It is also very clear that any proposed offer of autonomy for Barotseland is largely superficial because it is conceived out of Zambia’s fear of what it might lose if Barotseland separated rather than for what Barotseland would benefit if it stayed! It is much like a wayward man deciding to reconcile with his wife not because he still loves the wife but because he is afraid of the losses he would incur if she left with all her personal entitlements, thereby trapping the wife to a life of perpetual suffering and unhappiness!
However, many Zambians and Barotse alike, wrongly think that ‘restoring’ or implementing the defunct 1964 agreement means the same as independence! Actually, restoration will mean continued Barotseland subjugation in Zambia!
In fact, even those moderate Lozi promoting the ‘restoration’ agenda are doing so under the illusion that once the agreement has been restored or signed, Barotseland will later be granted a chance for independence within five or so years, thinking this is better than attempting to push for outright independence now. So, they claim restoration is only a ‘legal’ stepping stone to future independence!
However, this expectation is far from logical thinking because actually once the Barotseland agreement is signed and implemented, Barotseland will lose any further claim to independence now or in the foreseeable future! Barotseland will have lost all valid reasons for independence as Zambia would continue to implement the watered-down terms of the new agreements! In fact, it might take another fifty to hundred years before any meaningful independence claim would be plausibly conjured! If it has taken forty to fifty years to try and come out of the clearly abrogated 1964 agreement, it is illogical to expect that Barotseland will manage to push for independence within five to ten years of the new agreement in implementation!
However, Barotseland has now reached a crossroad where it must choose either the restoration of the dead 1964 agreement or indeed full independence from Zambia. Notably, Barotseland today could easily choose independence without any shame or fear of international condemnation because it was actually Zambia that first abrogated the 1964 agreement unilaterally.
Logically, choosing one of the two takes Barotseland further away from the other!
Choosing restoration will take Barotseland further away from independence, as even current world affairs have shown that it is equally difficult, if not more, for autonomous regions ruled under unitary states to successfully claim independence as the central government will always make laws that make it nearly impossible for such autonomous regions to get independence! For example, the fact that Catalonia and Scotland have autonomous status does not really make it any easier for them to attain their independence from Spain and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland respectively!
In fact, Barotseland currently does have a more valid claim to independence because its claim emanates from the fact that Zambia unilaterally violated and abrogated the only treaty agreement that united Barotseland with Zambia. It is, therefore, easier for Barotseland to claim independence now as there exists a material breach to its ‘unification’ agreement.
WHY IS THE 1964 AGREEMENT A TRAP TODAY?
In 1964, Zambia was not a unitary state! In fact, it was styled as a federation because Barotseland would enjoy self-government in which it would have its own parliament, laws, courts, treasury, etc. and these did not have to be aligned to the system prevailing elsewhere in Zambia.
However, after independence, the Zambian government began to amend the constitution in order to align the governance of Barotseland with the rest of Zambia, so much that by 1969, the 1964 agreement had virtually been annulled using these constitutional changes!
So, had the 1964 agreement been honoured, it would be implemented in the context of a federal system of government and not under a unitary system of government. Barotseland would enjoy constitutionally granted self-governance without any interference from the central government, as Kenneth Kaunda’s own words made on 6th of August 1964 amplified when he said,
“…I can assure you, Sir Mwanawina, and all members of the Barotse Royal Family and of the Barotse Government that the Government (Central) has no wish to interfere with the day-to-day running of the internal affairs of Barotseland. This will be the responsibility of the Barotse Government and the intention of the Central Government will be no more than to give to the Barotse Government its maximum assistance and co-operation!”
Perhaps what the proponents of restoration need to understand is that the above situation is no longer possible because Zambia is now a constitutionally assigned unitary state as amended in 1996. Any autonomy granted to Barotseland would be merely cosmetic and will not go as far as what would have been in 1964!
Therefore, restoring the 1964 Barotseland agreement now will only create a miserable trap for Barotseland, with little or no way out, because unlike in 1964 when Zambia was to be governed as a federated country in which Barotseland would be a ‘state within a state’, the FTJ Chiluba led government turned Zambia into a unitary state which governs all its provinces, including Western Province or Barotseland, from one very strong center.