Amended constitution undermined possible resolution of the Barotseland Self-determination question – Catholic Church in Zambia

21 December 2017
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The Catholic Church in Zambia has observed that the 2016 signed national constitution undermined the possibility of resolving the Barotseland self-determination question which they consider a source of simmering tension since Zambia's Independence.

In their June 2016 – June 2017 State of the Nation Report compiled by the Catholic social justice NGO, Caritas Zambia, the church observed that the clause on a devolved system of governance through provincial assemblies provided for in the draft constitution, but rejected on the grounds of cost, effectively undermined popular participation in governance and a possible resolution of the Barotseland self-determination question.

“Despite calls from many Zambians, the Church and other likeminded Civil Society Organizations, to have a people driven constitution, the government proceeded to amend the 1991 constitution as amended in 1996, using the route of parliament,” observed the report.

The church further accused the ruling party of having taken advantage of their superior numbers and that of their counterparts in the PF-MMD alliance in parliament to push through the 2016 constitution bill which was, in reality, a doctored product of the draft constitution developed by the technical committee after a process of countrywide consultations.

“Apart from the many lacunas, in the document, the amended constitution also made major changes that departed from the final draft constitution. For example, a devolved system of governance through provincial assemblies that was provided for in the draft was rejected on the grounds of cost and the ongoing decentralisation process. Effectively, this action undermined popular participation in governance and a possible resolution of the Barotseland self-determination question, a source of simmering tension since Zambia's Independence,” the report further observed.

On 5th January 2016, the Republican President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, assented to the amended Constitutional bill into law, therefore, a new constitution which the Zambian people had wanted for so long, failed to materialize.

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