African leaders pay tribute to Kenneth Kaunda, the last of a generation of ‘philosopher kings’

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Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi pays his last respects to the late former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda during his state memorial service in Lusaka on Friday.
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi pays his last respects to the late former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda during his state memorial service in Lusaka on Friday.
AFP
  • Leaders from southern Africa celebrated Kenneth Kaunda's role in the Frontline States.
  • Namibia and Zimbabwe's presidents recalled their time in exile in Zambia.
  • Kaunda's role in founding SADC and the African Union was also lauded.

Zambian independence leader Kenneth Kaunda's state funeral on Friday served as a reminder of Africa's liberation movements-turned-political parties.

Zambians bid farewell to Kaunda in a socially distanced ceremony at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka. Kaunda died on 17 June, aged 97.

Leaders from across Africa gathered, wearing masks and sitting with at least one empty seat between them, each paying tribute to a leader to whom many said they owed their national independence.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (L) speaks
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks with Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa during Kenneth Kaunda's memorial.

Kaunda was the last surviving leader of the Frontline States, a group of independent African nations which opposed the apartheid regime from 1970. 

Along with Zambia, they included Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Tanzania.

The Frontline States also opposed the regime of Ian Smith in what was then Rhodesia. After independence, Zimbabwe also joined the group.

OBITUARY | Kenneth 'KK' Kaunda: One of the last of a generation of African liberation leaders

Describing Kaunda as the father of independence in southern Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude to Zambia for its role in the Frontline States.

Ramaphosa said:

Dr Kenneth Kaunda was a loyal friend to the people of South Africa. He stood by us during our long and bitter struggle against the oppressive apartheid government," said President Cyril Ramaphosa. "Zambia provided us with the material and moral support and gave refuge to our leaders and those who had been forced into exile.

"All over Africa, the late president Kaunda was a torchbearer for freedom," said Zimbabwe's president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who studied in Zambia. He added:

The history of Zimbabwe will never be complete without contributions made by the late president Kaunda and the great people of Zambia for our independence in Zimbabwe.

Namibia's president, Hage Geingob, recalled a list of several members of his Cabinet who were educated in Zambia while in exile.

"I was a young freedom fighter, but President Kaunda welcomed me," said Geingob, recalling that Zambia was home to a UN-backed institute that trained Namibia's future government ministers.

Mozambique's president, Filipe Nyusi, described Kaunda as the "ambassador of the oppressed", who used his position to lobby for the region's political freedom on the international stage.

Nyusi paid tribute to Kaunda as one of the founding members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

ANALYSIS | Kenneth Kaunda: A complicated legacy

The chairperson of the African Union (AU) commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, also paid tribute to Kaunda as one of the founding members of the body that would become the AU.

Today, we are marking what is truly the end of an era on our continent - the passing of President Kenneth Kaunda - the last of the great freedom fighters, philosopher kings, and independence leaders of Africa - has departed.

Kaunda will be buried in a private ceremony on 7 July.

- The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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