His electoral defeat and speedy departure from power was the second great service Kenneth Kaunda rendered to Africa. The first was leading Zambia peacefully to independence from Britain in 1964. Now Mr. Kaunda has bowed out with good grace befitting a democratic politician, which he had not lately been, and has shown the way to other African leaders.
Of free Africa's founding giants, Mr. Kaunda was the one with the surest grasp of humanitarian issues outside his own country. At great harm to Zambia's economy, he championed majority rule for neighboring Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He helped the African National Congress of South Africa, despite that white-ruled country's power of retaliation. Though copper-rich, Zambia is also landlocked, vulnerable to strife in Angola and Mozambique, and powerless to deal with the decline in world copper prices.
But like so many lonely rulers, Mr. Kaunda insulated himself from domestic reality, enjoying his private golf course while Zambia went to ruin. He followed the trend of proclaiming a one-party state in 1972, turned to Communist aid for monument-building and spurned the International Monetary Fund's offer to swap loans for austerity. Only last December did he restore political pluralism in response to unrest and set the stage for this election.