Remembering President Kenneth Kaunda
By Prof. Peter H. Katjavivi
Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia
The President HE Dr. Hage G. Geingob has described the loss of President Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of Zambia, as follows: Africa has lost a Giant. This sentiment is shared across the African continent and around the globe. Indeed, President Kaunda was highly acclaimed and respected by many people in many different countries, for his contribution towards the total liberation of Southern Africa.
To achieve this noble cause, President Kaunda, his government and the people of Zambia, worked hard together with the rest of the frontline leaders, in association with the National Liberation Movements of the region. It was a struggle that also enjoyed wider solidarity and support from organisations in different countries and from the international community. The African Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations were some of the key institutions that were firmly opposed to the white minority regimes in Southern Africa.
Looking back, it is clear that the wind of change that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan described as moving across Africa, in his address to the Parliament of South Africa in 1960, was not likely to descend upon Southern Africa during that period. The resistance of the white minority regimes in the region to change proved to be much greater than many expected. The Zambezi River came to be the border over which freedom and independence was not going to be allowed to cross. As a result, a number of studies that came out in the 1970 and 1980s characterised Southern Africa as the battlefront between white minority rule and the rest of the African continent. Much greater destabilisation and violence were foreseen.
That was the prospect and a real reality that faced Southern Africa, which President Kaunda and Zambia had to deal with. Kaunda and his fellow frontline leaders campaigned vigorously to show that what was needed was freedom and independence and not a racial war. They visited the capitals of the world to get the message across. They were men of peace but all their efforts were blocked by the South African and Rhodesian regimes. On the ground, the liberation struggle continued to have an impact but the South African and Rhodesian regimes countered by attacking and bombing the Frontline states, in particular Zambia, with a view to stopping the liberation movements from advancing. The cost to Zambia was enormous. However, this did not deter KK, as President Kaunda was fondly known
He and his frontline colleagues President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, President Samora Machel of Mozambique, and President Seretse Khama of Botswana, persevered and forged ahead in support of the struggle in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
After the liberation of our three countries, there was a need to document the history of the struggle. The SADC Hashim Mbita Project published ten volumes in 2005 that cover all the Southern African Countries, with each country contributing a chapter dealing with their particular struggle. Volume 1 contains fascinating exchanges between several Frontline Presidents, in particular Presidents Nyerere, Kaunda and Khama. These exchanges reveal a great deal about their individual characters, and show how they still retained their sense of humanity in the middle of the ongoing bitter struggle. This is an indispensable heritage that we must preserve for future generations.
The best tribute we can pay President Kaunda is to ensure that his place in history is made known to todays youth of Africa and shared widely with future generations in Africa and the rest of the global village.
Here I would like to recall my Foreword to the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre and UNESCOs forthcoming publication Youth in the Liberation Struggle and Beyond . This highlights the significant regional dimensions and linkages of the national liberation movements in southern Africa and shows that the attainment of political independence was well coordinated and was assisted through regional solidarity as well as the support of the continent and the international community. This book is Module 1 of a series entitled Respecting the Past, Building the Future.
I state in my Foreword that:
The series emphasises the place of history in regional development by illustrating that those who liberated Southern Africa from colonial rule did not work in isolation to achieve their goal. Many of them were young adults, and todays young people can learn from these experiences in the current struggle for economic development and equality.
It is important that we do not lose the knowledge of this solidarity and collaboration in the achievement of our political independence across the region. With our shared history and common efforts in mind, we can be inclusive in our endeavours and contribute meaningfully and successfully to regional development and cooperation across the region.
President Kaunda deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the liberation of Southern Africa and the role he played in support of the national liberation movements.