Zambia has in recent weeks been faced with clamours of secession by one of its regions with which it merged at independence from Britain in October 1964 to form a unitary state. The region now known as Western Province (formerly Barotseland) was an autonomous region before independence headed by the Litunga, king of the Lozi people.
The people calling for secession have alleged that successive Zambian administrations from the first president Kenneth Kaunda who signed the Barotseland Agreement five months before Zambia attained independence, to Frederick Chiluba, to the late Levy Mwanawasa, and now Rupiah Banda, have ignored the spirit and letter of the agreement.
It appears the secessionists were emboldened after the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) made submissions to the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) draft constitution, demanding the acknowledgment of some provisions in the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 in the new constitution. The Constitutional Conference refused to acknowledge the agreement.
This, however, is not the first time that Lozis have raised the issue of the agreement. In 1994, just over three years after Chiluba took over from Kaunda, a group of prominent Lozis gathered in Lusaka to discuss the issue which somehow fizzled out until this year.
The issue has generated varying emotions from a cross-section of Zambians, with some agreeing with the secessionists’ sentiments and others against and, as usual, the debate is quite intense in the blogosphere. Following the assault of an opposition leader, Charles Milupi, who is also an MP in the area for singing the Zambia national anthem at one of his rallies, readers at Lusaka Times had this to say:
Kamuyongole Manyekaela wrote:
This matter just wont go away, had I been Banda, I will sit down with all stakeholders to find a solution before the country break outs into civil strife.
bwezani said “those idiots” should be arrested:
let us arrest all those causing trouble in this province. if this is true then find those idiots and arrest them.
BAROTSELAND IS PART OF ZAMBIA SO WHY BEAT THIS MAN MR MILUPI FOR SINGING THE ZAMBIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM.THE IG SHOULD SWIFTLY ARREST THE CULPRITS OTHERWISE MORE INCIDENTS LIKE THIS ONE WILL HAPPEN AGAIN. LETS HAVE A PEACEFUL ZAMBIA .
MrK asked, “Who is really behind this barotseland secession movement?”:
When a national politician cannot sing the national anthem in Western Province, I would say things have gone far enough.
Who is really behind this barotseland secession movement? Do they have any better intentions for the people of Western Province that the national leadership? Or are their intentions worse?
This is why I am generally against devolution from national government to provincial government, because of the chance of simply exchanging a national elite for a regional elite.
Decentralize power to the district or even better local council level, and a lot of problems will go away. Including the idea of secession for Barotseland.
What Zambian must be asking themselves is whether they are any different from other Africans living under civil wars, said Kamuyongole Manyekaela:
Every civil war has its ‘story’ – the personalities, the social cleavages, the triggering events, the inflammatory discourse, the atrocities etc. What Zambian must be asking themselves is whether they are any different from other Africans living under civil wars. Like, are there structural conditions – social, political or economic – which make Congo, Sierra Leon etc more prone to civil war than Zambia? Might it be that the same inflammatory politician, playing on the same social cleavages, and with the same triggering events, might ‘cause’ war under one set of conditions and merely be an ugly irritant in another? The evens unfolding in Barotseland clearly shows we are equally prone to these conditions. We are basically at war brothers and sisters – mark my word.
The Lozis should be given their freedom, argued Inkuba @ TI:
I think the Lozis must be granted their freedom instead of hanging around with corrupt,thiefing so called leaders.Western province is very province and is best managed traditional land for interest of community not individual exploitation.I personally admire the Lozis’ unity,intelectuality,moral uprightness.Keep it up guys.reject the sarogates,hynas who want to feast on other regions’s riches in the name of one nation having failed to manage and invest in their own regions.
Pukuchwe Munyelela Siliba wrote:
A story is told of a jackal that urinated and defacated in the well after it drunk from it, forgetting that on its way from this long journey, it will need to refresh from the same well. We all know what happened to it. The people who urinated and defacated on the Barotse agreement after the signing of this agreement brought the independence of Zambia will have themselves to blame when this country is set alight. The blood of innocent people who will perish from such a civil war will surely cry on their heads. Remember that Zambezi River from which Zambia got its name flows through the Barotseland territory. it would be wise for the current politicians to sit with the people of Barotseland and other stakeholders and resolve this issue amicably.
Mulozi asked why the Zambian government is ignoring civil war in the making:
Why is govt ignoring this potential civil war in the making. All ring leaders should be hunted down and locked up on treason charges. These characters are embarassing us real lozis. They dont even understand what they are fighting from. For more than 50 years before zambian independence, barotseland benefitted from financial support from the british mornachy; how much of it trickled down to lozis who are not members of the royal family? Nothing! The royal family monopolised all the wealth and sent their kids to US and UK university while the rest of barotseland wallowed in poverty. We dont want to return to such nonsense. Arrest these fools pliz and save us all this embarrassment.
Below are citizens’ opinions following a story in the Zambian Watchdog in which the minister of information and broadcasting who is also chief government spokesman, Ronnie Shikapwasha, warned a group of Barotseland Agreement sympathisers against printing and distributing copies of the document (The site does not have permanent link to individual comments):
Kelly Walubita wrote:
Why is government trying to prematurely burry this matter? This is an issue which had been takled and presented before our authorities since 1960s. This year we saw the Lozi people reinforcing it again in the draft constitution so that it wud be become law. Our forefathers taught us, guided us, led us and still their spirits are drilling us to take action else we remain stagnat.
Shikapwasha will bear the blood of the Lozis who will perish in any blood shed because we are not prepared for war but dialogue and our plight recognised.
Her Ladyship advised:
Lozis, please listen to SHIKAPOPO though he has no brains he is part of the current government until we vote again. Circulating material considered as seditious is very dangerous. Further, how sure are you that what you are circulating is the genuine Barotse agreement of 1964? I urge all Lozi speaking people to remain calm and I also implore the MMD government to call these people to the table and discuss, dissect and agree wayforward concerning the BA. Ignoring them is what is infuriating them and the unfolding of this Barotse saga is another proof of the failures of the NCC to which this document was presented but taken with the same casual approach they had for the 50% plus 1 and the bill of rights!
… let people have the knowledge of the barotse agreement, why so foolish after you’ve read the truth you decide to hide it from ohter people, Malanga hao NJOKO TUWEEE…. YOU don’t even know what sedtious means, afterall you donnot fit to be information minister,…Leave Mutangelwa along that person is innocent. circulating those copies does not mean war but education to ordinarly citizens so that they can have light in everything ,which greed people like you enjoys alone fool. Utuele bu kuba nja tuwee….idiot.
“Government orders Bartose secessionists to stop re-printing 1964 agreement”….BARTOSE? Please check spellings before posting, especially in headlines.
Now, let’s imagine the agreement is restored today. In short, all Lozis will cease to be Zambians forthwith. We’ll ask them to return to Barotseland and apply for visas to cross to Zambia. We’ll most likely deny them visas. Then all Zambians in Barotseland will be kicked out and head back home to Zambia and take over jobs left behind by Barotse natives; All lozi ministers and ambassadors will lose their jobs. It will be interesting to see Barotseland import food from Zambia. Of course we’ll have to import fish.
Bottom line is: if the agreement is genuine, then the right thing to do is to restore it…put Army trucks on stand by to ship Lozis back home; Rid off the military of all Barotse natives, etc.
I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS COME TRUE.
Let's reject tribalism. The Barotseland Agreement was not meant to create another country, I have shared a link to the full Agreement. Please take your time to study it before promoting matters you do not understand. http://www.zambianwatchdog.com/2010/11/02/full-baratseland-agreement-of-1964/
Paletsa Nasilele wrote:
its bin long cnc [since] i witnest a viva. Barotse guys ar mekin it hapen in mongu. VIVA BAROTSELAND, VIVA BAROTSE FIGHTER!!!.
Last year, Nalikando posted a full text of UK parliamentary debates on Barotseland Agreement:
Rhodesia (31 Oct 1975)
Sir Ronald Bell: …, and we got none. Indeed, I was involved in the negotiations for the independence of Zambia at the time of the break-up of the Federation, because I was professionally instructed on behalf of Barotseland. Dr. Kaunda and all those with him made it clear that if we sought to impose conditions which they did not like they would sweep them aside as soon as they obtained their independence….
Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Affairs: Zambia (13 Dec 1966) See 3 other results from this debate
Mr John Biggs-Davison: asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what communication he has received from the President of Zambia about the modification of the Barotseland Agreement 1964.
Zambia (26 Jan 1967)
Sir Ronald Bell: Has any recent communication from the Government of Zambia to the Prime Minister referred to the unilateral abrogation by that country of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964? If so, what representations has the Prime Minister made in reply?
Aden (19 Jun 1967)
Mr John Lee: …untouched. We know what is happenning there now. We tried to do the same thing in Uganda and there was the rift between Buganda and the rest of the country. We attempted it to some extent in Rhodesia, with Barotseland, but this attempt was squashed. We are doing exactly the same thing with the High Commission Territories in South Africa. We have given independence to undemocratic Lesotho…
Whatever is the case with the Barotse Agreement, the Zambian government has a duty to sit down and discuss this issue with all parties concerned before Zambia in particular, and Africa in general, is plunged into yet another needless and avoidable conflict.