Africa honours Zambia’s Kaunda with days of mourning
African leaders paid tribute Friday to Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda who died at the age of 97, declaring several days of mourning in their respective countries.
frican leaders paid tribute Friday to Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda who died at the age of 97, declaring several days of mourning in their respective countries.
While in power, Kaunda hosted many of the movements fighting for independence or black equality in other countries around the continent — sometimes at a heavy cost.
In appreciation of his contribution to their various struggles, some of those countries announced varying periods of mourning and lowered their national flags to half-mast.
South Africa will mourn for 10 days, while Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania will pay their respects for seven, their presidents announced. Zimbabwe will mourn over three days.
South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa described Kaunda as a “rightfully revered father of African independence and unity”.
“Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth,” Ramaphosa said.
“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. We will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude”, Ramaphosa added.
Kaunda ruled Zambia for 27 years, taking the helm after the country gained independence from Britain in October 1964.
Funeral plans are still to be announced, but his native country is observing 21 days of national mourning, with flags flying at half-mast and all entertainment banned.
“For our founding father, it was not enough for his country Zambia to be liberated when the region and the African continent remained bonded in the shackles of colonialism and apartheid,” President Edgar Lungu told mourners at Kaunda’s house in Lusaka on Friday.
“He soldiered on to seek freedom for humanity,” Lungu said.
In retirement, Kaunda became a respected voice of experience on the continent, from mediating in conflicts to his anti-AIDS campaign after the disease had killed one of his own sons.
“He was brave, compassionate and tireless in confronting HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” said UNAIDS executive director, Winnie Byanyima.