It is largely because of the absence of military engagement that struggle narratives are far in-between in the case of Zambia.
The country’s Founding President Dr Kenneth Kaunda set the tone for Independence in his autobiography “Zambia Shall Be Free”, published in 1962 two years before freedom from British colonial bondage and a year before the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
A year before the publication of “Zambia Shall Be Free”, Kaunda had written “Black Government”.
In 1966, he co-authored “A Humanist in Africa” and then “Humanism in Zambia and its Implementation” in 1967, which were followed by “Human in Zambia” in 1977.
“Letter to My Children” was also published in 1977 and then came “Kaunda on Violence” in 1980.
Kaunda was one of many leaders who agitated for Independence through literature.
The late South African ANC leader Chief Albert Luthuli wrote an autobiography titled “Let My People Free” while Kenyan strongman Jomo Kenyatta penned “Facing Mount Kenya”.
The assassinated first president FRELIMO, Eduardo Mondlane also has a book, “The Struggle for Mozambique”.
Zambia was one of the first countries in Southern Africa, along with Malawi, to attain Independence.
While Kaunda took in the region’s cause, Dr Kamuzu Banda refused to push for Southern Africa’s liberation.
Kaunda - long before independence - had already taken a cue from Ghana’s Founding President Dr Kwame Nkruma in believing the whole continent must be liberated.
“Zambia Shall Be Free” ends with a message of great hope: “For a long time I have led my people in their shouts of kwacha (the dawn).
“We have been shouting it in darkness; now there is the grey light of dawn, and I know that Zambia will be free.”
This passage encapsulates Kaunda’s lifelong fight to see the grey light of dawn illuminating the whole region.
Kaunda’s story, like that of many liberation leaders, is simple.
He was born the son of an African missionary, grew up in church and is a Christian unto this day.
This fact is very obvious in his autobiography from the first chapter to the last.
He does not only refer to Christian teachings but all religions.
The book also enunciates his humanist principles, which he sought to inculcate in the minds of his people.
Kaunda was awakened to the reality of oppression and the need for political freedom through a South African, Daniel Sonquishe.
At the age of 38, Kaunda heard for the first time about the true horros of apartheid.
“Kenneth, it is almost too late for us to do anything about it (apartheid) in South Africa, but here it is not too late. It is up to you now,” Kaunda recalls Sonquishe saying.
Then on his first visit to an English District Commissioner to get a new warrant for a journey home, Kaunda recalls that he was treated just like “another native”.
This, Kaunda says, spurred him to join a debating club as well as to enter a shop through the front door when, as an African, he was supposed to use a hole on the wall.
This earned him some frog-marching as punishment.
When it dawned on him that indeed Zambia must be free, Kaunda teamed up with two colleagues from Chinsali Township who were members of the Northern Rhodesian African Congress in 1949 to educate people on political freedom.
Using bicycles, they criss-crossed the country setting up branches such that by 1951 when the Federation was proposed, Zambia was ready to say no.
Kaunda writes about how the whites used divide-and-rule tactics to win over traditional chiefs so that they refused to be part of the Supreme Action Council that resisted Federation.
All but one of the chiefs defied the government.
As a result of the Supreme Action Council, Kaunda - who had become the organising secretary for Northern Province - became a target for state persecution and prosecution.
It was not long before he was detained together with the president of the party, Harry Nkumbula.
His book also sets the record straight on why he broke away from Nkumbula to form the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Kaunda cites two things – Nkumbula’s unreliability as a leader as well as dictatorial tendencies.
He also cites his peaceful approach to problems.
During those days, Kaunda would say; “The time has now come for us to show more discipline.
“We have to act in a positive but non-violent way.”
“Zambia Shall Be Free” does not only tell Kaunda’s simple upbringing but captures the challenges and accomplishments of the decolonisation movement in addition to touching on many contemporary problems that hinder Africa’s complete emancipation.
Kaunda talks about “self-determination, dignity and wellbeing of Africans”.
Reading this book is like meeting and getting to know Kaunda and the struggles of the people of Zambia.