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.
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.
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.
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.
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