Aided by a walking stick, Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda struggled up the steps of Kamuzu Mausoleum in Lilongwe to lay a wreath and then utter a prayer on the grave of Malawi’s founding president, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
Banda died on November 25 1997 having ruled Malawi as a one-party State for 31 years after earlier leading the fight for independence and in between, he forged close ties with Kaunda as both nations negotiated the perils of new statehood.
“He led his people well. Let him sleep in eternal peace,” Kaunda-spotting a black suit-prayed after laying a wreath on the grave.
At 90, Kaunda lacks the physical energy of old, but his political genius was still on display on Friday as he blessed and prayed for the mausoleum’s caretakers with a wave of his trademark white handkerchief.
“My coming here is to recognise the work the late Kamuzu did for Malawi and for Africa as a whole. We believe that his soul is resting in peace at the feet of the Lord God Almighty,” said Kaunda in an interview as he descended down the mausoleum’s steps.
Kaunda-who is on a private visit to Malawi to attend the wedding of a granddaughter of another former Zambian president, Rupiah Banda-said he paid the homage to demonstrate that he and Kamuzu enjoyed a great friendship.
“He was a great friend and great leader,” he said.
On his thoughts on the progress the continent has made following the Pan-African Movement of mid last century, Kaunda said he was satisfied that Africa was moving forward, even though poverty remains a challenge.
“I think the fact that there is genuine peace in Malawi, genuine peace in Zambia, and peace in many parts of Africa, means that what we laid a foundation for Africa is worth remembering God for. Yes, poverty is still part of this world and it is not something that is confined to one part of the world,” added Kaunda.
Beyond sharing a long border, Malawi and Zambia also share close blood, cultural and political heritages. Former President Rupiah Banda was expected in the country yesterday afternoon. n