The African continent has lost one of its most dignified leaders with the death of Kenneth Kaunda. He died on 17 June at the age of 97. Known affectionately as KK, the former president of Zambia fought colonialism and led his country to independence in 1964.
Circa January 1963: From left, Joshua Nkomo of the banned Zapu party of Southern Rhodesia and Kenneth Kaunda attend an event in Zomba in then Nyasaland, later Malawi. (Photograph by Central Press/ Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)
Kaunda was a passionate supporter of the ANC and hosted a number of its exiled leaders, including Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, in Lusaka. He opened his country and heart to liberation movements across southern Africa and was a vocal critic of the apartheid regime, for which his country paid a sigificant price, including attacks by the Rhodesian Air Force in 1979 and the South African Air Force in 1986.
Left: 2 June 1989: Kenneth Kaunda is welcomed by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba. (Photograph by Rafael Perez/ AFP Photo). Right: 2 June 1998: Kenneth Kaunda introduces his next song to well-wishers at his Lusaka home after a judge dismissed charges related to the 1997 coup attempt against him. (Photograph by Odd Andersen/ AFP). Left: Circa 1964: From left, an unknown man with human rights activist Malcolm X and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda in Harlem, New York. (Photograph by Three Lions/ Hulton Archive/ Getty Images). Right: 22 March 1983: Queen Elizabeth II with President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia at Victoria Station in London, England, during his state visit. (Photograph by Keystone/ Getty Images)
Kaunda invested heavily in education and, after his son died of Aids in 1986, became a leading voice in the struggle against the disease.
Aside from his trademark white handkerchief, Kaunda was known to be a passionate musician and would often grab a guitar and treat visitors to an impromptu concert. He went from anti-colonial activist to founding father of Zambia and internationally respected pan-Africanist to authoritarian leader, turning Zambia into a one-party state.
16 March 1964: Kenneth Kaunda, while still the prime minister of a newly independent Northern Rhodesia, inspects the police at their training barracks near Lusaka. (Photograph by Central Press/ Getty Images) 22 December 1967: From left, Grégoire Kayibanda, Jean Bokassa, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta, Ismael al-Azhari and Mobutu Sese Seko in Kampala, Uganda. Kenneth Kaunda is in the back row, centre. (Photograph by Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)
He retired to a modest home in Lusaka, where he would make tea personally for visitors. His death is mourned across the continent because of his pan-Africanism, his personal warmth and his willingness to allow a peaceful transition when he was ousted from power in 1991.
Left: Circa 1986: Kenneth Kaunda started his career in politics in the early 1950s working for the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress. He was Zambian president from 1964 until 1991. (Photograph by Peter Turnley/ Corbis/ VCG via Getty Images). 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE A.N.C (Photo by Patrick Durand/Sygma via Getty Images)
Circa 1989: From left, State President FW de Klerk, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pik Botha and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda during the latter’s visit to South Africa. (Photograph by Beeld via Gallo) SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 11: Nelson Mandela with Kenneth Kaunda and Oliver Tambo on July 11, 2008. (Photo by Daily Dispatch/Avusa Media Ltd/Gallo Images via Getty Images) A photo taken on June 2, 1989 shows Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda (L) welcome by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba. AFP PHOTO / RAFAEL PEREZ (Photo by RAFAEL PEREZ / AFP) Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda introduces his next song to wellwishers who visited him on his first day of freedom in his Lusaka home 02 June. Kaunda was released from custody yesterday, after a judge dismissed charges of concealing advance knowledge of a coup d’etat bid last October. Kaunda said that playing spiritual songs was his greatest joy during his time under house arrest. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN / AFP) Former Zambian President Dr Kenneth Kaunda plays the guitar in front of the the Orphans and Vulnerable Children attending a National Workshop in Lusaka on November 10, 2000. Kaunda said the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has cast a darkess over Africa, and sharply criticised African leaders for doing little so far to combat the crisis in Zambia. JN/ – RP2DRHZLDLAA 14 September 2019: Kenneth Kaunda attends the funeral of former president Robert Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photograph by Wilfred Kajese/ Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) This article was first published by . New Frame