This December, following the news about Nelson Mandela's illness has me thinking and reading about modern African history. As a kid growing up in Africa in the 1970s, we had many inspirational leaders to talk about around the dinner table ranging from Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and of course, Madiba.
Kenneth Kaunda, one of those leaders who always created a lot of buzz back then, was/is the flag bearer for independence and the first President of Zambia (located in southern central Africa). He was a renaissance man in his time, known for an odd combination of items: his penchant for socialism, ballroom dancing, a snappy, unique fashion sense and transcendental mediation. His presidency lasted around 27 years, from 1964 to 1991. The now-retired President Kaunda served as a scholar-in-residence at Boston University after his presidency.
When Kaunda was voted out of office in free and fair elections held in 1991, the late President Frederic Chiluba, who defeated Kaunda, made an unusual assertion to ensure that Kaunda would not regroup and possibly win any subsequent elections. Chiluba asserted that Kaunda, even though born in Zambia, was not a Zambian citizen, that he was ineligible for the presidency and that he should be deported. The grounds? That Kaunda's father was NOT Zambian, therefore he was not Zambian. Sound familiar?
Grant it, in some regions of Africa where patriarchy still holds water, the belief that citizenship is conferred by the father often has teeth. In the U.S., however, citizenship is conferred by either parent, whether the child in question, example: Barack Obama, is born in the U.S. or abroad.
By 1999, Kaunda was stripped of his citizenship. Lucky for him, the Supreme Court of Zambia didn't buy Chiluba's birther argument and restored Kaunda's citizenship in 2000.
My only point: there's nothing new under the sun and birthers are not original in their quest to delegitimize Barack Obama's presidency due to the national origin of his father. Happy Holidays DK readers.