Tuesday, 30 April 2019

I was quite naughty, says President Kaunda's daughter


Musata Kaunda-Banda. President Kaunda's seventh child. Picture by Jack Zimba.

Musata (front row, left) with Betty Kaunda and siblings.


Musata

Kenneth Kaunda
 
 

I was quite naughty, says President Kaunda's daughter


JACK ZIMBA

WHILE her father kept a grip on power, Musata became the rebellious teenage daughter of the President who longed to have the freedom that she could only dream about within the walls of State House.
She was only three when her father became president in 1964, but when she grew older, she yearned for the freedom of an ordinary citizen.
On a few occasions, she scaled the brick perimeter wall at State House in the night, on the western side overlooking the Lusaka Golf Club, to escape to parties.
“I knew State House like the back of my hand, so we knew where to jump, where there were no soldiers,” says Musata.
Once out of her palatial prison, she hiked a car on Saddam Hussein Boulevard (now Los Angeles Boulevard).
“When you come out, nobody knows who you are so even if you stop a car they don’t know who you are,” she says with chuckle.
“I was quite naughty, but I’m a good girl now,” says Musata as we sit on the porch of her house in Kabulonga.
She is vivacious and straight-talking. Musata is the sixth born in a family of nine, and one of only two girls born to Kenneth Kaunda and his wife Betty.
Her younger sister, Cheswa, was born in 1963, in a set of twins.
Of course being the president’s child had its advantages, but some disadvantages, too.
“There were some good things and some bad things,” says Musata. “The privileges were there, obviously. Everything we needed, we had. But there were some things that you wished were different, like when I went to school, all my friends were being dropped by their parents, I was brought by the driver. I wished my mom could take me to school or my dad could take me to school.”
“I pestered my mom once, and I made her take me to school,” she recalls.
State House was boring sometimes
Musata attended Holy Cross Convent School in Lusaka. She later attended Fatima Girls School in Ndola, which she liked because she was able to be among many girls from ordinary families.
For Musata, associating with ordinary girls was not a problem, because “we had already been taught that we were not better than anybody else.”
“I didn’t think that I was special, as special as other people would expect me to feel. The only time that I would think about that was when my friends would ask me at school how it felt to be the president’s daughter,” she says.
She still remembers how all eyes rolled to her table in the dining on her first day at Fatima.
“They all watched me about to eat scrambled eggs and nshima, and I ate. I was hungry and they were like wow, ‘she ate nshima’,” she says.
But while she may have been the envy of her peers at school, Musata says sometimes life in the confines of State House got boring.
“Maybe that is why I became naughty, because you’ve got nowhere else to go. You are not allowed to leave the gate,” she says.
“We never really used to go out when we were teenagers. My mom was very strict, she would never let us go,” she says.
But when the girls were older, they were allowed to attend birthday parties for friends.
But they were always under watch. 
“You go on a date with your boyfriend and the bodyguard is sitting behind you, how do you do that? It used to upset me,” she says.
“But it got to a point where we started sneaking out because it was happening and we were missing out,” she adds.
On a few occasions Musata and her sister, Cheswa, sneaked out on their bodyguard in town.
“Otherwise life was going to pass me by. I just wanted to have fun, I wanted to experience things,” says Musata.
But life in State House did give her some experiences she could only have dreamt of.
“We met a lot of world leaders, which was exciting,” she says.
According to Musata, the world leaders would usually stay with them at State House. She remembers having dinner with some of them, including Fidel Castro.
“Some of them became very close to my father, like President [Julius] Nyerere. He loved us very much and he spent a lot of time with us,” she says.
But her most exciting moment was when she met Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. 
“He was so regal,” she recalls. “He came with these little Chihuahua dogs and he let us play with them.”
The Emperor even let the little Musata sit in his lap.
“It was really sweet,” she says.
Later when she was a teenager, she met Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Zambia.
A missing dad
Being president meant Dr Kaunda was usually too busy for the family.
Musata talks of a father who was never really available for his children.
“He wasn’t there for us from the time he became president, we hardly saw him. That is what we missed a lot. We would see him maybe after three days. Weekends sometimes we would see him more often,” she says.
She adds: “We did miss his presence in our lives. Sometimes he didn’t even know what was going on in our lives because he was too busy.”
According to Musata, her father usually went to bed at 4am and back to the office by 8am.
“Sometimes we would wait for him at the top of the stairs to come up from the office. He knew we would be waiting and he was very excited to see us and he would lift us up in the air,” says Musata.
She adds: “He also felt bad that we could not spend much time together, and we understood that he had work to do for the country.”
And despite the fact that he was absent from the family, Musata admired her father.
“At one point I used to look at him and admire him, you know when you read those stories about kings and queens, I thought oh, my dad is a king as well,” she says.
She also talks of his kindness and love for mankind.
“He is a very kind man, very loving. You see it in his eyes,” she says.
“I remember when we were little, sometimes when he was speaking about South Africa and the apartheid thing that was happening there, he would always cry. I would see him cry because sometimes we would be there when he was making those speeches,” she says.
“So I used to pray to God ‘Dear God my dad cries a lot, please make him stop crying, please give independence to South Africa so my dad can stop crying’,” she says.
“It made me sad to see him cry,” she says. “He is a very emotional person. He cries easily.”
“He is a cry-baby,” she adds with chuckle.
Holiday time with dad
President Kaunda had a way of making up for lost time with his family. Every August the president would take his whole family for holiday in the South Luangwa National Park for two weeks.
“That was really nice,” recalls Musata with a tinge of nostalgia.
The family watched the sun go down together and went for game drives.
“Those are happy memories that I will never forget,” says Musata.
A lover of wildlife and a strict vegan, President Kaunda wanted to instil the same value in his children.
“He wanted us to appreciate wildlife and he would tell us what each animal was called in Bemba. Those were the fun days when we would spend every single day with him,” she says.
“He found it amusing when we didn’t know how to say certain Bemba words then he would laugh,” says Musata.
“I think he understood that he needed to do that and every evening we would sit and eat together. We hardly did that back in Lusaka,” she says.
But it was also lesson time for the children.
“He reminded us from a very early age that we should never think that we are above others just because he is the president,” she says.
Musata says her father also talked to his children a lot about God.
But both her parents were also very traditional.
In fact when Musata reached puberty, her mother brought a busload of people from her village in Eastern Province to conduct an initiation for her right at State House.
Musata was 14 then, and in boarding school at Fatima Girls School in Ndola. She was withdrawn from school for about a month in order to undergo the cinamwali.
“My cousin came to pick me up from school. They lied to me that we were going to China because they knew that maybe I would refuse,” she says.
When she got home, she found women with drums in her bedroom. Then she was told by her mother that she would not leave the bedroom until the initiation was done.
“I was so upset,” she says.
But looking back, Musata says she is glad to have gone through the initiation, except for lessons on how to handle a man in bed.
“Now that I’m older, I think things should change a little bit,” she says. “I think 14 is a bit too young to teach certain things, if you know what I mean.”
So they taught you ‘certain things’? I ask her.
“They taught me everything,” she says laughing. “You are 14 years and they are showing you stuff like that.”
The day she came out of her room, she found her dad sitting with some of his cabinet ministers, then she was required to dance before him and his guests.
A rebel daughter
After completing her high school education, Musata attended national service training, which was mandatory for every citizen who completed secondary school education at the time.
But she did not like it, and one night, she and her friend tried to escape from the camp, which was located in Solwezi.
“People were running away, so I also thought let me try,” says Musata.
The two girls managed to slip out of the camp and get to the roadside, but they flagged down a wrong vehicle – a military vehicle. It took them right back into the military base.
The president’s daughter spent three days in the guard room as punishment.
After passing out as an officer cadet, Musata went to the University of Zambia (UNZA) to study psychology. Although she didn’t want to go to university at the time, she looked forward to the freedom of a varsity girl. She was 17.
But to her disappointment her older brother, Wezi, was studying law at UNZA and usually kept a watchful eye on her.
“I thought at university I would get a little bit of freedom, but then my brother was there. He thought he needed to take care of me, so I rebelled,” she says. “I wasn’t happy. I wanted him to give me a bit of freedom.”
She only did a year of study at UNZA and she decided to quit.
“My parents were not very happy with me quitting school to get married,” she says.
When she was about 19, Musata met James Banda, the man she would fall in love with and later marry.
She met him at a disco where he was playing as disc jockey.
“I was looking to settling one day with an ordinary person, not someone from the upper class
“I just wanted to experience an ordinary life, with an ordinary person, and have an ordinary family, because I was the president’s child from the time I was three-and-half years old, and the only thing I knew was living in State House. So I just wanted a different life,” she says.
“I told my friend there is this guy called James Banda, I hear he is a hot guy and everything. It sounded like fun. That’s the time I had rebelled from university so I was free but my brother was looking for me because I had even run away from home for about three days because I was really upset,” she says.
Perhaps as a way to stop his daughter’s love relationship, President Kaunda decided to send Musata to Canada for school.
“I didn’t want to go because I just met my husband and wanted to get engaged.
“My parents were hoping that if they send me to Canada I will forget about this guy but unfortunately I didn’t forget about him,” she says.
She only did two semesters and came back.
In 1984, Musata and James got married at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Musata walked down the aisle her arm hooked in her dad’s.
“I left State House when I was 20-21. I wanted to get out so I got married. That was the best way to escape,” she says.
“I felt free,” says Musata.
After settling down in her own home, Musata went back to university and obtained a bachelor’s degree in human and social studies.
Out of power
In 1991, Dr Kaunda lost power to a Frederick Chiluba, after 27 years as president.
Musata says she was not sad that her father left State House, but was upset with the way he was treated later.
“It was very disappointing that people only wanted to look at the negative. They didn’t look at what he had achieved for Zambia. You’ve got to give it to him, he did a lot for this country. He had a vision that I think he wanted to complete but at the same time I appreciate that people wanted to change, which was inevitable,” she says.
“And I think he also realised that there are certain things that he could have done differently,” she adds.
“What I wished I could have seen is…the late President [Frederick] Chiluba could have given him more respect after he left power and treated him with dignity. He chose not to do that,” she says.
“He shouldn’t have turned the people’s hearts and minds against him. He was in power and my father handed power to him without struggle and I think he should have appreciated that, but he continued to go for him, which I think was unfair,” she says. “Those are the things that upset me at the time. It upset him as well. I’m not upset anymore.”
In December 1996, Dr Kaunda visited Musata at her home in Zimbabwe, but back home he was facing accusations of trying to overthrow President Chiluba.
Musata says she tried to convince her father to stay for Christmas, but he insisted on returning to Zambia to face the charges.
“He knew that Chiluba was trying to arrest him and he wanted to go back. It affected him a lot,” she says.
Dr Kuanda returned home and was arrested on Christmas day, and spent time in maximum prison facing treason charges.
Musata says when she later asked her father which was his worst day in life, he responded:  “My worst day was the day when I was arrested.”
But perhaps that was before his son, Wezi, was killed in cold blood in November 1999.
Wezi was shot several times at the front gate of his house in Lusaka as he arrived with his wife, Didi.
“When my brother died, I didn’t want to have anything to do with Zambia,” says Musata. “I was in Harare and I didn’t want to come here. I felt it was such an injustice. We don’t know what transpired, the real people who were behind it have never been caught. I think it was an assassination to get at my father.”
According to Musata, Wezi had become very close with Dr Kaunda.
“He was very protective of my dad. He was a strong soldier and a pillar of the family. After he was assassinated, I was talking to his wife and she told me that he [Wezi] told her one day that ‘I would rather die than bury my father’, and that is exactly what happened,” she says, her voice trembling.
The former president was also devastated by the death of his wife, Betty, who died in 2012.
“He misses mom a lot,” says Musata.
She says usually on his birthday, he walks to her grave (she is buried a few metres from the house) to give her flowers.
When she was a little girl, Musata used to fear that she might lose her father.
“I used to worry when I was little, I used to hear about John F. Kennedy (US president), who was assassinated so my fear was oh what if something happens to my father,” she says. “Now he is turning 95 and I get very emotional when I’m with him because I feel oh my God what if this is his last birthday. I pray to God that he keeps him strong.”
“I’m proud of what my father has achieved. I’m proud of his strength and what he did for Zambia,” she says. “I feel blessed, especially now that I’m older and as I have walked in my spiritual life with God; it’s a blessing to be a child of a leader such as Kenneth Kaunda. God chose me, I could have been anyone, but He chose me to be the daughter of this great man.”

 

 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Rwandan genocide 25 years on



 

A boy stands in a graveyard of genocide victims in Rwanda.


Rwandan genocide 25 years on

Restless spirits unwilling to return home


ON THE day when the killings started – April 7, 1994 – Jeane (real name withheld) and her family members were rounded up by armed men and lined up, their faces against a wall.
The men then stepped backwards, their guns drawn.
Jeane waited for the gunmen to pull the triggers.
“I stood there and said to myself, I won’t struggle or let anyone beat me. I told God if you have decided that I die today, let my body be covered. I don’t want my body to be naked and to be eaten by dogs,” she recalls.
But in that moment, she heard a man shouting “No, no, no, not there!”
The house belonged to Jeane’s uncle, who was in the military.
Jeane and her family, including a four-day-old baby, were saved, but her neighbours were not so fortunate.
“I was still standing there, frozen. I saw these people go to the neighbour’s place. Then I heard gunshots and people screaming inside the house,” Jeane remembers.
Her care-giver instinct kicked in.
When the men left the scene, she rushed into the house and found a man lying dead on the floor. A bullet had ripped through his neck.
When Jeane stepped out of the yard, she saw another group of armed men heading towards the house. She hid behind a tree.
From there, she would witness the most horrific event of her life.
Jeane remembers a small boy, about five years old, who was playing in the yard, oblivious of the pending horror.
“The small boy was trying to play with one of the armed men,” she recalls.
Jeane watched as the men rounded up everyone in the house, and made them stand against the wall, including the five-year-old boy.
“And then the horror started, right before my eyes. I had diarrhoea and I vomited a lot,” she says.
“Everyone was shot dead, including the small boy,” says Jeane, her voice trembling.
With the help of her cousin, who was in the army, Jeane escaped to a safe zone.
But she would not live there for long as the bloodbath escalated. She had to run.
Jeane was 37 when the killings started, and had just returned home from medical studies in Europe.
Born of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, she was torn in-between ethnically.
Her father protected her mother during the 100-day bloodbath, but he was killed in the events following the genocide.
“People are always talking about this ethnic group or that ethnic group, but they always forget the people who are in-between and we don’t know where we belong,” she says.
Jeane and her husband, and their 12-year-old daughter, fled Rwanda, heading southwards and ended up in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).
Asked how many corpses she saw during her flight, Jeane responds:
“I saw so many.”
In fact, she says many times she had to seek refuge among the dead bodies.
“Do you know what it is like to live with dead bodies?” she asks, and waits for an answer. “Do you know how a decomposing body smells?” she insists.
“The only safe place we could find was among the dead bodies.”
At one point, Jeane and her daughter were separated, but they were reunited nine years later.
She got pregnant along the way, and delivered twins in the jungle, somewhere in the Congo in 1995.
“Delivery is always a miracle,” she says, when asked how she managed to deliver twins in the jungle.
When the war broke out in the former Zaire in 1996, Jeane headed east to Tanzania, and eventually entered Zambia.
Jeane now lives in rural Zambia, working as a caregiver in a Government hospital.
Jeane considers herself both as a victim and a survivor of the genocide.
“I do not understand how I survived,” she says. “It was just God, because everyone who was around me didn’t survive.”
Over 4,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus, are currently living in Zambia, unwilling to go back home despite the country’s now widely acclaimed advancement.
For the past 15 years, Rwanda’s economic growth has averaged between 7.0 percent and 8.0 percent. And this year, the economy is slated to grow by 7.8 percent.
Do you ever dream about going back home? I ask Jeane.
“No, no,” she responds without even giving much thought to it.
“I can’t erase that country from my mind, it is still my country, but I can’t go there,” she says.
“I have been here in Zambia for more than 20 years, working as a caregiver, so why can’t I just stay here forever?”
But even after so many years living and working in Zambia, Jeane cannot be granted citizenship.
“I can’t go back, but here also I can’t settle. That feeling of not belonging anywhere is so painful,” she says.
Jeane says her husband could not cope with the situation, and he became depressed and alcoholic.
He now roams like a mad man, she says.
She has had to raise her family alone.
Jeane regrets the fact that her children cannot speak her native language, Kinyarwanda.
Jeane still mourns about how the international community let them down.
She insists on understanding the context of the genocide. By that she means looking at when it started and why.
Jeane does not talk of one genocide, but genocides.
“I don’t understand why people just look at the 100 days and not what happened beyond that, or what happened before ’94,” she says.
Early ethnic-based killings led to the first mass movement of Tutsi as refugees into the immediate neighbouring countries in 1959. Other subsequent killings by the post-independence republics continued through the 1960s, 1970s 1980s, and the 1994 genocide against Tutsi was only a climax.
This view is held by many Rwandans living in Zambia.
Charles Munyeshyaka was 28 when the killings started.
He was a government worker operating on the border with the DRC.
When the fighting intensified, with the Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers advancing, Charles slipped into Zaire, where he lived as a refugee.
He later escaped to Tanzania.
“Life was hard. We were confined like prisoners, sleeping in the open in a football ground. We usually suffered from diarrhoea because we were given food that we were not used to,” he says.
But when the government of Tanzania tried to forcibly repatriate him back to Rwanda, he escaped to Zambia.
Charles denies what happened was a genocide.
“It was a massacre, not genocide,” he says, and labours to distinguish between the two.
He too, like Jeane, has given up any hopes of ever returning to his country again.
“I consider Zambia to be my home country, and Rwanda as my second home,” he says.
But even in the place he now calls home, he lives in fear, restless as a leaf in the wind.
“My family is here now,” he says, indicating to the mobile phone in his hands.
He swipes the screen and taps it to show me the picture of his older brother.
“He was imprisoned for seven years and tortured. His health has not been okay since he came out,” he says.
At a sombre event to commemorate the genocide last week at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Zambia Monique Mukaruliza said:
“We must continue standing side by side with the genocide survivors most of whom are still struggling to come to terms with the painful consequences of this dreadful past.”
But she also spoke strongly about what she called “revisionism and denialist propaganda” trying to rewrite the genocide history.
“Genocide perpetrators and their accomplices continue to carry out activities related to genocide, denial and revisionism. This is a strategy meant to distort facts of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi,” she said.
“This attempt to rewrite the history of the genocide not only haunts the survivors and their families, but also has a very negative effect on the healing process. There is need to deny these culprits the platform for executing this last phase of the genocide,” she said.
In 2017, Zambia and Rwanda signed an Extradition Treaty that commits the latter to bring to book any perpetrators of the genocide.
In January, Malawi extradited genocide convict Vincent Murekezi to Rwanda.
They say time is the best healer, they just didn’t say how long.
For many Rwandans like Jeane and Charles, 25 years is not long enough to heal what happened in 100 days.
And as the country marked 25 years since the horrific events, it only opened the wounds afresh.
“It is like someone scratching your scar and causing it to bleed again,” says Jeane.
“The memories are even more painful than the actual pain that you had,” she says.

When scribe is victim of political violence

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