By Dr Olugbenga Faseluka
Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, first President of independent Zambia died on June 17,2021. His remains will be buried on July 7,2021. Born on April 28,1924 in Chinsali, Dr. Kaunda was a teacher, lawyer, politician, nationalist and pan Africanist.
African nationalism of the first five decades of the twentieth century became a reaction to the partition of African territories to foreign suzerainty at Berlin in 1886 and subsequent colonisation of Africa by European countries.
Dr. Kaunda was in the fore of the struggle for the freedom of then Northern Rhodesia from British domination.
His struggles along with Harry Nkumbula and others were autographed in ‘Zambia Shall be Free’ which he published in 1960.
Dr. Kaunda’s contemporaries in Africa nationalism included Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela(South Africa), Julius Nyerere(Southern Rhodesia), Kwame Nkrumah(Gold Coast), Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo(Nigeria), Nassingbe Eyadema(Togo), Leopold Sedar Senghor(Senegal), Sekou Toure(Ivory Coast), Jomo Kenyatta(Kenya),and Haile Selassie(Ethiopia) among others.
African nationalism fruited decolonization of Africa. Gold Coast(Ghana) became the first African country to gain independence in 1953. Others followed closely thereafter in the 60s and 70s. South Africa became the last to decolonise in 1994.
Dr. Kaunda and most of his contemporaries pioneered leadership of independent African states.The continent was blessed with a special breed of well educated leaders with statesmanship inclinations. Drs Nkrumah and Azikiwe for instance were Ph.D holders from Lincoln,Thambo, Mandela and Swollen were British trained lawyers. Senghor, Nyerere and Kaunda himself were foremost educationists. Africa appeared good to go.
Independent African states and their leadership agreed on regional cooperation and union but differed on degree or extent.
Dr. Nkrumah of Ghana who was the first indigenous Prime Minister in Africa championed pan Africanism. In his book “Imperialism the Last Stage of Colonialism”, Nkrumah foresaw and forewarned on the evils of neocolonialism. He described political independence without economic freedom as mere “flag independence”. He canvassed that independent Africa must evolve a strong political union, a United States of Africa to be able to withstand the challenges of neo colonialism.
PAN AFRICANISM AND FORMATION OF OAU
Pan Africanism advanced nationalism beyond state frontiers to the continental level. It was about the political and economic emancipation of the African continent from the vestiges of imperialism.
Delegates from 32 African countries converged in Addis Ababa between May 22-25,1963 to establish the Organization for African Unity OAU. It was intended to form the continental superstructure for pan Africanism.
Dr. Nkrumah led the Casablanca bloc of seven states-Ghana, Libya, Algeria, Mali, Egypt, Morocco and Guinea to canvass for a strong continental government under a political hegemony, with a standing military high command, free trade and common currency.
Tafawa Balewa and Nigeria led the other 25 states in the Monrovia bloc to snub a strong political union for African states. They emphasized the sovereignty of individual states while agreeing on economic, social and cultural cooperation. Majority carried the day as the OAU was birthed as a compromise between the two divergent groups.
DR KAUNDA AND AFRICAN RENAISSANCE
Zambia attained political independence in 1964, about a year after the formation of OAU. Dr. Kaunda was elected her first president. He was of the socialist bent and close ally of Dr. Nkrumah of Ghana and Dr. Nyerere of Tanzania. The trio professed and expressed pan Africanism.
Dr. Kaunda survived all his contemporaries. God blessed him with 97 years.
This writer in company with Ogunleye and Aladeyelu(2 senior Nigerian Public Officials) were privileged to meet with the great African leader in 2018 in his countryhome in Chinsali. We obtained his reflections on the yesterday and today of Africa.
Dr. Kaunda lived a Spartan, quiet life in a bungalow in Chinsali, about 35 minutes drive from Lusaka where his law firm was located. His home was bereft of any ostentation.
Members of a Christian organization come round weekly to clean his house and do household chores. They sang for him favourite melodies during which he became ecstatic and danced with them abandoning his walking stick for some 3 minutes. Fredrick, his first son stayed with him. Dr. Kaunda was a vegetarian.
His heroes were Mahatma Gandhi of India and Nkrumah of Ghana. The former for his non violent approach to political power and the latter for commitment to pan Africanism. Their pictures hung in the living room.
ZAMBIA SHALL BE FREE
He rehearsed with pleasure the stories of his life as autographed in ‘Zambia Shall be Free’.
Dr. Kaunda appreciates the African environment -the land and vegetation,wild life and rivers. He dwelt extensively on River Zambezi and his physical contact with a wild lion in his youthful days and how he managed to escape being devoured by the wild animal.
He was happy that African nationalism yielded freedom for African states but regretted the prevalent level of poverty across Africa.
Dr. Kaunda blamed the stunted growth of Africa on military incursion. Coup de tats ousted the first generation of statesmen in Africa from power within the first two decades of flag independence. Most of them got killed during the putsches while others died in exile after being ousted. He believed that most of the coups were masterminded by imperialism.
He however expressed delight that no African state was under military rule as at 2018.
Dr. Kaunda believed that Africa was the most blessed of all continents but in need of right leadership to translate potentials into prosperity.
He advocated that African states should look more inwards and work harder to achieve growth and sustainable development. He counseled on due circumspection by African states on foreign loans specifically on the pledge of national assets as collateral. He warned on the dangers of recolonisation.
Dr. Kaunda traced African underdevelopment to the inability of African leaders to fully subscribe to strong political union proposed by the Casablanca bloc at the point of take-off of OAU in 1963.
A United States of Africa would have evolved institutional frameworks and mechanisms capable of addressing post colonial challenges of political instability, insurrections like the “Arab Spring”,Terrorism, insurgency, trans border crimes, cross boundary disputes like the brouhaha over the damming of River Nile, the shrinking Lake Chad and the likes. Dr. Kaunda expressed delight at the transmutation of OAU to African Union AU which may mean that the chicken is coming home to roost.
Dr. Kaunda believed that Nigeria was ordained to lead Africa and the black race. He recalled his encounters with Balewa, Azikiwe and Awolowo. He thought that Nigeria should do more by taking his rightful place in Africa.
The optimism of Dr. Kaunda had however been challenged right from Zambia. Syndication of Chinese loans by the Zambian Government in recent years pledging critical national assets as collateral is a case in point.
Nigeria and some other African states appear to have caught the bug. Another are the military take overs in Chad and Mali in 2021.
This writer wonders about the feelings of Dr. Kaunda on these developments. Is Africa returning to recolonisation via debt burden? Is Africa returning to the era of military rule?
ADIEU BABA KAUNDA
The news of the transition of Dr. Kaunda was received with mixed feelings. Of great loss of a great African leader. Of huge gratitude to God for a long life well spent.
May God accept the soul of Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, first president of the Peoples Republic of Zambia.
Dr. Olugbenga P. Faseluka, a lawyer, was formerly Head of Service, Ekiti State Government. He wrote this piece from Abuja.