Tribute to Dr. KK, from Liberia-West Africa

The death of Zambia’s Dr. Kenneth Kaunda

The death of Zambia’s Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, first President that led the former Northern Rhodesia to independence as the Republic of Zambia and amongst Africa’s Greats, that spearhead the fight against Apartheid at no small cost to his own nation, as one of the Frontline states, has left Liberians in a state of shock and dismay. Liberia was part and parcel of the Anti-Apartheid struggle with all civil servants taxed to contribute to the Liberation Movement through salary deductions. How well we remember it as young professionals at the time, as we were amongst the contributors in the late 60s/early and mid-70s to our nation’s financial contributions to the Struggle.

Fast forward: this Tribute is foremost from two Liberians who served in Kenneth Kaunda’s Zambia as part of the United Nations System development support to that country as well as two other Liberians. Thus, Gabriel Fernadez, UNICEF’s former Programme Officer in Zambia over his period of service, has penned the following Tribute upon the death of Dr. Kaunda

Dr. Kennetth Kaunda, fondly known to all as KK, inspired many of us as a true Pan-Africanist showing what it means to work for human dignity, and being purposeful in improving the lives of others. 

I had a historic opportunity in 2005, when working with UNICEF in Zambia as Chief of Child Protection, to travel as a delegation with KK to South Africa. It was part of the Barclays Miles Ahead project, with KK as patron, which leveraged the private sector's corporate responsibility to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among youth and rehabilitation of youth resource centers in Zambia. 

During that trip, I witnessed KK's warm and genuine humanity where he interacted with all of us, with a humble attention, as if everyone was important to him. Being in Cape Town, we took a boat ride to Robben Island and visited the cells of Nelson Madela and some of his  prison mates. As we looked into the empty cells, I saw in his eyes reflections of memories flashing in his mind of the enormous sacrifice which he had to make for their freedom but also a quiet relief that he had played his part. A reminder to me that succeeding generations will also have to play their part. 

KK will remain in our memories as a great Pan Africanist, who made the World recognize Africa for its humanity, but perhaps more important to me he will be a role model of what it is to live one's conviction.He has fulfilled his destiny, and I can now imagine he has been welcomed by Father God with "thy good and faithful servant".

At the same time, as Head of the UN System in Zambia representing the UN Secretary General for development, I served as UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC) over the period 1998−2004. During that period, I was honored to interact with Dr. Kaunda on several occasions and for some innovative programmes, amongst which the enhancement of the Dag Hammarskjold crash site and introduction of the Dag Hammarskjold Living Memorial (DHLM) initiative. 

Indeed, I was privileged to have had the late Dr. KK prepare the Foreword of my book, The “Growing of Africa’s Emergent Leadership” , which was launched in Zambia in 2014 by his daughter, on behalf of her father, as he fell ill and was hospitalized at the time. Yet another West African, from Ghana, Dr. Kojo Asiedu, played an instrumental role in all of this, as we collaborated with Dr. Kaunda. He remains in Zambia today.

The fact that the Foreword was devoted to producing quality leadership for Africa speaks miles. Thus, we summarized a few extracts from Dr. KK on this subject of Quality Leaders; of continuous engagement on issues of Africa’s Future.

“Whenever a nation has lack of quality, legitimate and just leaders, national deterioration occurs. Quality Leadership is a key to a prosperous and peaceful life and nation. (Myles Munroe, 1993, Becoming A Leader). Again his Foreword continued:

“As I went through the Manuscript, it occurred to me that Africa has generally, perhaps unintentionally neglected the dimension of formal leadership training in our development efforts. I believe our universities, higher institutions and schools will contribute more to the Continent’s development efforts if they taught courses in leadership. This all important subject should not be left to the business ans management schools alone. 

“Effective leadership rather than any other single factor underlies the success of nations and their peoples”. 

This conclusion of Dr. KK on leadership is of relevance to Africa generally today and to our own country, Liberia, in particular. At the same time, other Liberians such as Togbah-Nah Tipoteh, leader of the Movement for Justice in Africa’s (MOJA) work was inspired by Dr. KK and sends his deepest condolences, while Miatta Fahnbulleh, daughter of the late Amb. Fahnbulleh, Liberia’s Ambassador to Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, (based in Kenya) at the time, also sends deepest condolences as she remembers the significance of Dr. KK in her father’s life.

In ending this Tribute from West African, we say “fare thee well” Dr. KK and “thank you plenty” in our Liberian “colloqua” for what you did for not only Zambia; but for Africa, amongst the Continent’s foremost Pan Africanist; and for us at our individuals and personal levels, for your inspiration that has contributed in no mean way to what we are today. You have gone to join the Ancestors but part of you will forever remain in our hearts, and influence our contribution to the African Continent and it peoples

May God rest your soul and may perpetual light shine on it.

With deepest sympathy to the Family, friends and Government and People of Zambia.

Olubanke King Akerele 

Former UN Resident Coordinator


Dr. Gabriel Fernadez

Former Programme Officer


Togba Nah Tipoteh

Leader, Movement for Justice in Africa


Miatta Fahnbulleh

Social Activist; 

Educator- Obaa’s Girls &

Daughter of former Liberian Ambassador to Zambia