in Southern Africa laid the foundation for what we call regional integration today. The African Union stands in solidarity with the Kaunda family, the people and the Government of the Republic of Zambia as we mourn and honour the life of a freedom fighter, statesman, visionary and liberation struggle icon,” he said.
In his message, Former President Khama said, “The Founding President of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, lived for the Zambian people and the region and continent. May his kind and generous soul rest in peace.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari described KK as “one of the greatest African and world leaders of all time who loved his country and people profoundly”.
He said, “We can’t forget in a hurry how Kaunda gave shelter to anti-apartheid freedom fighters from South Africa and from former Rhodesia,” and noted that he “was one of the loudest voices for the liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism and he did so with passion and sincerity. It is impossible to reflect on Kaunda’s legacy without acknowledging his selflessness and passion for service”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on microblogging site Twitter.
“Saddened to hear of the demise of Dr Kenneth David Kaunda, a respected world leader and statesman,” he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also sent his condolences via Twitter, saying: “Saddened to learn of the death of Kenneth Kaunda. We send our deepest condolences and our thoughts are with the people of Zambia at this difficult time.”
The US Embassy in Zambia said KK had been “steadfast in uniting Zambia’s 73 tribes through his commitment to ‘One Zambia, One Nation’.
“We honour his memory and his service to the people of Zambia and across Africa. We mourn his passing,” the embassy said.