Will Barotseland independence bring war to peaceful Zambia? The case of Singapore and Malaysia - The Malaysia Agreement of 1963

21 October 2019
Author  Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland Post


There are six common lies often told against Barotseland Independence by those who seek to stop or discourage it:

1. Barotseland independence will bring war to peaceful Zambia

2. Zambians have intermarried, so Barotseland independence will destabilize peaceful families

3. Barotseland will not survive as it is economically unsustainable

4. Lozis have invested a lot in Zambia and will stand to lose their investment

5. Other regions in Zambia will also demand independence

6. Barotseland’s borders extend to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Botswana and Congo DR.

Let’s examine and debunk these common lies one by one.

LIE NUMBER ONE: Will Barotseland independence bring a civil war to peaceful Zambia? What lessons can be drawn from Singapore and Malaysia’s joint independence from Britain through The Malaysia Agreement of 1963, and their eventual separation in 1965?

Peacefully calling for Barotseland’s independence from Zambia is not a declaration of war any more than the calling for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom or the pulling out of the European Union (EU) by Britain (Brexit) is.

In fact, if Zambia was truly a democratic and civilized state like the United Kingdom (UK), Canada and others, they would have actually facilitated for a free debate on the merits and demerits of Barotseland independence, like Quebec did in Canada or as Britain is doing in seeking independence from the European Union or Scotland is doing by seeking independence from the UK.

The Barotse people are not rebels and have not engaged in any armed struggle for Barotseland independence. They understand that war is devastating and that no one really wins in a war! Hopefully, the Zambians who keep using the talk of war as a scarecrow also understand that no one really wins in a war.

Notably, the Zambian constitution has a clause stating that the sovereign state of Zambia is ‘unitary’ and ‘indivisible’, but the Barotse did not particularly consent to the addition of the unitary indivisible clauses in Zambia’s constitution in 1996. In fact, Barotseland’s protestations about various past constitutional changes which disadvantage the territory have always been overruled by the superior numbers of the rest of Zambia or by military and state agencies such as the courts and police.

Therefore, clauses such as the said ‘indivisibility’ of the Zambian unitary state must be considered unjust to the Barotseland nation!

Naturally, unjust laws must be challenged or even defied, and this is the reason why laws are revised from time to time to make them more just!

It is, therefore, a lie and cheap blackmail to threaten civil war or to assume that Barotseland would end up like South Sudan or comparing the situation with what happened in the Rwandan civil war between the Tutsi and Hutus or other trouble spots in the past.

All these scenarios which are usually cited as bad examples are not at all similar to Barotseland’s case.

A more logical comparison would be that of Singapore and Malaysia, countries which were similarly given joint independence by Britain, like did Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Barotseland in 1964, after they were made to sign the Malaysia Agreement of 1963, in spite of their structural differences merely because they shared close geographical proximity.

They, however, shortly after independence started having misunderstandings and decided to separate without going to war in 1965.

In Barotseland - Zambia case, the people of Barotseland are simply stating the fact that they can no longer share state sovereignty with Zambia because the Zambian state has failed and repeatedly refused to honour the pre-independence agreement of 1964, worsened by the psychological, mental, socio-economic and physical torture and torment that have followed the unilateral abrogation of the 1964 agreement by the Zambian state.

The Barotseland Agreement 1964 guaranteed that Barotseland would continue to exist under its own system of government which is structurally different from that of the Zambian state.

Here are the notable structural differences between the two:

1. Zambia is a democratic republic following the Presidential system of government while Barotseland is a democratic monarchy that practices direct democracy and uses the Parliamentary system of governance through their Pizo (Barotse National Council) and the Katengo (parliament).

2. While Zambia uses a Presidential system, which is a form of government in which the Head of State, normally President, is the chief executive and is elected directly by the people, Barotseland espouses the governance close to the Westminster system – which is a parliamentary system of government prominent in other monarchies like the United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Australia etc.

In Barotseland, the King (Litunga) is a hereditary, non-elective ceremonial Head of State while the Prime Minister (Ngambela) heads the government and would be elected by parliament (Katengo) – a system very different from Zambia.

In Zambia, Barotseland would enjoy its own long-standing governance system where it would elect its own parliament, prime minister and have its own government (the Barotse Government), headed by its King, the Litunga of Barotseland while the rest of Zambia would be headed by the president they would periodically elect for themselves.

However, Kenneth Kaunda and successive Zambian governments have denied the Barotse people this right which they committed to honouring after independence in 1964. A casual perusal of the 1964 agreement will confirm all this.

In fact, what may cause war and division is the continued suppression of Barotse people in Zambia, and the refusal by the state to peacefully negotiate Barotseland’s future. As John F. Kennedy once said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

The Barotse people do not seek war but they seek justice and peaceful diplomatic negotiation or even a legal settlement.

Although the countries of Singapore and Malaysia separated when they could no longer continue to dwell together due to deep-rooted structural differences, they have both continued to exist as good separated neighbours in prosperity as they pursue their own different aspirations, one a monarchy, the other a republic.

SINGAPORE has a multi-party parliamentary system of representative democracy in which the President of Singapore is the head of state and the Prime Minister of Singapore is the head of government.

MALAYSIA is a constitutional monarchy, led by the King, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who is largely ceremonial while the Prime Minister is head of government.

Quite naturally, two countries with such structural differences could no longer co-exist and decided to separate peacefully in 1965 after they had gained joint independence from Britain in 1963. Britain, their former colonial master, was wrong and reckless by putting them together at independence merely because they were in close geographical proximity.

Britain used the same reckless rationale when putting Barotseland with Zambia, Tanganyika with Zanzibar (United Republic of Tanzania) and almost put Bechuanaland, now Botswana, with British South Africa, now the Republic of South Africa.

Therefore, it makes more logical sense to use this Singapore - Malaysia example when talking about Zambia and Barotseland than Sudan – South Sudan or Rwanda example that those opposed to Barotseland independence often throw in the faces of Barotseland independence advocates.

Singapore and Malaysia are normally cited as prime examples to illustrate why political experimentation by the British done to facilitate geographical, social and economic union between territories had failed.

Their separation, however, demonstrates that it is quite possible for countries in similar circumstances, such as Zambia and Barotseland, to move on to separation without going to war and enjoy peaceful and prosperous separate existence as these two nations have demonstrated.

LIE NUMBER TWO: Zambians have intermarried and Barotseland independence will destabilize peaceful families and marriages

It is not true that simply because Zambians and Barotse have intermarried, then Barotseland independence can not take place or that Barotseland independence would destabilize peaceful families and marriages.

Barotseland independence does not compel anyone to divorce his or her spouse of Barotse or Zambian descent. Intermarriages across national or racial/ethnic lines happen all the time even across independent states. Using intermarriage as an obstacle to Barotseland independence is ridiculous social blackmail that has no bearing on international or interstate relations. In fact, mixed families would have an added option of belonging to two countries with dual citizenship.

Even where dual citizenship is not an option, people would still continue to move freely between Barotseland and Zambia, like they currently do, since their geography remains the same. (North and South Korea should not be cited here as a deterring example because their political dynamics are simply unique).

Your legally-established marriage will still be valid, but may merely require registration in both countries according to prevailing state laws on civil unions.

LIE NUMBER THREE: Barotseland will not survive as it is economically unsustainable.

Barotseland will not be worse-off with independence than it already is. The current erratic meagre financing from Zambia’s central government is largely donor-funded and that donor funding would benefit Barotseland even more if it went directly to Barotseland, unlike today where it first goes to Lusaka where up to 90%, in some case, remains in the central treasury, diverted to other regions of Zambia or is lost through corruption, with only about 10% reaching the intended target in Barotseland.

However, Barotseland will survive economically because it has sand, timber, rivers, land for agriculture, tourism, human resources, culture, wildlife, fish, birds, cashew, unexplored mineral resources, livestock, etc which are currently either being mismanaged or plundered by Lusaka.

So, stop advising Barotse people to merely ‘cry’ for economic development from Lusaka because they wish to develop Barotseland themselves. That is the self-determination they now want.

Bechuanaland, now Botswana, was told the same lack of economic viability story in 1964-1965 and was almost sold joint sovereignty with British South Africa, now the Republic of South Africa, but its leadership refused the lopsided offer, opting to suffer freely than to have to look over their shoulders, receiving orders from another state. And look where Botswana is today!

LIE NUMBER FOUR: Other regions in Zambia will also demand independence.

This is not Barotseland’s problem. If other regions have any legal or legitimate claim from the Zambian state, they are free to place their own demand just like Barotseland is making her own claim.

Barotseland is making her demand because the Zambian state has failed to treat her justly in accordance with the 1964 pre-independence agreement Zambia signed with the territory.

Therefore, if the Zambian state had signed other agreements with other regions and failed to honour those agreements, clearly those regions reserve their own rights to demand that those agreements are honoured or they must be left to decide what they wish to do going forward!

LIE NUMBER FIVE: Lozis have invested a lot in Zambia and will stand to lose their investment

Any legally established investment in Zambia or Barotseland will not be lost on account of Barotseland independence. No one will lose their legally established investment because Barotseland is no longer a part of Zambia.

If Chinese from far away China can own property or investment in Zambia, what would stop Barotse from neighbouring Barotseland from owning their investment and property in Zambia?

Legally gained properties, jobs, academic achievements, businesses etc will all be guaranteed. Those in civil service will also be repatriated and expatriated between the two separate governments. It is a process that can be managed effectively and legally over time with minimum disruptions.

This is just more blackmail from opponents of independence.

LIE NUMBER SIX: Barotseland’s borders extend to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Botswana and Congo DR.

Barotseland’s borders are well documented throughout history, and there is nothing controversial about them. However, suffice to state that, like any other sovereign country, an independent Barotseland will have the legitimate and legal right to claim any borders it believes belongs to its territory.

Where dispute or counterclaims will arise, the competing claims will be resolved through arbitration, litigation or other peaceful processes rather than war.

This happens all the time among civilized nations through various competent courts such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and many others.

Therefore, Barotse people and Zambians must rest assured that Barotseland independence will actually ensure the perpetuation of peace between the two nations and peoples of Barotseland and Zambia.

It is better for estranged people in a tumultuous union to separate peacefully than for them to be forced to live together as they may start killing each other in a civil war!

For more information, look out for the article 'The Malaysia Agreement 1963 Versus The Barotseland Agreement 1964' - Coming soon.

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The Barotseland Post, also known as The Barotsepost, is an online media platform, for now, that is dedicated to reporting stories and news around Barotseland and beyond, giving exclusive coverage and access to the people and the nation of Barotseland to fully express themselves in their aspirations for self- determination.