As Barotseland pushes for total independence from Zambia, it is clear that the road will not be smooth as it has been with many countries and as such, we will draw a few lessons from countries and movements in the region that went through freedom struggle.
In Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, the struggle took the path of armed struggle after peaceful means failed to yield positive results. The Zimbabwe bush war or second Chimurenga was fought from 4th July 1964 to 12th December 1979, a period of 15 years, five months, one week and one day. Before commencement of the armed struggle, a number of black Africans started to agitate for freedom, however, many whites and a sizable minority of black Rhodesians viewed their lifestyle as being under attack, which both considered safer and with a higher standard of living than many other African countries.
The same situation today applies to Barotseland were despite the general majority being aware of the situation and eager to break free of Zambian hegemony, a sizable Barotse minority who feel better placed in economic terms within Zambia see the push for freedom as a danger to their lifestyle and simply rubbish calls for freedom.
Two rival nationalist groups emerged in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) following a split in the former in August 1963 following disagreements over tactics as well as personality clashes. ZANU and its military wing ZANLA were initially headed by the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and later by Robert Mugabe. ZAPU on the other hand and its military wing, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) were under the leadership of Joshua Nkhomo.
The Zimbabwe Bush war pitted three belligerents against one another, the Ian Smith government forces, ZAPU’S ZIPRA and ZANU’S ZANLA. The two nationalist movements fought separate wars against the Rhodesian forces but the two groups sometimes fought against each other as well.
The minority Rhodesian government held that the traditional chiefs were the legitimate voice of the black Shona and Ndebele population and not ZANU and ZAPU nationalists, who it regarded as dangerous and violent usurpers.
Following the birth of nationalist movements in Barotseland, the Zambian government has always felt that the traditional authority or the Barotse Royal Establishments (BRE) is the legitimate voice of the people of Barotseland and not the nationalist movements. The Zambians have however failed to listen to the people of Barotseland after they spoke through the Barotseland National Council (BNC), a body that includes all the traditional leaders of Barotseland.
Zimbabwe was however saved from possible confrontation among the nationalists, (like the case was in Angola after independence), when the British took control of the country from the Smith government for a year under which they organized elections which were won by Robert Mugabe’s ZANU. In the case of Mozambique, the local population became nationalistic and frustrated by the nations subservience to foreign rule.
Many acculturated indigenous Africans who were fully integrated into the Portuguese ruled social organisation of Mozambique, in particular those from urban centres, reacted to the independence claims with a mixture of discomfort and suspicion. The ruling Portuguese on the other hand responded with increased military presence and fast paced development projects which resulted in the construction of the Cabora bassa Dam for generation of Hydro power.
Among the freedom fighting movement which took to the battle field to achieve independence, FRELIMO, lost one of its top commanders, Filipe Samuel Magaia, who was shot dead by Lourenco Matola, a fellow guerrilla who was believed to have been employed by the Portuguese. Prior to the formation of the Soviet backed FRELIMO, the Soviets position regarding the nationalist movements in Mozambique was one of confusion. There were multiple independence movements in Mozambique and they (Soviet) had no sure knowledge that any would succeed.
As Barotseland pushes on the path to freedom, Zambia will deploy all manner of gymnastics to derail the process. They will bring in fast paced development projects, fake promises like the Mungu stadium, divide and rule tactics alongside intimidation and heavy deployment of military forces. On the part of Barotseland, collaborators will always be there like has been the case in every country that has ever fought for freedom but the key is for all movements and individual citizens to remain determined and focused.
Like Mandela, we may say, "There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere; What Barotseland is going through today, others went through it too."
News reported in some sections of the Zambian media that president Lungu wishes to engage with Barotse Royal Establishment and the activists so that they could show him the boundaries of what he referred to as the “so called Barotseland” so that he could possibly allow for a referendum, should not excite Barotseland even a bit as president Lungu is at the very least bluffing or he has no knowledge of what the Barotseland issue is really about.
The fact is, the people of Barotseland do not even require a referendum to be conducted on account that there is no legal reference of their existence within the union with Zambia. Zambia used its parliament to destroy the treaty that it did not create. Therefore, Zambia should instead respect the views of the people at the March Barotse National Council (BNC) of 2012 by withdrawing its administration from the territory they do not legally own.
Referendum in Exercise of Self-Determination
Recently Barotseland Government Lawyers wrote this on the issue of using a referendum as a means of implementing the disengagement between Barotseland and Zambia. Here below we share some of what they had to say on this matter.
The exercise of the right to self-determination requires, by its very nature, the expression of the will of the people. The holding of a referendum in order to establish the will of the people with respect to a change of status matters is a widely accepted act of self-determination. By way of example, Scotland recently held such a referendum on its independence. The Conference of Experts however noted that the act of self-determination is not reduced to a referendum but is seen as an integral process to which the referendum is but one of the elements. They further cautioned that where only votes count, a people or community which is numerically inferior has no control over its destiny. To this end, if a referendum is to be conducted then it has to be carefully formulated and the group of people allowed to vote clearly defined in order to ensure that the people of Barotseland are the ones that ultimately make the decision. If the vote is left to all of Zambia then the voices of the people of Barotseland can be quite easily drowned and the essence of the referendum defeated.
However, on the other hand, the people of Barotseland do not require a referendum to be conducted on account that there is no legal reference of their existence within the union with Zambia. Zambia used its parliament to destroy the treaty that it did not create. If Zambia was led by clever and sane people, they would have respected the views of the people at BNC of 2012 by withdrawing its administration from the territory they do not legally own. Over 50,000 people had gathered at BNC 2012 to resolve that Barotseland shall now become independent and it shall then determine its future whether good or bad.
It is not within the powers of Zambia to decide the fate and prospect of Barotseland; the independence of Barotseland is not hinged on Zambia to decide. Barotseland has a right to decide on its own, just like it did in 1964 when it resolved to join Zambia, and in the same way, it has decided to come out of it. There is no ambiguity in that.
The people of Scotland went for a Referendum because there was nothing that they had agreed upon with Britain that they did not respect; the rules and conditions of their union were rightfully followed, but still the people of Scotland felt they were lacking the element of being Scottish as a people coming from the independent Nation of Scotland. So they sought to come out of it, and the legality of any case determines whether referendum should be considered or not.
As for the case between Barotseland and Zambia it is such a straight forward one; it requires the respect and sincerity of both parties to be exercise maturity, or else it can result in deadly conflict which could have been avoided.
The true position of Barotseland within Zambia is that, Barotseland wants total independence granted through the 2012 BNC; to actualize it, it will go ahead to sue Zambia in the International Court of Justice just to lay claim and charges against Zambia, so that Zambia can now pay for all the misfortune it has caused on Barotseland in the court of law. If Zambia feels it has a legal claim over Barotseland, then let it advance it.
It must be noted that previous attempts by the Barotseland to engage the Government of Zambia in any form of meaningfully dialogue has fallen on deaf ears. If Zambia continues to skate around the matter of peaceful disengagement by bringing in no-issues such the referendum proposal then they are clearly showing that they are not serious about settling this matter peaceably.
We, therefore, wish to caution Barotseland nationals not to be duped by promises of referendum. If Zambians are failing to organize elections whose outcomes are agreeable to all, what guarantee is there that the organized referendum will yield acceptable outcomes?
If Zambia does not with draw their administration, the more credible routed is to take them to an international Court where they can produce their legal claim to administration of Barotseland.
Barotseland should not lose focus by paying credence to Mr. Lungu’s statement. In our view he is just setting up for the Lozi vote in Zambia’s 2016 general election. If he is serious he must firstly talk about his plan for withdrawing his troops from Barotseland, releasing all political prisoners in Zambian jails, such as His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Afumba Mombotwa, Administrator General, Rt. Hon. Likando Pelekelo, Secretary of State for Agriculture, Rt. Hon. Sylvester Kalima, Deputy Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rt. Hon. Masiye Masiyaleti, Deputy Secretary of Defense, including the four BNYL officials; Boris Maziba, Nayoto Mwenda, Sikwibela Wasilota and Hon. Mubita Waluka, who are unjustly serving jail sentences. These must be freed without any conditions and further delay.
Besides, The Zambian government already knows what the people of Barotseland want, not only through the BNC 2012 resolutions, but also the Rodger Chongwe Independent Commission of Inquiry which to date government has refuse to make public, only because the commission recommended the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. So what do they now want to achieve through the proposed referendum other than creating a platform to dupe Lozis once and for all?
Malozi, alutone! Busile. Bulozi kibwaluna Kupale Kumane. Abashi referendum!
INSANITY is sometimes defined as doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. The Barotseland Agreement of 1964 was a wonderful document which guaranteed the semi-autonomy of Barotseland within Zambia. It guaranteed that, among other things, Barotseland would have its own government headed by the Litunga, king of Barotseland, own parliament through the elective Katengo Legislative Council, own budget and treasury through the Barotse Native Treasury, and own laws and judiciary through Barotse Native Courts. This and much more were all listed and tabulated in BLACK and WHITE. Not only were they SIGNED for by all PARTIES involved but were also REFLECTED in the ZAMBIA INDEPENDENCE ORDER and ZAMBIA INDEPENDENCE ACT, both of 1964, with CLAUSES 2 and 8 specified in the agreement to ensure that Zambia would not pass any LEGAL changes or enact any laws inconsistent with the provisions of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? After all the agreement was ‘WATER tight’ , and the Barotseland King was representing the wishes of not only his people but also his heirs and his privy council on one hand, and Kenneth Kaunda was representing his government and all successive Zambian governments on the other. Her majesty the Queen’s government and the commonwealth were represented by Duncan Sandys, as they all SIGNED in MUTUAL agreement. The document was RIGHTLY called The BAROTSELAND (and not Barotse) Agreement 1964, signifying that it was a STATE to STATE agreement, and not an agreement with a ‘tribe’ ethnic within a single state!
HOWEVER, in spite of all the said caveats and cautionary clauses put in the BLACK and WHITE documented LEGAL agreement, Zambia, because of her military hardware and personnel, did not hesitate to UNILATERALLY annul and ABROGATE the agreement no sooner had it been signed, while the UNITED KINGDOM and the rest of the world looked on and hid behind the safe diplomatic veil of NON-INTERFERENCE in the INTERNAL affairs of the now SOVEREIGN republic of Zambia. No known sanctions, punitive or cautionary, were imposed on Zambia to this day! Instead we saw the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland move on to treat Zambia and her default in the spirit of ‘SEE no Evil, HEAR no Evil and SPEAK no Evil’. Not even once was the treachery of Kenneth Kaunda’s government reprimanded. The torture, killing or arrests of Barotse nationals who have sought to remind Kenneth Kaunda and all his successors of the terms of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 over the years has largely gone unabated, until Barotseland decided on 27th March 2012 that Zambia had scorned her enough!
MANY in the world who applauded Barotseland’s courageous independence declaration in 2012 may, however, take Barotseland for a joke should she turn back now, falling for the sweet enticement and flattery of ‘PEACE’ and ‘UNITY’ within Zambia, even when she has had neither JUSTICE nor EQUITY! It is no longer a SECRET at all that Zambia cannot be TRUSTED with Legal provisions and agreements. Treachery and dishonesty is largely applauded and glorified in both popular and some customary cultures of Zambia while such traits are vehemently loathed in Barotseland. Barotseland can NOT and should NOT, therefore, be seen to be going two steps forward only to go five steps backward. Barotseland can NOT and should NOT even think that doing the same thing they did in 1964, and with the same characters, will NOW yield different results just because the year today is 2015! Barotseland may never have another opportunity to free herself from the cycle of oppression she has suffered in the last fifty years!
WHILE it is EXCUSABLE to make a mistake once it would be plain ABSURDITY repeating it. Similarly, ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY, as the popular idiom goes. Give power to the SCORNFUL and they will use it against you, while laughing at how plain stupid you are! Zambia has already demonstrated how scornful she can be towards Barotseland. Successive Zambian governments have tortured and killed many Barotse people, and yet do not even have the decency to acknowledge their misdeeds. They will kill nineteen Barotse sons and daughters in cold blood today but will report only two dead, and then tomorrow deny any killings all together because mass media reports are allegedly 'inadmissible' in certain international arbitration! Is Barotseland not too familiar with such treatment already?
CAN Zambia be trusted with yet another agreement? Who will even police the second agreement if Great Britain and the powerful world could not police the first? That they even want another agreement could not possibly be out of care and concern for Barotseland's 'unsustainable' economy! Every Barotse national knows that Barotseland is as viable an economy as some of her neighbors’. The fact that Barotseland is impoverished today; is it not due to deliberate and calculated neglect from Zambia’s central government? After all, wasn’t Barotseland the most economically sound territory at Zambia’s independence in 1964 outside of the line of rail? Wasn’t the economy of Barotseland purposely underdeveloped in every way so that it can precisely be perpetually dependent on Zambia? Why would the economy of Barotseland be a concern now when it has not been for the past five decades? Wasn’t Botswana’s, then Bechuanaland, economic viability also called into question at independence with those opposed to her independence proposing that it be ceded to South Africa under circumstances similar to Barotseland? What did the Batswana people do? They resolved freedom was more precious than their 'fear' of failure, and went on to independence with only cattle rearing as the mainstay of their economy long before diamond mining became a reality. Where is Botswana’s economy now in comparative terms? Is it not a model economy in Africa topping all positive charts, not only in good governance but also in prudent utilization of resources, while the majority of countries considered viable then wallow in despicable poverty?
MALOZI bakatona lili kobaya kobakuwa? Isn’t Barotseland’s cashew potential output and value alone equal to Zambia’s depleting and fluctuating copper profits on global markets? If they say Barotseland has no natural resources, why do they then mortgage Barotseland to foreign financiers in return for electoral campaign funds? Don’t their own parliamentary reports indicate officially that they are now exploring for diamonds, gas, copper, petroleum, gold and much more in Barotseland? Could this be the real reason they suddenly want Barotseland to stay so desperately? Isn’t their current constitution in DRAFT empowering their presidency now to have power to rape and exploit even Barotseland natural resources at will? Is it not stated clearly in the same DRAFT that all land, rivers, forests and any other natural resources in Barotseland will now belong to the ‘state’ through their PRESIDENCY to use and exploit, meaning the Litungaship will now no longer be the repository and custodian of all land in Barotseland on behalf of and for the people of Barotseland?
IS it so hard to see the obvious and for once state the facts as they are? They say only a few rubble-rousers and fanatics like Afumba Mombotwa with his Linyungandambo, Nyambe Namushi with his BFM and Wainyae Sinyinda with his BNFA want independence. Was the March 2012 Barotse National Council composed only of a few fanatical rubble rousers? Were their Royal Highnesses Barotse princes and princesses, the Indunas at all tiers of Barotse governance to the village and household level, who UNANIMOUSLY echoed and endorsed INDEPENDENCE, only but a few fanatical RUBBLE ROUSERS? What INSOLENCE and CONTEMPT! Why won’t the African Union, the United Nations and the world at large respect the wishes and rights of the Barotse or are the Barotse people sub humans unworthy of the universal human rights of SELF-DETERMINATION? Hasn’t Barotseland told the world what she really wants? When Barotseland says she wants independence it means she wants to make her own life! It means Barotseland will grow her own food and plantains, catch her own fish, and dig her own holes in search of anything Almighty God has willed to her. It means everyone from the smallest villager to the Litungaship must and will be willing to stand and build Barotseland! AND it is true it will not be easy, and she will definitely require help and will seek to forge socio-economic and political partnerships globally! Nobody is under any such illusion; that Barotseland national building will be easy! But isn’t it also true that the same people saying that Barotseland cannot stand without them are also heavily dependent on the good will of the international community? Are they not almost choking with domestic and foreign debt? So what really could Barotseland be afraid of?
THEREFORE, Barotseland and her current generations should not let posterity judge them harshly. Having already tried and tasted the fake semi-autonomy agreements with Zambia signed fifty years ago, which resulted into her current bitter ANGUISH, Barotseland should now fearlessly seize the MOMENT and try something else; the sweetness of freedom through total INDEPENDENCE! Those persuading Barotseland to stay in an abusive relationship will be the same ones who will continue to watch her suffer like she has done for fifty years. After all they already knew that Barotseland’s agreement partners had defaulted and abrogated, but they chose to keep quiet, and will continue to stand aloof as they watch her suffer once again, should the second or third agreements fail. It is only Barotseland that can truly emancipate herself. Even courts of law do not compel estranged spouses to continue living together as they may begin to hurt each other fatally! Barotseland should now stand firm and SHOW the world in NO UNCERTAIN terms that INDEPENDENCE, and NOTHING less, is her RALLYING cry! Those so far perished equally expect nothing less. Then will their souls and spirits truly rest in peace, knowing that their bloody sacrifice was not in vain!
The very few Barotse people, if any, not desirous or sure of Barotseland Independence have the liberty to Repatriate or Expatriate to Zambia or any other country of their choosing where they think their ECONOMIC and other aspirations will be fulfilled, rather than hinder the majority of Barotse nationals who have already UNANIMOUSLY declared INDEPENDENCE! Those away and not sure can equally stay still until they think Barotseland is viable enough for them to return. This way everyone’s aspirations will be FULFILLED!
MUYOYANDE MALOZI, LITUNGA NI LYETU!