November 30, 2018
I visited the ‘father of the Zambian nation’ and ‘Gandhi of Africa,’ Dr. Kenneth Kaunda (b. 1924), at his home outside Lusaka. Born to a missionary teacher, Reverend David Kaunda, he started his career as a teacher before getting involved in the struggle for independence from British rule. Later, he founded the Zambian African National Congress, and eventually won independence for his country. In 1964, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda became the first President of independent Zambia and served as Head of the State till 1991.
Saddened by one of his children being claimed by HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, Dr. Kaunda did not hide it out of fear of shame or stigma, but courageously faced the reality of HIV/AIDS and zealously worked in the fight against the spread of the pandemic and considered an Indian contribution in developing low-cost antiretroviral drugs. Indian triple-therapy drug ‘cocktails’ for $350 a year keep HIV-infected patients alive for years. When we met, he got up from his chair and blessed me, reciting the Biblical Prayer, while holding his hand on my head, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with as with a shield.” My eyes welled up with tears and I sent a silent prayer to God to protect him too.