Research into historical records about the Barotseland conflict in several global libraries, in history books and as well as in attested papers, have always showcased Barotseland as state. Some organizations, do and have always considered Barotseland as a future point of conflict in Africa. Others have always listed Barotseland as a future independent state of Africa. Indeed, this information, though now secured as a result of the current impasse, has always only been otherwise accessible to few people who have access to such records.
Today, Barotseland Independence has attracted wide attention, both in Zambia and in all international circles, and has sharply proved historical predictions that this land would one day emerge as an area of political conflict in Africa.
Dormant for 47 years, it is now active. In a nutshell, the world, and all those immediately affected by this conflict, must now realistically come to terms with the fact that Barotseland is now a political hotspot. And its significance can not be rushed away simplistically, ignored hoping it will die a natural death, hid out of face, or replaced with any sanctions, but to genuinely face it within the full confines of those definitions that make the Barotseland question not only to now be viewed, but also to have been predicted long before, as an area of political conflict in Africa AND A FUTURE INDEPENDENT STATE as well.
Historians base their predictions on three knowledge points.
The first point is that Barotseland had always existed as an internationally recognized country, a kingdom with recognized boundaries. Barotseland never gave away her sovereignty to any other nation.
Secondly, Barotseland entered into a unitary system with Northern Rhodesia to form Zambia citing an internationally sanctioned document called the Barotseland Agreement of 1964, which linked the two together, but was selfishly and unilaterally abrogated by Kenneth Buchizya Kaunda. Britain, Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland are party to the BA64.
The third point is that, by acknowledging that land is a major source of conflict the world over, and that Kenneth Buchizya Kaunda broke the terms of the agreement and assumed unwarranted control of land which did not belong to him, it was expected that Barotseland would resist this act of aggression, and that, inevitably, the people of Barotseland would fight against Zambia for control of their boundaries. And this is what i taking place now.
It must be understood that historians went further and predicated that Barotseland will once again emerge as an independent state. Ironically anyway, those who have been sharp and radical on the plight of this kingdom, did not dilute their position, but categorically stated that Barotseland is already and existing state. And we tend to agree with the latter.
Therefore, it is at this point that we must ask another important question? Why did these historians predict or refer to barotseland as a future independent state? Why is the international community now viewing Barotseland as an emerging independent state?
The same three points mentioned above come back to light, but this time around, historians add to it human desire for rightful self determination. While the rights of the people of Barotseland had always remained tampered with and they were able to contain it, it was clear that tolerance would one day reach breaking point, at which time the Barotse question would take a sharp turning point towards inspiring her people to radically demand for their rights. Currently, all signs that the people of Barotseland have been marginalized in the unitary system are visible and it is for this reason that the quest for self rule is boiling in Barotseland.
In the case of Zambia, indeed, the world had always stood askew as they waited for Zambia to become a hotspot, for this was inevitable, thanks to Barotseland.
The conditions for Barotseland to desire self rule by dis-engaging from the failed unitary system with Northern Rhodesia, therefore not only based on the unilateral abrogation of the BA64 by Buchizya alone, but coupled with this legal position, is the conditions under which the people of barotseland live under successive Zambian governments.
Every time the people of Barotseland called for restoration of the BA64 that led to the formation of Zambia as a unitary nation Zambian authorities have violently responded to such calls. Many people have died mysteriously, including Lawyer Richard Ngenda who took over the Barotse case from constitutional lawyer Rodger Chongwe. He was found dead in a car in what people say was a faked accident.
Others have been detained in jail while some may have disappeared. Not so long ago, the Zambian Government, under then President Rupiah Banda, killed demonstrators who wanted to hold a peaceful meeting over the BA64. Although the official number was three, recent records have shown that as many as nineteen have gone missing. Intelligence information indicates that these were buried by prisoners who, following the recent commission of inquiry into these killing, led to suspicion that these prisoners were also eliminated.
Last week, current President Micheal Chilufya Sata, ordered the army to kill lozis. He used unpalatable words, quoting lozi terms as identity points to be used to kill Lozis, the people of Barotseland. Sata made this announcement in the presence of army staff from the SADC region.
Apart from this attitude from Zambian authorities which makes the people of Barotseland feel alienated, Barotseland remains the poorest region in Zambia. The land is impoverished. There is neither industrial nor agricultural development in the region. Many people still live in what one would call makeshift housing. The region still remains backward, if not worse than it was when Barotseland formed a unitary system with Northern Rhodesia.
The current government of Sata has also started removing people from this region from executive positions in the country and managers in many other institution. Presently, while the ruling PF Government is scheming to remove a minister who hails from this region after he was questioned by the international community over Barotseland after his tour of Europe and America, the Zambian Government has also stopped paying the salary of The Litunga, the King of Barotseland, seemingly to punish him.
The situation is further aggravated by the attitude taken by the Zambian Government. Successive governments have always avoided facing the challenge poised by the Barotse question, apart from Sata, the current Zambian Government president. He also, however, publicly rejected the recommendations of his own Commission of Inquiry to restore the Barotseland Agreement of 1964, which was the only document that linked Barotseland to 'Zambia'. By tones of law, he may have effectively pronounced the departure of Barotseland.
Rather, the Zambian government has embarked on schemes to either try to alienate the King of Barotseland from his people or apply divide and rule tactics with the various ethnic groups of Barotseland in order to show that others do not support it. It is however clear that the best option for concluding the Barotse issue could have been handled through negotiations, but this chance seems to have been lost as a result of a government that seems to be confused by the complexity of what Zambia finds herself entangled in.
Many conflicts in the world have been very difficult to resolve because of complex human factors and lack of legal foundations, but the Barotseland issue is different. It is one that has all the pre - requisites for credible justification for the creation of an independent Barotseland. And with the events taking place concerning Barotseland, it is logical to side that historians are once again soon to be proven right.
1. ' Elites of Barotseland',' Gerald Capton, 1922.
2. 'Barotseland', J. Bale, Sons & Danielsson.
3. Encyclopedia Britannica.
4. 'Gazetteer of Geographical Names in the Barotseland Protectorate', Government
Printer, 1959 .
5. 'The Kingdom of barotseland', Alfred Bertrand, AB Miall, 2010 Edition.
6. 'The African Indie', Austin Mbozi.
7. African Federation of Free States.
8. British Parliament Debates on Barotseland.
9. The United Nations.
10. The Boundaries of Barotseland, International Adjudications.
By Mushoke Walusiku