Kenneth Kaunda Biography


Birthday: April 28, 1924 (Taurus)

Born In: Chinsali, Awemba North, Northern Rhodesia

Kenneth Kaunda served as the first President of independent Zambia (1964-1991). He played a leading role in Zambia’s independence movement. During his presidency, Kaunda (nicknamed KK), often served as a buffer between the states in southern Africa that were predominately white and the independent states in the north that were predominately black. In an effort to move the territory towards independence from the British rule, he made a bold move by breaking away from the African National Congress (ANC). After his departure, he founded the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC). The ZANC’s mission was to promote the rights of black people, but after the upsurge of civil disobedience, the party was banned. After his departure from the African National Congress and banning of the ZANC, Kaunda became the head of the United National Independence Party. A charismatic-leader, Kaunda, as the President of Zambia, was initially revered by the citizens, but overtime, these very citizens became disenchanted by his policies. After serving as the president for more than two decades, he voluntarily stepped down from office.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: KK, Kenneth David Kaunda, Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda

Died At Age: 97


Spouse/Ex-: Betty Kaunda

father: Reverend David Kaunda

mother: Helen Kaunda

children: Tilyenji Kaunda, Wezi Kaunda

Born Country: Zambia

Presidents Black Leaders

Died on: June 17, 2021

place of death: Lusaka, Zambia

Founder/Co-Founder: United National Independence Party

More Facts

education: Munali Secondary School

Childhood & Early Life

Kenneth David Kaunda was born on April 28, 1924, at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He was the youngest of eight children. His father was a teacher and a minister, while his mother was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia.

He attended the Munali Training Centre from 1941-1943. The training center was located in Lusaka.

After completion of his studies at the Training Centre, he taught at the Upper Primary School in Lubwa in 1943. He was also the headmaster at the school from 1944 to 1947.

After he left the school in Lubwa, he founded the farmers’ cooperative in a copper mining area. He also became a mine welfare officer in 1948.

He couldn’t stay away from teaching and from 1948-1949, he served as the headmaster at Mufulira Upper School.

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Kaunda helped establish the African National Congress (ANC), the first key anti-colonial establishment organization in Northern Rhodesia. He served under ANC president Harry Nkumbula, from 1953-1958 as the group’s secretary general.

In 1958, he became disenchanted with Nkumbula's policies and left the African National Congress to establish the Zambia African National Union. His party was banned in 1959, after upsurge in civil disobedience. This resulted in Kaunda spending nine months in jail.

After he was released in 1960, he became the president of the new United National Independence Party (UNIP). Two years later, he was elected to the Legislative Council.

In 1960, he visited Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., he went on to establish a civil disobedience campaign, known as the Cha-cha-cha campaign. The participants in this campaign engaged in arson and blocking major roadways.

In October 1964, Zambia won its independence and Kaunda became the first president.
His charisma and intolerance for dissent helped him to remain in power but slowly and gradually, it turned out to be his downfall.

In 1991, under pressure to create multiparty politics, he stepped down from the presidency. Movement for Multiparty Democracy won the election with Frederick Chiluba as the president.

He retired from politics after being accused of being involved in a failed coup attempt in 1997.
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Major Works

To improve the education levels in his country, Kaunda implemented a policy that provided children with free school supplies, such as pens, pencils, and exercise books. Children were given these supplies regardless of their parents’ financial condition.

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In 1966, the University of Zambia was set up and Kaunda was appointed its Chancellor. He also officiated the first graduation ceremony in 1969.

In 1968, he introduced the Mulungushi Reforms, in which he planned to acquire a majority share in foreign-owned firms in order to boost the economy. He managed to acquire shares in the Anglo American Corporation and the Rhodesia Selection Trust, consolidated the two companies, and called the new company Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines (NCCM).

In 1983, NCCM and Roan Consolidated Mines merged and became the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Ltd (ZCCM).

In 1964, during the Lumpa Crisis, Kaunda banned the Lumpa Church, creating animosity among the church and the UNIP. Kaunda was never able to fully mitigate the animosity.

After his retirement from politics, Kaunda worked towards fighting HIV/AIDS.

Awards & Achievements

Kenneth Kaunda was an ‘African President-in-Residence’ at the African Presidential Archives and Research Center, Boston University, from 2002 to 2004.

He received the National Heritage Council, Ubuntu Award, 2007
He was recognized as a Roving Ambassador by President Michael Sata
Personal Life, Legacy & Death

In 1946, Kenneth Kaunda married Beatrice Kaweche Banda. They had eight children. They remained married until her death in 2012.

An avid ballroom Dancer, he was spotted in the audience of Dancing with the Stars.

Kenneth Kaunda used to wear a safari suit which is still referred to as a "Kaunda suit" in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenneth Kaunda died on June 17, 2021, after a short illness. He was 97. 

In the 1980s, one of this former Zambian President’s children died from HIV/AIDS.
President Chiluba attempted to deport Kaunda on the grounds that he was not Zambian, but a Malawian.
In 1999, he was declared stateless by the Ndola High Court. He challenged this decision and in 2000 was declared a Zambian citizen.

He was one of the speakers providing eulogies at Nelson Mandela's funeral. When he went over the allotted time, organizers tried to get him to step away from the podium. But, being his charming self, he had the crowd laughing when he said that the organizers were “trying to control an old man who fought the Boers"

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