“Why are we painting a bad picture of the Lozis by carelessly stating that they want to secede from Zambia as if Barotseland was a province of Northern Rhodesia before independence like Northern Province or Central Province? Even writers have attempted to comment on the self-determination of the Lozi people without qualification. They have given the impression that Barotseland is just as equal as North-Western province or Eastern province. In other words, everyone has been trying to mislead the people of Zambia in reducing the status and identity of that region to that of other resident provinces,” laments Dr. Sondashi.
The veteran lawyer has categorically stated that purporting to annul the pre-independence Barotseland Agreement of 1964 which brought the Barotse country into Zambia unilaterally is not possible. Even if the Zambian government used constitutional and legislative means, Dr. Sondashi emphasized, it would not matter as the 1964 Barotseland Agreement was superior to the Constitution of Zambia.
“The problem that any constitutional lawyer faced in this matter was the abrogating of the powers conferred on Litunga (King) and his council by paragraph 4 of the 1964 Barotseland agreement by Zambian government arbitrarily and unilaterally. It did not matter whether this usurpation of these powers was done by constitutional means or any Act of Parliament.
“In this case, the Barotseland Agreement was SUPERIOR even to the constitution of Zambia. It followed that it could not be changed adversely or unilaterally even by the constitution or any act of parliament without concurrent consent of the Litunga and his council. The abolishing of the powers, privileges and rights of the Litunga and his council and of the people of Barotseland, is unconstitutional, unlawful, and illegal and an unacceptable act internationally,” declared Dr. Sondashi stating further that since Barotseland joined Zambia by agreement, the same agreement inherently provides for separation at the wishes of either party or if certain conditions emerged.
Dr. Ludwig Sondashi is one of the few honest and courageous Zambian legal minds who have often spoken in defense of the Lozi people, which has made him very unpopular with the Zambian authorities and society who take pleasure in tormenting the Lozi people over the Agreement which was negotiated and signed willingly by both parties at independence in 1964. Kenneth Kaunda’s government unilaterally repudiated and abrogated the agreement soon after independence, and opted to administer Barotseland by use of police and military force ever since 1965.
See book excerpts below:
TRUTH is not an easy road: CHAPTER 8 – The Barotseland Agreement, page 55, Dr. Ludwig S. Sondashi.
The Barotseland Agreement is one of the simplest matters one can resolve. Unfortunately, it appears to me that all the Presidents of Zambia, and other stakeholders, including commentators who have attempted to find a solution to this sensitive subject, have done so with bias or without understanding of the genesis of the problem. I tend to think that most of the people just do not want to care about how Barotseland became part of Zambia. We need to approach this problem with caution, with an open mind and with a sense of honesty.
Why are we painting a bad picture of the Lozis by carelessly stating that they want to secede from Zambia as if Barotseland was a province of Northern Rhodesia before independence like Northern Province or Central Province? Even writers have attempted to comment on the self determination of the Lozi people without qualification. They have given the impression that Barotseland is just as equal as North-Western Province or Eastern Province. In other words, everyone has been trying to mislead the people of Zambia in reducing the status and identity of that region to that of other resident provinces.
What the secessionists in Barotseland are agitating for, is Barotseland to pull out of Zambia by ending the Barotseland Agreement that was entered into on 18 May 1964, by the Litunga of Barotseland, Sir Mwanawina Lewanika the III, and Kenneth Kaunda, then Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia. It was done on behalf of their respective peoples of Barotseland and Northern Rhodesia respectively. This Agreement was witnessed by Duncan Sandys in his capacity as Principal Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for Colonies.
Everybody in Zambia referred to these opposition members as secessionists. For a lack of a better word, I would not refer to them as such. This is because of the manner under which Barotseland became part of Zambia. It was by agreement and not by coercion. It is trite law in the law of contract that an agreement or contract can be terminated by bringing it to an end by any of the parties. I know that a question can be posed as to who is qualified to bring an agreement to an end. In terms of the Barotseland issue, let it not be forgotten, the Litunga and his Council hold the power under this Agreement for and on behalf of his people of Barotseland. I therefore regard those agitations by some people in Barotseland against the continued stay of Barotseland into Zambia as internal affairs, intended to raise public opinion and influence the Litunga and his council to terminate the Agreement. It is from this understanding which made me caution the former President Rupiah Banda in my letter to him dated 18th February 2011, that he should consider releasing those people who were arrested for treason in the Barotseland saga immediately, adding that I did not think that the agitation of the Lozi nationals amounted to treason. That, in my view, I did not see a successful prosecution of those so called secessionists or activists. In other words, I stated that every person or group of persons had a right to self-determination.
This principle of post-World War times was understood to mean that people have a right to constitute themselves into an independent state and determine their own government, provided certain things were present. In regards to the Barotseland, I had already confirmed that the test was even easier than this. It was an independent state before and it came into Zambia by an Agreement. Therefore, it can leave Zambia anytime as it wishes, and the authority to terminate this Agreement lies in Litunga and his Council.
After the Zambian government had consolidated itself in power, Kaunda took the decision to limit the powers of the Barotseland customary local authority. In 1965, Kaunda moved swiftly by introducing legislation, namely the 1965 Local Government Act, which limited the powers of the Litunga and his Council, by simply applying the provisions of that legislation to Western Province, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other written law. The problem that any constitutional lawyer faced in this matter was the abrogating of the powers conferred on Litunga and his Council by paragraph 4 of the 1964 Barotseland Agreement by Zambian government arbitrarily and unilaterally. It did not matter whether this usurpation of these powers was done by Constitutional means or any Act of Parliament. It should be understood, that Barotseland became part of Zambia by Agreement which the Litunga Mwanawina Lewanika entered into with Zambia freely, on behalf of his people of Barotseland. Lewanika was very articulate and ensured that Barotseland reserved a lot of powers to themselves and that any changes to the Barotseland Agreement ought to be approved by the Litunga and his Council on behalf of the people of Barotseland.
It is upon this that – the independence constitution of Zambia did take into account the provisions of the Barotseland Agreement. In this case, the Barotseland Agreement was superior, even to the constitution of Zambia. It followed that it could not be changed adversely or unilaterally even by the constitution or any Act of Parliament without concurrent consent of The Litunga and his Council. The abolishing of the powers, privileges and rights of the Litunga and his Council and of the people of Barotseland, is unconstitutional, unlawful, and illegal and an unacceptable act internationally.
When I state these, it is not because I am personally interested in seeing that Barotseland secedes from Zambia. I am equally one of those who would prefer for Barotseland to be part f us, because there is strength in numbers. I am not only a lawyer, but I am also a constitutional lawyer who is able to analyse this matter according to what the constitutional law dictates, and raising issues of breach of these fundamental principles.
It is for this reason that my Party, Forum for Democratic Alternatives’ manifesto on the Barotseland question, was that if my party had formed government, we should encourage dialogue between the people of Barotseland and the Zambian government. In this case, the Litunga and the Council shall be recognised as the mouth piece of the Barotseland question. When it is clear that there is division and a clear conflict between the Litunga and his Council and the people of Barotseland as was the case then, the government of Zambia will support and sponsor a referendum to allow all the people of Barotseland to vote for or against the secession of Barotseland from Zambia. This is because I believe that the Litunga and his Council represent the people of Barotseland in these matters. But where the Litunga and his Council agree that Barotseland should secede from Zambia that decision was going to be implemented by my government. END.
BAROTSELAND POST EDITORS’ NOTE: In March 2012, The Litunga of Barotseland, Lubosi Imwiko II, constituted the Barotse National Council, BNC, to deliberate over the future of Barotseland in light of repudiation, frustration and breaches of the Barotseland Agreement 1964, and unanimously resolved to formally accept the abrogation of the pre-independence agreement and institute immediate steps for separate Barotseland sovereignty outside of Zambia.