A former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has mourned the demise of the first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, recalling his last moment with him.
Kaunda passed away on Thursday at the age of 97. His death comes days after he was hospitalized at the Marina Solo Military hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was treated for pneumonia.
Reacting to the demise of Kaunda, Obasanjo described his death as a great loss to Zambia and Africa at large.
According to him, the demise of the first Zambian president has brought an end to “the pioneers and forefathers who led the struggles for decolonisation of the African continent and received the instrument of Independence from the colonial masters in Africa.”
Recounting his last moment with the deceased, Obasanjo stated that the last time they met was in December 2015, when he visited him at his home in Lusaka.
According to Obasanjo, they both discussed the struggle of Africa and how far the continent has come since independence. He added that “President Kaunda was visibly pained in his response and at some point he broke down and wept,” upon hearing the challenges that plagued Africa.
The elder statesman made this known in his condolences message.
He also commiserated with the family of the deceased, Zambia and Africa at large, praying that God will give everyone the fortitude to bear the loss.
The statement reads, “As we discussed about everything from family to politics in our two countries and indeed in Africa generally, I asked him if the Africa that we have today is the Africa for which he and his contemporaries struggled and fought.
“President Kaunda was visibly pained in his response and at some point he broke down and wept. It was obvious to me how disappointed he was about some of the challenges that have plagued our continent for decades since independence.
“I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Kaunda family, President Edgar Lungu, and the government and people of the Republic of Zambia.
”The demise of President Kaunda at the grand old age of 97 years brings to end the pioneers and forefathers who led the struggles for decolonisation of the African continent and received the instrument of Independence from the colonial masters in Africa.”
He urged all Africans and friends of Africa to take solace in the knowledge that Kaunda has gone home to a well-deserved rest and to proudly take his place beside his brothers such as Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea, Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, among others.
”All of them, without exception, were nationalists who made sacrifices in diverse ways. Some, like Patrice Lumumba, untimely lost their lives soon after independence. We are consoled that God granted President Kaunda long life to witness the progression of Africa through five decades of proud and not-so proud moments.
”As we mourn President Kaunda, my prayer is that the death of this great African son and leader will remind us of the sacrifices that he and his contemporaries who fought for Africa’s independence made.
”Let it remind us of the vision that they had for Africa; their hopes and aspirations; their dream for a free, strong, united and prosperous Africa. Let us, African leaders and people, never let the labour of these heroes past be in vain. Rest well, KK. Africa is free and will be great,” Obasanjo added.
Kaunda was born on 28 April 1924. He served as the first President of Zambia from October 24, 1964 to November 2, 1991. He was at the forefront of the struggle for independence from British rule. Dissatisfied with Harry Nkumbula’s leadership of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress (NRANC) he broke away and founded the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC), later becoming the head of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). He was the first President of the independent Zambia.
In foreign policy, Kaunda provided logistical help to other African liberation movements, including the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the breakaway Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) of Southern Rhodesia and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.
Kaunda banned the political opposition in 1973. He was forced to reverse this decision in 1991 due to popular pressure provoked by shortages of basic foodstuffs as well as increasing international pressure for greater democracy in Africa.
He fell from power with the advent of multiparty democracy. In 1991, he lost presidential elections to Fredrick Chiluba from the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) after a fiercely contested campaign.