Last Updated
Friday 28 November 2014, 17:55 pm.
The origins of the Barotseland conflict

MONGU - Police have warned and cautioned the Ngambela (prime minister) of Barotseland following calls for this part of Zambia bordering Botswana, Namibia and Angola to secede from the rest of the country.
By Staff Writer Sat 29 Nov 2014, 08:01 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The origins of the Barotseland conflict








Clement Sinyinda, a former minister in the old ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), has since sought refuge at the palace of the Litunga of Barotseland in Limulunga, Mongu.

Barotseland, which had the same 'nation' status equivalent to that of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Lesotho in British colonial Africa, has presented Zambia with several political problems since first president, Kenneth Kaunda, took office in 1964. On January 14, 2011 police shot dead two people in Barotseland, injured several others and rounded up many whom they charged with treason. This was after the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) rejected the revival of Barotseland and the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 in the Zambian constitution. Treason suspects were released following President Michael Sata's decree after which he appointed a commission of inquiry into the shootings. The commission, led by constitutional lawyer, Dr Roger Chongwe, recommended that the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 be restored.

What followed were calls for the secession of Barotseland from the rest of Zambia.
 
Historical background
In order to delve into the question of Barotseland whose boundary covered the territory in the northern part of present-day Botswana, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and Angola, it is important to look at its background.

Barotseland has a foremost recognition in constitutional law in the sense that it was the first to be created when it comes to what is referred to as Zambia. The British government passed the North-Western Rhodesia-Barotseland order-in-council in 1899 while the other order-in-council to establish North-Eastern Rhodesia was passed in 1900.

Earlier, the Litunga signed the Lochner Concession in 1890, giving monopoly mining and trading rights to Cecil John Rhodes' British South African Company (BSA).

As a result of those rights and Britain's interests, Barotseland was offered protection, which it enjoyed at the time it was joined to North Eastern Rhodesia in 1911 to form Northern Rhodesia. Under those circumstances, Northern Rhodesia as a whole was treated as a protectorate while the status of Barotseland was a protectorate within a protectorate. The Moncton Commission of 1960 re-affirmed Barotseland as a state within Northern Rhodesia.

Shortly before Zambia got political independence from Britain, negotiations in London led to the drafting of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 since there were treaties that Britain signed with Barotseland and Northern Rhodesia. The agreement was signed by Kaunda, who was then prime minister of Northern Rhodesia, the Litunga Sir Mwanawina Lewanika III and Duncan Sandys, from the Commonwealth colonial office in London who represented Her Majesty's government. The thrust of the Barotseland Agreement was the formation of an irreversible unitary state known as Zambia in which Barotseland was given some degree of autonomy. Such autonomy included establishment of a native treasury, native courts to administer customary laws, game conservation and holding of festivals such as the famous Kuomboka ceremony whose regalia for the Litunga is supplied by Britain. Barotseland was given that treatment because it could be granted political independence as a separate state, the way Britain did to Swaziland and Lesotho, which upheld traditional leadership in their political systems. However, the extent of the Lozi 'nation' was exaggerated because it made economic and administrative sense for Britain to deal with a single traditional leader. As a result of Britain's interests, the kingdom covered the northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and the eastern part of Angola, which were cut off during the creation of present-day national boundaries.
 
Abrogation of the Barotseland agreement
In 1965, a year after Zambia gained political independence, Kaunda's government introduced the Local Government Act, which banned local government systems in Barotseland. Kaunda's government also introduced the Chiefs Act, which empowered the President to recognise or withdraw the recognition of all the chiefs.

In 1966, the late Nalumino Mundia, a politician and son of the Ngambela (Prime Minister) of Barotseland, became the first cabinet minister in the Kaunda administration to resign. Mundia formed the United Party that drew most of its following from Barotseland, forcing Kaunda to use his presidential powers to detain his former minister, thereby ending possibilities of a rival party to UNIP in that region.

Another law that weakened the Litunga was the Referendum Act of 1969, which allowed the National Assembly to amend the constitution without subjecting changes to a national referendum. As a result of that law, property rights were changed in the Bill of Rights so that the government confiscated mines from foreign investors and nationalised them. The Litunga was further weakened, as he was not authorised to issue mining licences and leases and receive mineral loyalties, powers he was given through agreements with the BSA.

The Kaunda regime also conducted a referendum in 1969 asking whether there was need to sustain the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 in the constitution. Since the extent of Barotseland had been exaggerated, Kaunda's government re-demarcated it into Western, North Western and Copperbelt provinces. The people of Western Province (the diminished Barotseland) voted 'No' in the referendum whereas those who were outside the province voted 'Yes'. That was how 'nation' status of Barotseland and the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 were completely removed from the 1964 Republican Constitution.
 
Old problem grows
During the reign of second President Frederick Chiluba, traditionalists in Barotseland formed the Barotse Patriotic Front (BPF), a political party that called for secession from the rest of the country. The Chiluba government rounded up BPF leaders and put them under detention.When Levy Mwanawasa, ascended to power, he came up with a constitutional review that started in 2003. The Barotse Royal Establishment submitted that the "Barotseland Agreement of 1964 and the 'nation' status of Barotseland should be resorted".

Unfortunately, Mwanawasa died in 2008 and his deputy, Rupiah Banda, was elected president before the constitutional review could be completed. It was during Banda's reign that the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) resolved that the Barotseland Agreement and the status of Barotseland must not be revived in the Republican constitution.The Barotse Freedom Movement, Linyungandambo and the Movement for the Restoration of Barotseland, unregistered organisations, organised a protest meeting in Mongu, the provincial capital on January 14, 2011, where the police shot dead the two people and injured many others.
 
The way forward
 The way forward regarding Barotseland is dialogue between parties involved, especially the President and the Litunga. If people in Barotseland insist on secession, they would be charged with treason and if government insists that the Barotseland Agreement would not be restored, the people would continue to be violent. Post independent secessions in Africa led to wars. The Biafra war started when the Ibos in Nigeria, led by General Odumegu Ojukwu (deceased), embarked on a secession of eastern Nigeria from the rest of the republic. Several Nigerians were killed and many more fled into exile. There was also war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when the governor of Katanga Province, Moise Tshombe, announced the secession of the mineral-rich region from the rest of the former Belgian Congo. Many people were killed in the Congo and the second UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjšeld, died in Ndola in 1961 in Northern Rhodesia as he tried to solve the Congo conflict.

In simpler terms, the demand by the people of Barotseland is the devolution of power from the central government, which the state can uphold and also extend to other provinces through constitutional means. In his open letter to President Sata, prominent constitutional lawyer, Dr Ludwig Sondashi proposed a federal system saying: "We need true devolution of power to provinces. Since independence successive administrations have paid lip-service to the principle of decentralisation. This can be done by establishing provincial parliaments and governments so that people in provinces can govern themselves." (Sila Press Agency)



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