President of Zambia
Kenneth Kaunda served as ZAMBIA’s first president and became a prominent political leader within Africa. Born in what was then Northern Rhodesia, Kaunda trained as a teacher but became active in politics in the 1950s. He organized the local branch of the African National Congress, the country’s first political party, and later served as the party’s secretary general.
In 1960 Kaunda formed the United National Independence Party to oppose colonial rule in Northern Rhodesia. Four years later he led the country, renamed Zambia, to independence and was elected president. Kaunda won reelection six times, but after 1973 he ruled Zambia as a one-party state. As chairman of international groups such as the ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY and the Non-Aligned Movement, Kaunda tried to find peaceful solutions to the problems arising from the end of colonial rule in southern Africa. However, he lost popularity at home when the Zambian economy declined in the 1980s. In 1991 Kaunda became the first African leader to lose power in multiparty elections. (See also Colonialism in Africa; Independence Movements; Southern Africa, History.)