Every year, on 25 May, the continent of Africa commemorates the founding of the then Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU). On this day 53 years ago, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Today, the day is widely observed across the continent as a day on which Africa celebrates her independence. Individual countries hold these celebration in city squares and halls to remember the heroes of the 1960s who contributed to the liberation of their respective countries.
In Zambia, celebrations are held across the country including the capital Lusaka – where the main event takes place. Government representatives and foreign dignitaries all gather by the Freedom Statue in the centre of the city – It is an imposing figure of a shirtless man with disjointed chains around his arms.
The design of this figure was inspired by actual events during the country’s struggle for independence from British colonialists. Zanco Mpundu Mutembo a young political activist was National Youth Chairperson for Political struggle when he was arrested and forced to break the chains his captures put on him or be killed instantly.
Mr. Mutembo remains among the individuals who have been honored by the country for their contribution towards the freedom that Zambia now enjoys.
He got involved in the country’s political struggle against the British in their village in Northern Province at the age of 18 in 1954.
In his testimony, Mr. Mutembo explained that he was arrested and handcuffed with chains which he was ordered to break in the presence of 18 soldiers armed with guns. Shockingly, he broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers present.
He explained that all that happened at the force Headquarters where he was first interviewed on his involvement and influence in the struggle before he was subjected to chain punishment. He insists it was a real chain from which he broke loose.
He however admitted that it was really hard for him but he managed to pull hard and the chain napped and the governor raised his hands in surprise.
Mr. Mutembo is now a national symbol as his statue has been displayed as a freedom statue along Independence Avenue in Lusaka where the laying of wreaths takes place every Independence Day in memory of those who lost their lives during the struggle.