The END OF AN ERA – A Tribute To Dr Kenneth Kaunda

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By Andrew Nyathi

“He was a rare human being and self-effacing African patriot who leaves behind a legacy of exemplary leadership, which should serve as a benchmark for all of the continent’s leaders.” Thabo Mbeki Foundation.

While the world – Africa and Zambia in particular, are gripped by a heart wrenching loss of one
of Africa’s greatest, many of us who remain in the trenches of political ideological warfare
mourn the death or perhaps a stillborn African political ideology pursued selflessly by none
other than the Kaundas, the Nyereres and the Nkrumahs.

It is stillborn because the Africa they conceived, and selflessly shared remains a mere dream, the figment of our imagination. It is for that sole reason, the sore fact that the Africa we desire continues to elude us that we mourn.

The rarity of Dr Kenneth Kaunda manifests itself in his and his compatriots’ selfless quest for the
unfettered independence of the African continent in all its facets.

In Kaunda, Nyerere, Nkrumah and many of their breed’s imaginations, the mere shift of political power from the proponents of imperialism and apartheid to the Africans was defective.

It ignored the true essence of why for a time immemorial man has fought bloody wars in defiance of the sanctity of life – the unfettered control of resources. Merely sitting in the citadels of power and making policy
decisions over resources we had no absolute control over was romanticized independence, a

The rarity of Kaunda is further manifested in his pursuit for a united Zambia (One Zambia, One Nation) and his pan-African agenda. He perceived himself not only as a leader of a small and weak nation of Zambia but an African and global citizen.

In his purview, the struggles for independence were merely a means to an end and not an end to itself. His generation’s vision went beyond the liberation of the homogenic states from the vices of colonialism.

At the inception of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union), the louder voice was one that demanded the absolute unification of the African continent. They argued that for as long as Africa remained fragmented, it will perpetually be susceptible to exploitation through neo-colonialism.

While this quest failed, with the majority of leaders egotistically opting to sustain the sovereignty of independent states, over the last two decades Kaunda and his compatriots have been vindicated by the acceleration of neo-colonialism and the inability of the weak states to respond effectively to it. However, what gives us hope is a rising voice that seeks to revive the inclusive African agenda and redefine her dream.

Kaunda was a true embodiment of hope, integrity, ethical leadership, and love, the last of the generation. These are rare traits that are deficient in many of our leaders, alive and departed alike, hence we are caught in an intensifying economic quagmire where everyday millions are being driven into dire poverty, child mortality rises, gender- based violence intensifies and diseases ravage our societies with no responsive mechanism in place.

Decades after independence, those that hold the reins of power legitimately or otherwise, continue to absolve
themselves from responsibility for the prevailing crisis. We continue to abdicate such responsibility to the colonial masters, a grossly selfish gesture. One of the lessons that we can derive from Kaunda’s education, health and economic programmes is that it possible for Africa to disentangle herself from retrogressive self-inflicted tendencies and begin to usher the continent towards sustainability and prosperity.

Ours has been an intergeneration crisis of leadership, exacerbated by moral decay, self-interest, and covetousness. We have pursued self-gratification to the detriment of those that we professed to serve. Eroded is the spirit of servitude and humanism.

Today, institutions of government are used to manage and control the masses. The irony of our crisis lies not only in
our inability to challenge the status quo but also in the fact that the masses are made to fear governments yet every five years we join the league of nations in exercising what is deemed our constitutional right- the right to vote. However, even those elections are marred by violence, rigging and unfairness thus reaffirming DR. Kaunda’s view that “The power which establishes the state is violence; the power which maintains it is violence and the power which eventually overthrows it is violence.”

Violence remains the modus operandi of politics for many African states. In contrast, despite all criticism, KK peacefully relinquished power to the opposition, an act that many, particularly revolutionary parties find it difficult to do. There is a sense of entitlement to hold on to power and selfishly benefit from national resources at whatever cost, including squandering them, which is derived from having participated in the liberation
struggle. Kaunda was indeed a rare breed.

Attempts by his successor Chiluba to discredit Kaunda by stripping him of his citizenship failed when the Supreme court of Zambia overturned a High Court judgment. To-date Kaunda remains one of the few statesmen who have presided over a country and yet without corruption allegations hanging over his head. However, the same cannot be said about many in government across the continent. The cancerous and cataclysmic scourge of corruption
continues to cripple our economies.

Sadly, it has sunk its fangs so deeply into our societies thus becoming an intergenerational curse. The absence of leadership role-models creates an unnerving sense of hopelessness especially where the young have also joined the bandwagon of corruption and get-rich-quickly schemes conscious that no consequences whatsoever existed.
Surely integrity is a rare phenomenon and unless we that remain in the trenches of politics cultivate and embrace the standards set by our forebearers such as Kaunda, Africa will continue to gravitate towards doom and gloom.

Unless we take deliberate steps to emulate those of our predecessors who have proved to be a true personification of love and ethical leadership, Africa besides the abundance of her natural resources, will continue to be placed in the class of so-called underdeveloped and developing nations. Love pervades all forms of inhumanity and unless we love those that we lead, their debilitating plight will not trouble our consciences. We will as leaders continue to shamelessly derive joy in seeing the majority of our people scavenging for the crumbs falling off the dinner
table of the privileged; we will continue to view politics as a career through which one can amass quick wealth and will continue to advance such policies and programs that serve our exclusive interests.

As Dr Kenneth Kaunda takes a well-deserved rest and joins his compatriots such as Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Habib Bourguiba, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela … and many more, we must be reminded that every end of era marks a new beginning. The present leadership has demonstrated its inability to build sustainable livelihoods for all and sundry, and their non-commitment to servitude. A new generation of visionary and ethical leadership must be born.

Ours must not be a mere attempt to reincarnate the Kaundas but the perfection of the imperfections of their era, and the correction of the not-so-proud moments that the continent has endured in over five decades.

Africa deserves better and better is possible. Rest in peace KK