Zambia: 1964 Independence Agreement Threatens to Split Nation

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.



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!

Tatila wrote:

… 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.

Emmanuel wrote:

“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.

You can read the text of the agreement from a post published in June, 2009 by Namakando Nalikando-Sinyama and another one in Zambian Watchdog.

Barotseland is a Facebook group where discussions are going on about the Barotseland Agreement. Nshinka Lupupa wrote:

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.

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.


  • […] The Lozi loyalists want the Zambian government to restore the 1964 Barotse Agreement which gave formal recognition of the authority of the Litunga, king of the Lozi whose predecessors signed agreements with explorers and colonial governments. These agreements entitled the kingdom to royalties from minerals mined from faraway Copperbelt Province. […]

  • Mataa

    Barotse Crack Squad
    Allow me to air my views on the Killing, wounding and arresting of more than 131 youths in Mongu over Barotseland of 1964 on the 14th January 2011.
    Our problems in Zambia arise from MMD bad government, corruption, unemployment and arrogance by the MMD leaders; I am a well educated Lozi young man with a two Degrees in Law and Commerce but still jobless for six years now.
    I was one of the 131 treason accused persons in Mongu, I had to escape from a containers at CCC were I was detained, we had no fresh air, food, water and medicine for five days and the wounded youth who were treated of gun shots wounds in Lewanika General Hospital were brought to CCC containers which are turned in police cells, life is hell for my fellow friend who are still in these containers, police in Mongu refused access to our parents, wives and children on conditions that we are charged with treason, we are praying and crying to GOD for freedom, development and secession of western province.
    Reports were going to the Human Rights Commission on the violence of right to food, water and treatment. I follow SACCORD Information Officer Obby Chibuluma’s words that Human Rights Commission is a toothless organization yes it’s a toothless organization.
    It’s painful to see our friends released from containers created has police cells at CCC site on conditions ARE NON-LOZI’s SPEAKING ( Bemba, Njenja, Tonga and others), the commission had reduced itself to a government mouth-piece at the expense of protecting people’s rights. I was detained on condition of being a youth and from compound were activists come from.
    On the 14th January 2011, I was home with my wife in fear of the 14th January 2011 meeting. On the 15th January 2011, I was arrested by a combined term of Mongu and Lusaka Police servicemen on charges of treason in my own home watching TV with my wife and two of my children, because I am a Lozi youth with a well paying self- employed job, Rupiah Banda’s government of good for nothing, we shall make sure we level the playing ground for him in this coming 2011 general election, the MMD government has done nothing in terms of development in Western province, for 47 years of Zambian you can’t point any piece of development in western province, we haven’t seen a piece of development in MMD government, we won’t sit and watch MMD cadres courts sentenced our 22 heroes detained in Lusaka and the remain 130 Lozi’s in CCC containers, we shall stand and fight for your freedom, freedom is coming, this is the coming of secession of western province.
    The Barotseland Agreement is a really thing and still hold water, Rupiah Banda should not cover himself and other top leadership from western province that this Agreement does not hold water, it does, we are aware of the blown envelopes the Rupiah Banda and George Kunda are giving to KING LUBOSI and his top leadership to advocate against secession of western province, we Lozi’s born in Barotseland we know our roots, a lot about Barotseland than those born in high class towns, we have all documentations on Barotseland with all the Code Numbers of the Barotseland Agreement, Letters to AU, EU and other important source over the happening in Zambia, we won’t wait and see our right to freedom is violence by Zambian, we will stand the ground has the sons of Barotseland fight for our mother land, we shall make sure there will be in free, fair and peaceful election in Zambia.
    Despite police in Mongu and Lusaka announcing that they arrested 131 people in Mongu for causing violence, only 23 appeared in court, it’s really shocking that the courts are silent in asking the police about where about of the 131, our families are still refused access to see their detained families because conditions are bad under these containers meant for road storages items.
    The Barotse Activists Movement has formed a Barotse Crack Squad toward 2011 General Elections in Western Province targeting all MMD squad in Barotseland.
    Barotse Crack Squad on financial and technical support from International organizations, ministers of Rupiah Banda and well wishers to fight, advocacy for secession and development of western province in namely districts of Shango’mbo, Kalabo, Kaoma, Sesheke, Lukulu, Senanga and Mongu.

    The Organization is evolving and keen to encourage new members to join who have an interest & heart to die for mother land Barotseland in advocacy for secession and development of western province for Zambia. The Barotse Crack Squad needs active sons and daughters of the Barotseland who are committed to die for its secession and development of western province (Barotseland) through gun shooting brought by Rupiah Banda to unarmed citizen of Barotseland, I am in Angola were am seeking for asylum because my life is now at sake.

    The government must at all time respect fundamental human rights which include the right to life, treatment, freedom of speech and assembly, without a police permit in a democratic country. Zambia is not a peaceful and democratic nation, only the fools will say Zambia is a peaceful and democratic nation

    This was a public meeting for Lozi families to speak has a family not to fight anyone or to talk about secession of western province, Barotse Royal Establishment and George Kunda come up with the secession of western province not the movement because of the brown envelope , I would love to testified in the court of law if gave change to do under the protection of another country, not the Zambian security men.
    I would love to stated to all the movement members that, we have drawing a plan for total Bloodshed toward the 2011 elections in Western province and we use every force to create no go area for Rupiah Band, King Lubosi , Mkhondo Lungu and the MPs for Western Province. If Zambia is known of its peace, it will no long be a peaceful nation because of Rupiah Band, King Lubosi George Kunda, Mkhondo Lungu and the MPs for Western Province who have bad leadership.
    We are challenging Rupiah Band, King Lubosi, George Kunda , Mkhondo Lungu and the MPs for Western Province to tell the nation the truths, to why the denied the movement a permit and to why George Kunda came to western province under cover? If we are a terrorist organization we would have bombed him on 5 January.
    “Nothing about us without you sons & daughters of Barotseland” and believes that the involvement of you in setting the agenda on advocacy for secession and development of western province from Zambia is key.

    For more information, comments and contribution read Barotse Issues on my Facebook and blog.
    Mataa Mwiya
    Former treason accused detained

  • aubrey sakuwaha

    The strength of every nation lies in the unity of its people. Zambia has more than 72 different languages, all held together by the notion `one Zambia, one nation`. So i strongly feel the Lozis should stop acting like the Nazis and respect that.
    There is only one Zambia and we cannot afford to destroy it on the basis that the so the lozis signed an agreement with a foreign nation for whatever reasons.
    It is our responsibility to preserve our nation. Mind you, the British only came to explore our minerals on Merchantalism grounds (it`s only a fact). So get what you have left and build on that to develop yourself other than wasting time on reaping apart what you have.

  • […] world but this may no longer hold if the developing situation in Zambia in which advocates of an independent Barotseland, better known as Western Province, force matters and secede from the rest of the […]

  • […] for the secession of Western Province have heated up in the last few years over allegations that successive Zambian governments have […]

  • […] النداءات حول انفصال المقاطعة الغربية في السنوات القليلة الماضية خلال مزاعم تجاهل الحكومات […]

  • […] he said in his bedroom. During the same period, the ruler of the restive Western Province, whose residents want to secede from the rest of Zambia, had to flee his palace when he discovered a recording device under his […]

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