BAROTSELAND POST EDITORIAL COMMENT
As a territory emerging out of five decades of subjugation, Barotseland now needs to cultivate a deep sense of nationalism to find her true self esteem. We are not recommending a senseless misguided nationalism but one based on restoring and building a truly healthy national identity that will anchor the furtherance of sensible cultural and national values. The Barotse are a proud and independent people throughout history. Momentarily, they will tolerate pain and inconvenience, symbolic of the elephant nation that they are. However, a time comes when even the elephant must arouse its aggressive self to determine its own righteous course of destiny. Responsible nationalism will unite Barotseland towards her deep-rooted values of self-determination, independence and respect for the indelible rights of all her people.
While it may appear better for an independent and self-determined state to focus on nurturing patriotism, a pariah state such as Barotseland must firstly inculcate nationalism in all her citizenry. A patriot will stand and fight because land and territory is under threat, but a nationalist must fight because identity, culture and values are undermined. Therefore, before Barotseland can fight to defend territory she must momentarily strive to restore and inculcate independent national thought and unique identity. Barotseland must use any means necessary to win this war against national mental servitude, and fortunately, this current battle need not be fought with guns, clubs, spears or pebble. It must, however, be tenaciously faced with an equal sense of patriotism.
Sadly, five decades of brainwash and blind patriotism to a Zambian state that was not even theirs have made the Barotse lose their own self worth as a self governing state. In 1964, the nation of Barotseland was promised a continued and guaranteed self-determination within the borders of the novice state of Zambia through a treaty spelt-out in ‘black and white’. Barotseland was, however, slapped with surrogacy and forced annexation as Zambia’s new governors, with no regard for law and tenets of democratic governance, sought to defraud the entire nation by unilaterally terminating the 1964 pre-independence treaty. Luckily, Barotseland had practiced both law and tenets of good governance for over a century before Kenneth Kaunda’s treachery, and history teaches that as far back as the dawn of the 19th century, Litunga Mulambwa was already instituting notable legal reforms which saw vices such as slavery abolished in his Kingdom, and became the first to do so this side of the equator. Long before Zambia’s independence, Barotseland was already governed under a vibrant form of decentralized system that made her people truly self-determined. Tribal and conquered territories were often left with some form of internal autonomy. For instance, Butoka, Bunkoya, Bulovale, Bushanjo and Busubiya all had their own regional governments or kutas, which were themselves replicas of Namuso, the central government. By 1964, Barotseland was an already functioning state with over a century of self-governance. Even Barotseland’s very interactions with the British Empire were not under 'colonialism' but 'protectionism'. Barotseland was not a property of the British crown but rather a protected and mutual friend supported by treaties. It was this relationship that was guaranteed to endure in her interaction with the new state of Zambia, had the latter been a respecter of law.
Now Barotseland is in captivity, and her captor wishes her to believe she is a vanquished nation, never to bear her own identity. In their own scheme of things, Zambia’s ruling elite wished that by now, no one in Barotseland would have the faintest vision of separate statehood. The scheme was a dangerously calculated manipulation of facts of law and history by Kenneth Kaunda and his cronies who envisioned a Zambia devoid of any fabric of Barotseland. No trace of her residue would be visible once they were done with the old nation. The scheme mainly enforced a sequential abolishment of Barotseland’s legal status within Zambia, replacing it with repeated sloganeering of the purported national unity through a superficial non-legal national motto. Erasing the memory and evidence of Barotseland was simply effective but for a while. After all, the human mind has one weakness; it can be conditioned to forget or retain both new and old information.
However, while Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP led Zambian government employed tactics only reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi Gestapo to achieve their diabolic intention, the Barotse were engineering ways of preserving the facts they considered immutably sacred for their future generations. After all, even the human mind has a tendency to sometimes refuse to relinquish deeply embedded information of choice, and no amount of pressure exerted on it could successfully erase such truth as one’s identity.
Nevertheless, the Kaunda regime still tried, and if anyone dared to resist the brain wash, one did not deserve to see the light of day. And so the program claimed success as all historical records printed on paper and other media were discarded. New record books skewed to favor the captor’s plans were printed in their place, and what should beat all reasonable logic is how Kaunda and his crew believed they could indeed obliterate an entire nation, and hope to get away with it. Considering that nations are too complex to simply vanish in one or repeated feats of magic, Barotseland could not so easily be expunged. The truth is, it could never be erased, but perhaps they could explain it away by misleading unsuspecting minds of successive generations that Barotseland was never more than a province of Zambia. Anything more was merely the work of rebellious active imagination.
A question must then be asked why a monolithic state would need to sign a pre-independence agreement with a mere province, essentially signing an international treaty with itself! Falsehoods must then be peddled to suggest that the so called treaty was just a mere assurance made with the Barotse ruling elite to perpetuate the privileged ‘positioning’ they once enjoyed under the British. Is it any wonder that Zambian authorities insist on calling it ‘Barotse’ or ‘BRE’ agreement rather than by its actual legal name, ‘Barotseland’ Agreement 1964? The former implies an agreement with a group of people within the same state while the latter spells a ‘state to state’ agreement. And indeed, the Barotseland Agreement 1964 was a ‘state to state’ accord. One distinct state, Barotseland, was signing a treaty with another state, Northern Rhodesia, which was becoming Zambia, while Britain - another sovereign state, signed as a witness!
Secondly, either Kenneth Kaunda was really ignorant of the law on citizenship, or was plainly contemptuous to it, when he did not ask the Barotse to renounce their Barotseland citizenship before acquiring their new Zambian 'citizenship'. In fact, the Barotse were told to simply acquire the new Zambian national identity card to enable them to interact and travel within the regions of Zambia. Prior to this, the Barotse had separate national identity cards called Situpa for Barotseland nationality. It can be argued, therefore, that the Barotse in Zambia are technically and legally of questionable citizenship, and Zambian politics amplify this fact in derogatory statements such as, ‘no Lozi will ever rule Zambia!’ In fact, the only basis that united the two was irreparably severed in 1969 by Zambia’s unilateral abrogation of the 1964 agreement through an ACT of parliament, and certainly by Barotseland’s formal acceptance of its abrogation at the 2012 Barotse National Council.
It is, therefore, this suppressed Barotseland nationality that the Barotse must now awaken, and they must do so immediately to be able to move forward as a self-determined nation that they have always been. Nationalism the world over is a very strong instrument for uniting people against forced assimilation. Love for one's nation is imperative as it propels someone to strive for their nation’s independence from domination, and it expresses a deep concern for one's own country in an active political way.
Some may often think of nationalism only in narrow and parochial terms. However, to the subjugated and oppressed, it is often an essential ingredient for fighting suppression. Therefore, fighting for one’s right of self-determination, or even freedom of conscience, association and free expression, becomes a national duty to the nationalist. It is neither evil nor sinful to reclaim what belongs to you, and ideally one does not always need to pick up arms to fight for their economic, political, cultural or national values. Examples exist globally where nations attained their self-determination without fighting bloody battles. Nevertheless, and if need be, it would be the nationalist’s patriotic duty to pick up arms and fight in defense of national entitlements.
May the spirit of nationalism awaken in Barotseland sooner rather than later.