from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE deceased former president of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, will down in the annals of history as a champion of regional integration.
That is the unanimous sentiment of international leaders as the world comes to terms with the passing on of one of the most renowned political figures to emerge from the African continent.
Condolences continue to pour in for the Southern African country’s founding president, who died from pneumonia last Thursday, aged 97.
He played a prominent role in the formation of the intergovernmental organisation (IGO) in the continent and beyond.
Among the organisations he contributed to their formation is the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states.
Patricia Scotland, the grouping’s Secretary-General, praised Kaunda as a great African statesman and Commonwealth leader whose legacy of fostering unity, equality, peace and human dignity would endure.
“His contribution towards building the modern Commonwealth is one of his enduring legacies,” she said.
Scotland recalled that Kaunda hosted the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which saw the adoption of the Lusaka Declaration of the Commonwealth on Racism and Racial Prejudice.
This was a reaffirmation of the Commonwealth commitment to fighting inequality and racial prejudice.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) lauded Kaunda for his contribution to the formation of its precursor, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC).
SADCC was a culmination of a memorandum of understanding on common economic development signed in Lusaka, Zambia, on April 1, 1980.
Dr Stergomena Tax, SADC executive secretary, said that and the liberation of Southern Africa and the entire continent will always be appreciated.
“His Excellency Kenneth Kaunda will forever remain in our hearts as a great Pan-Africanist who played a critical role in the liberation struggles of Southern Africa and one of the founders of SADC,” Stergomena said.
Kaunda also played a key role in the establishment of regional economic communities, including the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA).
“Dr Kaunda was one of the great sons of the continent whose contribution to the liberation of Africa and enhancement of regional integration is immeasurable,” Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, COMESA Secretary General, said.
COMESA, which in 1994 replaced a Preferential Trade Area which had existed since 1981, is headquartered in Lusaka.
“Our region will forever remember Dr Kaunda for his visionary leadership that firmly believed that economic independence of African States can only be achieved and sustained through unity, peace and self-reliance,” Kapwepwe said.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, echoed the sentiments.
“His (Kaunda’s) championing of the Frontline States to defeat Apartheid and white minority rule in Southern Africa laid the foundation for what we call regional integration today,” Mahamat stated.
Kaunda was one of the “founding fathers” of the Organisation of AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.
Coumba Mar Gadio, the United Nations’ (UN’s) top envoy in Zambia, paid tribute to the deceased statesman.
“The United Nations notes Dr Kaunda’s contributions to the liberation struggle in Africa that led to political independence in many countries, and his generous support to thousands of refugees escaping conflict in their own land,” Gadio said.
Among his legacies the UN remembers is Kaunda’s decades-long support to the fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic at a time when it was stigmatised.
“His unwavering and high-level leadership helped break down taboos and stigma, and undoubtedly saved many lives,” Gadio said.
In Zimbabwe, the iconic Kenneth Kaunda Avenue is named after the now-late Zambia leader. From Friday, Zimbabwe was observing three days of mourning and prayer.
The Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality is one of four districts of the North West province of South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa declared ten days of mourning.
– CAJ News