The recently sworn in but disputed Zambian president, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, has once again put himself up for public scrutiny by declaring that his government will soon start the process of discussing the defunct 1964 Barotseland Agreement.
According to the 19:00 hrs Monday prime time news monitored from Zambia’s national and government broadcaster, ZNBC, Mr. Lungu made the remarks about the dead Barotseland agreement in New York while entertaining scores of Zambians based in the US.
Mr. Lungu is in New York for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
This is not the first time he has personally made similar pronouncements over the matter at the sidelines of a major international forum, with the last such pronouncements having been made in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last year at the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit meetings early in his presidency.
IS IT TOO LITTLE TOO LATE?
In the run up to Zambia’s disputed 11th August presidential and general elections, Mr. Lungu, with his counterpart, Lubosi Imwiko II of Barotseland, set up a committee of mostly ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party sympathizers and compromised elements from Barotseland who he met at State House in Lusaka to purportedly prepare for the process of negotiations stage managed from State House. This move was widely seen to be an attempt to merely woo Barotse voters who responded by rejecting Mr. Lungu’s electioneering maneuvers. The entire region instead voted for Mr. Lungu’s main presidential challenger Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in seeming protest to his failure to fulfill earlier public pronouncements made on the matter.
DOES LUNGU MEAN WELL FOR BAROTSELAND?
ABSOLUTELY NOT as far as the majority Barotse are concerned, and the argument is that if Mr. Lungu’s plans towards Barotseland were well-intentioned, he would not be arresting those Barotse who supposedly want the same good intentions for Barotseland. He was indeed going to collaborate with them and listen to them through open and honest dialogue rather than curtailing all dialogue initiated by the major stakeholders, the people, in preference to a selected clique of the ruling elite. Mr. Lungu and his government have instead continued to arrest and imprison all the Barotse that peacefully wish to resolve the 1964 Barotseland agreement conclusively. Therefore, simple logic and common sense proves that his wishes for Barotseland are not the same as the wishes of those he is arresting. It is clearly why he is using everything and everyone he can afford to buy with money to confuse, if not stop the vision for a self-determined Barotseland.
WHAT DO THE BAROTSE PEOPLE WANT?
The Zambian government now want to impose a dead ‘Treaty’ on the people of Barotseland that has long been rejected firstly by Zambia in 1969, and then by Barotseland in 2012, only because international pressure has lately been mounting on Lungu and his Zambian government to peacefully let the Barotse exercise their right of self-determination outside Zambia, after it failed to inure under the abrogated 1964 Barotseland Agreement.
Mr. Lungu’s present efforts have deliberately sidelined and excluded all major stakeholders in Barotseland and senior citizens who have been pursuing the Barotseland case. Some of those notably sidelined are leaders of the independence movement Linyungandambo; Afumba Mombotwa and a couple of his Barotseland transitional government members, who are still serving lengthy prison sentences at Mwembeshi Prison over the same matter that Lungu now wants to discuss with the select ruling party cadres masquerading as Barotseland representatives. Others conspicuously left out of Mr. Lungu’s proposed Barotseland discussion committee are the Barotse National Freedom Alliance (BNFA) headed by former Ngambela Clement W Sinyinda.
However, and according to Mr. Lungu, the process will not be allowed to degenerate into ‘anarchy’ – whatever that means.
IS BAROTSELAND’S CONTINUED ZAMBIAN DOMINATION AN OPTION?
To the people of Barotseland, no solution deviating from the 27th March 2012 Barotse National Council (BNC) which called for the restoration of Barotseland sovereignty will be acceptable as BNC decisions are considered sacred and must be obeyed by all, including the Litunga of Barotseland. The BNC is the supreme and highest policy making body under Barotse governance, and in 2012, the council voted to accept Zambia’s termination of the 1964 treaty which attempted to unite the two British protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland to form the unitary state of Zambia. All the major stakeholders in Barotseland are resolute in standing by the unanimous decisions of the 2012 BNC which is also the most representative organ in Barotse governance and represents the consensus of the Barotse nation in the same way a referendum would.
The 2012 decision set Barotseland on an unstoppable trajectory for independence, and some reports indicate that it has started receiving documented bilateral and diplomatic recognition. Therefore, the Zambian government will do well to be cautioned against imposing a ‘solution’ that will not be acceptable to the people of Barotseland, who are already pursuing national and international processes for the peaceful disengagement from Zambia guaranteed under various international laws and politics.