The British Empire Library

Kaunda's Gaoler - Memoirs Of A District Officer In Northern Rhodesia And Zambia

by David G Coe and E Cyril Greenall

Courtesy of OSPA

Robin Short (Northern Rhodesia 1950-66 - DO Kabompo 1951-53 and with Cyril Greenall at Kitwe 1956 as a fellow DO)
A man, and DC, better fitted by nature to be in charge of "KK" during his rural exile would have been difficult to find at that time. A cool, unflappable character of known courage. He had served in Bomb Disposal while in the army. And anyone who has done that was respected by the army, whether decorated or not. The essential factor governing Cyril's character was his constant good humour. Happily Kabompo, for all its internal quarrels, made a good first impression on him. He may have glanced out over the river at nightfall and seen the little fishing canoes each with its open fire lit in the prow which recalled Venice to the imagination. To return to earth, the little fires were to attract the fish! Practical folk - Africans.

Cyril Greenall's book wonderfully illustrates what one good man on the spot can do to reconcile an unruly District to itself and to hope of prosperity, despite many obstacles and the billeting on him of the shrunken Empire's most awkward customer, namely Kenneth Kaunda of Chinsali. KK, as he was known, was of mixed tribal descent and raised by rather "chippy" missionaries at Lubwa in Chinsali, very conscious of nonconformity to others. This Church was as the mediaeval church in Britain, a fertile ground for self-absorbed and self-interested characters. KK fitted well. Here he advanced to political leadership and by exploiting general inferiority in wages, status, opportunity, anything to hand - and there was a good deal - he became the mouthpiece of African discontent. Sadly, he courted racial hate as a political weapon, a too-easy trap...

The excessive, almost hysterical, admiration of his followers can be shown by this anecdote: Kabompo has a particular kind of snake which could slither at great speed over the top of uncut grass. KK encountered a specimen one fine evening and quite correctly leapt clear. The British High Commissioner happened to visit the station a year or two later and found a large notice board with the following inscription:

Here our beloved leader,
now President Kenneth Kaunda,
was nearly bitten by a snake.

He asked that the board, which had fallen into decay, be restored.

Cyril Greenall was never "Kaunda's Gaoler" in any real sense. He was more of a guide, tutor, mentor. KK was lucky in HMG's choice of custodian which displayed unusual wisdom. What good qualities he brought away with him he owes mainly to Cyril's presence and example.

There were still a number of quite rough diamonds in the administration, not all of whom liked Africans, particularly KK who was nobody's leading favourite. Instead he had a kindly, slightly old-fashioned gentleman in charge of him. Lucky for him, lucky for us, lucky for Zambia. A good-hearted book which it would profit everyone concerned in the pre-Independence years to read. They should find it of outstanding interest, and it does much to put their past prejudices into a fair perspective.

British Empire Book
David G Coe & E Cyril Greenall
The Radcliffe Press
1 86064 862 2


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