Kenneth Kaunda

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Kenneth Kaunda bigraphy, stories - First President of Zambia

Kenneth Kaunda : biography

28 April 1924 –

Kenneth David Kaunda (born 28 April 1924), also known as KK, served as the first President of Zambia, from 1964 to 1991.

Kaunda is the youngest of eight children born to an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher. He followed his father’s steps in becoming a teacher.

He was at the forefront of the struggle for independence from European rule. Dissatisfied with Nkumbula’s leadership of the African National Congress, he broke away and founded the Zambian African National Congress, later becoming the head of the United National Independence Party. He was the first President of the independent Zambia.

From 1968, all political parties except UNIP were banned. At the same time, Kaunda oversaw the acquisition of majority stakes in key foreign-owned companies. The oil crisis of 1973 and a slump in export revenues put Zambia in a state of economic crisis.

Kaunda’s logistical support for black nationalist movements in Rhodesia, South West Africa, Angola and Mozambique, aggravated economic problems. His vocal backing of these movements further burdened Zambia, since these countries were the country’s main trading partners.

International pressure forced Kaunda to change the rules that had kept him in power. Multi-party elections took place in 1991, in which Frederick Chiluba, the leader of the Movement for Multiple Democracy, ousted Kaunda.

Kaunda was briefly stripped of Zambian citizenship in 1999 but the decision was overturned the following year.

Independence struggle

In April 1949, Kaunda returned to Lubwa to become a part-time teacher, but resigned in 1951. In that year he became Organising Secretary of Northern Province’s Northern Rhodesian African National Congress. On 11 November 1953 he moved to Lusaka to take up the post of Secretary General of the ANC, under the presidency of Harry Nkumbula. The combined efforts of Kaunda and Nkumbula failed to mobilise native African peoples against the European-dominated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In 1955 Kaunda and Nkumbula were imprisoned for two months with hard labour for distributing subversive literature; such imprisonment and other forms of harassment were normal rites of passage for African nationalist leaders. The experience of imprisonment had a radicalising impact on Kaunda. The two leaders drifted apart as Nkumbula became increasingly influenced by white liberals and was seen as being willing to compromise on the issue of black majority rule, waiting until most of the indigenous population was responsibly educated before extending the franchise. The franchise was to be determined by existing property and literacy qualifications, dropping race altogether. Nkumbula’s allegedly autocratic leadership of the ANC eventually resulted in a split. Kaunda broke from the ANC and formed the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958. ZANC was banned in March 1959. In June Kaunda was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, which he spent first in Lusaka, then in Salisbury.

Educational policies

At the time of its independence, Zambia’s modernisation process was far from complete. It had just 109 university graduates and less than 0.5% of the population was estimated to have completed primary education. The nation’s educational system was one of the most poorly developed in all of Britain’s former colonies. Because of this, Zambia had to invest heavily in education at all levels.An Introduction to African Politics by Alex Thomson. Kaunda instituted a policy where all children, irrespective of their parents’ ability to pay, were given free exercise books, pens and pencils. The parents’ main responsibility was to buy uniforms, pay a token "school fee" and ensure that the children attended school. This approach meant that the best pupils were promoted to achieve their best results, all the way from primary school to university level. Not every child could go to secondary school, for example, but those who did were well educated.

The University of Zambia was opened in Lusaka in 1966, after Zambians all over the country had been encouraged to donate whatever they could afford towards its construction. Kaunda was appointed Chancellor and officiated at the first graduation ceremony in 1969. The main campus was situated on the Great East Road, while the medical campus was located at Ridgeway near the University Teaching Hospital. In 1979 another campus was established at the Zambia Institute of Technology in Kitwe. In 1988 the Kitwe campus was upgraded and renamed the Copperbelt University, offering business studies, industrial studies and environmental studies.