Kaunda, Kenneth David

Kaunda, Kenneth David kounˈdə [key], 1924–2021, African political leader, president of Zambia (1964–91), b. Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). A teacher and welfare officer, Kaunda opposed the formation (1953) of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. His party was banned (1959), and Kaunda imprisoned, but in 1960 he was released and became head of the new United National Independence party. In 1962 he rejected a constitution proposed by Great Britain for Northern Rhodesia, charging that it would perpetuate white supremacy. Nevertheless, he took part in elections that October, and after winning a parliamentary seat, formed a coalition government. He achieved dissolution of the federation in 1963.

In 1964, Zambia became independent with Kaunda as president. In 1969, he nationalized Zambia's copper mines. Faced with increasing ethnic dissension, Kaunda established a one-party state in 1972. In foreign affairs Kaunda played a central role in opposing white-supremacist governments in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa, and South-West Africa (now Namibia), despite the attacks and hardships these policies caused Zambia. Kaunda was elected to his fifth consecutive term in 1988, but in 1990 he was forced to restore a multiparty system. He was overwhelmed in a 1991 election by Frederick Chiluba.

Out of office, he carried on a politial feud with Chiluba, whose government repeatedly arrested him. Kaunda became head of the main opposition party in 1995, but a constitutional amendment banned him from running in the 1996 presidential election, and in 2000 he retired from political life. He wrote several books, including Black Government (with C. M. Morris, 1960) and the autobiographical Zambia Shall Be Free (1962).

See biography by F. T. Polatnick and A. L. Saletan (1972); R. Gulhati, Impasse in Zambia (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Southern African History: Biographies