How Zambia’s ruling establishment and BRE profit from Barotseland Saga

19 February 2017
Kenneth Kaunda, Edgar Changwa Lungu and Rupiah Banda, Zambia's 1st, 6th and 4th Republican Presidents respectively


There is no doubt that both the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) and Zambia’s successive ruling establishments have been the major beneficiaries of the Barotseland narrative. While the former derives mostly financial profits, the Barotseland saga has been used by the latter to perpetuate their hold to power and maintain the power balance.


The BRE have always used the Barotseland story to solicit financial inducements as well as political attention from Zambia’s ruling political establishment, regardless of whichever government takes the reins of power. If the BRE supported the previous government and a new political party takes government in Zambia, the BRE will hum or sing the RESTORATION song (restoration of Barotseland Agreement 1964). This normally would force the concerned power to rush in and calm them down by instituting ‘profitable’ measures to the BRE and relationships would be harmonized.

However, in 2012, BRE underestimated the people input and got it wrong, because while they (BRE) expected the usual calls for 'restoration' of the defunct Barotseland Agreement, the people through Afumba’s Linyungandambo, Namushi’s BFM and others instead called for the TOTAL INDEPENDENCE of Barotseland now that restoration of the pre-independence agreement had been repeatedly ignored or rejected by successive governments. BRE panicked because now the people had taken over. In fact, some of their pre-written speeches in favor of restoration had to be rewritten at the BNC when they realized their people were on a different tangent.

In panic, Zambia offered the BRE the due financial and political attention, but they (BRE) had already lost control over the territory to independence activists. This is why to this day, BRE are so lost, not knowing what to do or who to support. They keep going back and forth divided between honoring the people’s unanimous independence decisions and maintaining their worth and relevance to their paymasters, the Zambian government.


Zambia’s ruling establishment profits mainly from the vote they continue to solicit every election season mainly through promises of dialogue over the defunct pre-independence agreement. Kenneth Kaunda did it in 1991, Chiluba did it, Mwanawasa did it, Rupiah Banda did it, Michael Sata did it and Lungu will continue doing it as long as the BRE and the ruling establishment profit financially and politically, respectively.

The promises are usually similar: to restore the agreement; not before the election as that would be deemed electioneering, so they would say, but rather soon after the elections if the mandate is given to them, therefore, asking the BRE to help campaign for them in the breadth and length of Barotseland, assuring the people that the particular government or political party is willing to finally resolve the Barotseland saga.

After the elections, however, the ruling establishment will employ delaying tactics such as fermenting internal strife within Barotseland. This strategy is also very predictable as it will always take the form of dissent within BRE structures, financing Mbunda/Nkoya dissent or even rocking the Litunga’s throne. All these are usually intended to not only buy time, but also make the BRE and the Litunga run back to the ruling establishment for help to ‘sort out’ the dissenting groups or persons. Secondly, when the establishment renders the necessary help, it usually makes the BRE and the Litunga feel so helpless, perpetuating their full reliance on the establishment and thereby maintaining the power balance until the next election.

If, however, the establishment does not help, the BRE would normally align or make overtures to align themselves with the independence activists in order to make the ruling establishment panic, because then Barotseland would unite in one agenda of Barotseland independence. The Zambian ruling establishment must then use any means to destabilize that unity, even if it means ‘bribing’ the BRE, Litunga or anybody who can help to destabilize Barotseland, including more arrests of targeted leaders. The arrests are usually to instill fear, frustration and confusion because Barotseland has no means of defense against Zambia militarily.


The way forward is firstly to recognize the above outlined web of deceit and then decide to push for the accomplishment of the March 2012 BNC resolutions on Barotseland self-determination with or without BRE/Litunga’s open support because the two institutions are currently intertwined and bound by the Zambian state, until such a time that they will realize that, in fact, Barotseland does not need and has not needed Zambia for a very long time now.

Scrapping the monarch to republicanism is not what is being proposed here because the constitutional monarch form of government is the closest to the Barotse culture and that’s what Barotseland has had for centuries.

Some may argue that Zambia gives relief maize, pays civil service, runs hospitals, schools, etc. and that they built the Mongu-Kalabo road, but the fact is that all these undertakings would still be carried out by the Barotseland government. Even Zambia is not doing these projects from their copper revenue, but is using donor funds which the Barotseland government would still acquire to compliment own revenues realized from the exploitation of natural resources such as tourism, beef, fish, water, grass, trees and minerals that Zambia is reportedly exploiting illegally currently.

Therefore, the people of Barotseland should support efforts being made to entrench a national government in Barotseland as this is the only sure way of attaining self-determination and independence. The BRE have no new solutions rather than what they have been doing since 1969 when the pre-independence agreement was finally abrogated by an ACT of parliament – beg for its RESTORATION! No Zambian government would ever do this as Sata said doing so might open some Pandora’s Box, whatever this box is!

In fact, RESTORATION of the dead agreement ONLY benefits the royal and ruling elites of Barotseland and not the common people, while INDEPENDENCE will benefit all the people of Barotseland in a power and resource sharing deal.

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  • Sikeletu Ikandulwa Sikeletu Ikandulwa Sunday, 19 February 2017

    Those who opt for restoration are greedy. No restoration but total Independence is the key.

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.