9 Major Achievements of Kenneth Kaunda
Commonly known in Zambia as KK, Kenneth Kaunda was the first president of an independent Zambia from 1964 to 1991. He was elected (on the ticket of United National Independence Party) to that office after his decade-long fight for independence for Zambia.
In his early years as president, he gently placed his country to act as a barrier between predominantly white-minority ruled Southern African countries and those independent black southern countries. As a result of a fall in world price of copper, which was Zambia’s chief export commodity, the Kaunda administration struggled to maintain a certain level of investment in social infrastructures. President Kaunda also had to deal with the economic fallout that resulted from the sanctions he had placed on the white-minority Rhodesian (Zimbabwe) government in the 1970s.
Beginning around the 1970s, the deteriorating Zambian economy, coupled with tribal and inter-party conflicts, caused President Kaunda to take a radical decision by turning Zambia into a one-party state. The ensuing pressure, both domestic and international, forced him to hold multi-party elections in 1991.
President Kaunda and his UNIP suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of Frederick Chiluba, the head of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). After close to three decades in power, President Kaunda peacefully and voluntarily handed over power to a new government.
Here’s all you need to know about the life and accomplishments of Kenneth Kaunda:
Kenneth Kaunda: Fast Facts
Born: Kennett David Kaunda
Birthday: April 28, 1924
Place of birth: Chinasli, Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia)
Death: June 17, 2021
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Parents: Reverend David Kaunda and Helen Kaunda
Wife: Betty Kaunda (1946-2012)
Children: 8, including Tilyenji Kaunda, Wezi Kaunda
Political party: African National Congress (ANU), United National Independence Party (UNIP)
Succeeded by: Frederick Chiluba
Most known for: Peacefully handing over power to a new government in 1991
Nicknames: “African Gandhi” or “Gandhi of Africa”
Achievements of Kenneth Kaunda
Here’s all you need to know about the major achievements of Kenneth Kaunda (1924-2021):
Organizing Secretary of Northern Rhodesian African National Congress
After resigning his position at a school in Lubwa, he became a senior interpreter to Sir Stewart Gore-Browne – a liberal white settler and member of the Northern Rhodesian Legislative Council.
The early 1950s saw Kaunda make an entry into the political arena as he was involved in the founding of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress (ANC). The political party was the first leading pro-independence organization in Northern Rhodesia.
As secretary general of the party’s Northern Province, Kenneth Kaunda was in effect the second in command to ANC president Harry Nkumbula. Between 1953 and 1958, he worked very hard to advance the party’s goal securing independence for Zambia. He gained invaluable political skills that proved extremely useful in later political career.
On many occasions, Kaunda and Nkumbula were imprisoned for what the colonial authorities described as subversive acts. However, none of those intimidation techniques could deter the resolute minds of Kaunda and many Rhodesia ANC leaders.
Established the Zambian African National Congress
After about four years working diligently with ANC president Harry Nkumbula, Kenneth Kaunda split ways with the ANC, citing Nkumbula’s lackadaisical attitude in whipping up support from native Africans in the country.
After the split in 1958, Kaunda established his own political party called the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC). No sooner had the party been founded than did the colonial government place a ban on it. The ZANC was accused of using militant policy against colonial rule. Kaunda’s strong opposition to proposals to form a federation of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland also incurred the wrath of the authorities.
He reasoned that such moves would place power firmly in the hands of white minority settlers in the region. For his protests, the authorities imprisoned him for close to a year.
Organized a civil disobedience campaign called Cha-cha-cha campaign
Following the ban on ZANC, a new pro-independence party called the United National Independence Party (UNIP) emerged in October, 1959. Originally founded by pro-independence campaigner and militant nationalist Mainza Chona, the UNIP served as the successor organization to the ZANC.
After spending about nine months in prison, Kaunda and other released political prisoners were given a hero’s welcome. He picked off from where he left and continued to call on Britain to grant his country independence.
In his new position as the president of the UNIP, he organized a series of nonviolent protests (“positive nonviolent action”) as he was heavily inspired by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Nicknamed Cha-cha-cha, the campaign witnessed a number of arson incidents and other flash points of violence. Kaunda’s goal was to cripple the transportation system in the Northern Province. His “positive nonviolent action” was so impactful that it caused the colonial authorities to scrap off plans for the federation.
A dominant figure in Zambia’s struggle for independence
By 1960, Kenneth Kaunda had amassed a huge following among Africans in Northern Rhodesia. He was invited in December 1960 to participate in discussions in a London about issues pertaining to the status of the colonies. Kind courtesy to his hard-fought campaign, Britain announced in 1961 that it had commenced the process to decolonize Zambia.
Helped UNIP win big in the 1962 and 1964 elections
As the leader of UNIP, Kaunda went into the first major National Assembly elections (in 1962) with a lot of confidence. He steered his party to clinch a second position as they won 14 out of 45 seats in the parliamentary body. He collaborated with the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress to form a government.
As an influential member of the governing coalition, he sought to assuage white minority’s fears that their assets and lands would be seized. Kaunda also rolled out policies that tried to reduce the growing factionalism within the African population.
First president of Zambia
Two years later, in 1964, Kaunda led the UNIP to a landslide victory by winning 55 of the 75 seats in parliament. With a comfortable parliamentary majority, Kaunda remained focus on securing Zambia’s independence. That dream was finally realized on October 24, 1964, when Zambia became independent. Thus, Kaunda went on to become the first president of Zambia. He was assisted by Reuben Kamanga as vice president.
Four years later, in 1968, he was re-elected, winning 82% of the votes. His UNIP won 81 of the 105 seats in the National Assembly.
Invested heavily into Zambia’s educational infrastructure
Beginning his presidential tenure in 1964, Kaunda had to grapple with the country’s poorly developed educational infrastructure. As at the mid-1960s, it was estimated that the country had just around 110 university graduates. More depressing was the fact that less than 1% of Zambia’s population had completed primary education.
Seeking to turn around the misfortunes in the country’s educational sector, President Kaunda quickly pumped enormous amount of resources into the sector. He provided free school supplies for children in primary schools. He also cracked the whip on families that failed to send their children to school.
In 1966, he used monies solicited from across the nation to establish the University of Zambia in the capital Lusaka. For his efforts, the university’s board appointed him chancellor. His administration also set up a number of vocational schools, including the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and commerce, the Northern Technical College at Ndola, and the Natural Resources Development College in Lusaka.
Implemented a host of reforms
In his first few years as president of Zambia, Kaunda revisited a number of trade and mining contracts signed during the colonial years. After threatening to nationalize the British South Africa Company, he was able to get a beneficial concession deal with the company’s executives.
He also set up the National Commission for Development Planning to tackle Zambia’s acute developmental needs. The commission presented a series of development plan that would steer Zambia for almost a decade. It created a stable environment that attracted huge investments into the country’s road infrastructure and mining sector.
Fought against white minority rule in many southern African nations
As president, Kaunda was always openly critical of white minority rule that was so prevalent in southern Africa by then. He went as far as impose economic sanctions against Rhodesia in the 1970s, although such moves affected Zambia a lot.
He allowed Zambia to host several black nationalist movements and guerrilla fighters from black majority countries fighting for independence. He was also quick to criticise atrocities committed by the apartheid government in South Africa. Similarly, he raised considerable awareness to the plight of Africans in South West Africa (now Namibia), Angola and Mozambique. Often times he acted as a mediator to conflicts in those regions.
It was not uncommon for Kaunda to welcome many officials from Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the African National Congress, including ANC president Oliver Tambo.