President Hage Geingob has declared seven days of mourning for Zambia’s founding father Kenneth Kaunda who died last week at the age of 97. The seven days of mourning will end on Friday 25 June.
The national flag will be hoisted at half-mast during this period.
Geingob, who described Kaunda as an affable and resolute Pan-Africanist, also said the revered statesman will be remembered for his principled and unwavering support to liberation movements in southern Africa.
The ruling Swapo said Kaunda was profoundly a progressive Pan-Africanist in the true sense of the word, that championed, facilitated and advocated for the total liberation and development of southern Africa in particular and Africa in general.
“For Swapo, Namibia wouldn’t have been where we are right now without Zambia. Then as a frontline state, Zambia was our social and political home, during our struggle against apartheid,” Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa said. Under the leadership of Kaunda, Shaningwa added, the United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) was inaugurated in Lusaka, August 1976, facilitating the education of Namibians in preparation for assuming leadership in an independent Namibia.
“It is for that reason that we owe a great deal to the people of Zambia and to Comrade Kenneth Kaunda in particular. Having left us with an exemplary legacy of leadership, Swapo celebrates the life of a selfless humble Pan-African giant, a hero and statesman,” she said.
Leader of the official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), McHenry Venaani said the late Kaunda was a pioneer of African independence as he was unwavering in his fight against colonialism and oppression.
“It would be remiss of Venaani to not hail the invaluable contributions that Kenneth Kaunda made to the liberation of our motherland, Namibia,” Venaani said.
United in grief
Meanwhile, AFP reports other African leaders have also declared several days of mourning in their respective countries.
South Africa will mourn for 10 days, while Botswana and Tanzania will pay their respects for seven days respectively, 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.
-Additional reporting by Nampa/AFP