LUSAKA - Zambia's founding president Kenneth Kaunda has said that the accusation against China by some western countries that China is practicing neo-colonialism in Africa is merely intended to ruin the long friendship and cooperation shared by China and African countries.
"China was an all-weather friend to African people and it is still now. African leaders and their people will not be cheated by lies that China's presence in Africa is neo-colonialism," he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in his office in Lusaka on Wednesday.
He said African countries benefited from China's rapid economic development, which is however deemed by some countries as competition to their "selfish interests" in the continent.
"China's development is beneficial to Africa and should be welcomed and supported by African countries," he said.
Kaunda said China has helped Africa a lot, citing as an example the TAZARA railway that links Zambia's Kapiri Mposhi in central area to Tanzania's Dar es Salaam port.
The railway, built under Chinese assistance both financially and technically in the 1970s, served as an important alternative transport exit for the copper-rich Zambia, then being blocked by the neighboring white regimes for its support to the liberation struggle of other African countries.
"When we sought financial support from western countries, they said it was a waste of money and nothing could happen," Kaunda recalled. "Then we turned to China for help and the Chinese government agreed to help us build this railway, which has been working for some time now."
He held a white handkerchief in his hand when he talked, as how he always appears in public, a trademark known within his country and abroad as a symbol for peace in his fight for independence and freedom.
Kaunda said the forthcoming summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FACOC) to be held in Beijing was an "extremely important development" because China and African countries share a lot in common.
"China is a country of 1.3 billion people and Africa has a population of over 800 million. The cooperation between China and Africa is of great importance," he said.
October 25 marks the 35th anniversary for adoption of UN resolution 2758 that restored all the lawful rights of the People' s Republic of China in the United Nations and expelled the " representatives" of the Taiwan authorities from the United Nations. Zambia is one of the 23 countries that jointly submitted earlier a draft resolution supporting restoring China 's rightful seat in the UN.
"We recognized the importance of China hence we canvassed for China. We argued publicly that it was not right to recognize a province of China as the real China. So we campaigned both in Africa and at the U.N. and we are happy that we succeeded," Kaunda said cheerfully.
He said he had been against the approach of attacking one-China policy.
"It is not common sense to think that the relationship with Taiwan is more important than the relationship with China," he said, referring to one of Zambia's opposition leaders, Michael Sata, who openly called Taiwan a sovereign state during this year' s presidential election campaign.
The 82-year-old, who looks sanguine and healthy, has visited China four times during his 27-year tenure and has become a personal friend to Chinese late leaders like Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping.
He said he was happy to see that the friendship between China and Zambia has deepened after the new generation of Chinese leaders came into power.
After his resignation from politics six years ago, Kaunda devoted himself to the career of fighting with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
He has formed the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation as an instrument to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
"In Zambia, we have started working with the youths, educating them on the dangers on HIV/AIDS, telling them the importance of going for Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) and helping those found with the virus live positively," he said.
Though suffering from a challenge of lack of finance, Kaunda said he was hopeful that the country would win the war against HIV/ AIDS.
"We must win. We have no choice," he said. The badge with the Red Ribbon on his chest is glaring.
Kaunda, a vegetarian since the early years of independence struggle as a protest against colonialism, enjoys playing golf at weekends and sticks to walking and bedroom exercises every day.