ZAMBIA MUST ADMIT IT: Afumba, Hakainde and others are political prisoners

03 May 2017
Author  Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland Post
[L-R] Inambao Kalima, Likando Pelekelo and Afumba Mombotwa - political prisoners in Zambian jails

 

Zambia must admit that Afumba Mombotwa, Hakainde Hichilema, Likando Pelekelo, Inambao Kalima and others are political prisoners who must be freed unconditionally.

Generally, repressive and oppressive regimes tend to deny the existence of political prisoners within their borders.

The Zambian government, too, has continued to deny the existence of political prisoners within its state prisons. Currently, opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema and several of his supporters are incarcerated over politically motivated crimes which make them political prisoners. The government and its supporters, however, are adamant that these are in fact mere criminals in violation of the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, it is clear that Hakainde’s current troubles emanate from the problematic 2016 electioneering, and many Zambians and the global community subscribe to that notion.

Similarly, Barotse nationals, Afumba Mombotwa, Likando Pelekelo and Sylvester Inambao Kalima are not only political prisoners but also prisoners of conscience.

Sadly, however, whereas many have sympathized with the UPND leader and his followers, Afumba Mombotwa and others have not attracted due sympathy because their political struggle is for a minority section of society. Many Zambians do not consider the injustices against the Barotse within the republic, thereby justifying the state’s tyrannical actions against a people they regard as secessionists. Very few appreciate the fact that Barotse people’s aspirations for a self-determined existence have been continuously frustrated and shattered by the very state that swore to guarantee their minority rights; as a result, very little or no empathy is ever shown to the Barotse whenever the state descends on them with heavy handedness.

Many are either ignorant or unwilling to accept the historical narrative which grants unique rights to Barotse people in Zambia, having joined the republic on the premise and promise of internal self-determination, which would promote a separate Barotse government, parliament, judicial system and economy among other rights. This arrangement would not have been unique to Barotseland and Zambia as many countries in the world today exist and thrive on the same model.

As such, when the Barotse suffer state reprisals for peacefully expressing their unfulfilled aspirations, the majority Zambians fail to empathize with the Barotse. Although self-determination is an internationally recognized human right for indigenous peoples like the Barotse under many international statutes, the ‘majority’ Zambians, however, would wish the Barotse moved on without asserting it. The Barotse are expected to give up their minority rights so that the majority can enjoy a peaceful existence. To put it another way, the Lozi must endure severe frustration and unfulfilled self-determination so that the majority Zambians enjoy a fulfilled existence!

As a people with conscience, however, it is impossible for the Barotse to endure such life torture without venting. Therefore, the Barotse are perpetually prisoners of conscience in and out of jails because they are yet to experience their own Uhuru!

While a political prisoner is generally defined as someone imprisoned for his or her political activities, particularly those who oppose or criticize the government of their countries, the human rights advocate, Amnesty International, defines prisoners of conscience as “people who have been jailed because of their POLITICAL, religious or other CONSCIENTIOUSLY-HELD BELIEFS, ETHNIC origin, sex, color, language, NATIONAL or SOCIAL origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status, PROVIDED THAT THEY HAVE NEITHER USED NOR ADVOCATED VIOLENCE.” Clearly, by that definition, Afumba Mombotwa, Likando Pelekelo, Inambao Sylvester Kalima and all other Lozi nationals imprisoned over the pre-independence Barotseland Agreement of 1964, fit that bracket.

In Afumba and others Vs the people judgment of 09th March 2016, it was clearly acknowledged that Afumba and others never used or advocated violence as a means to assert what they believed to be their inalienable rights of self-determination. In fact, their 'crimes' emanated from their belief that, by virtue of their Barotse nationality and ethnic origins, they could peacefully pursue their rights of living in their own homeland as negotiated and concluded in the written and internationally endorsed pre-independence Barotseland Agreement of 1964, which should have regulated their citizenship within the republic of Zambia had it been domesticated. They, like many Barotse, believe that their citizenship in Zambia outside of the pre-indepdendence negotiated settlement is untenable.

Therefore, arresting them for peacefully advocating for these rights must surely make them prisoners of conscience. They should also be recognized as political prisoners because they were in fact convicted of a political crime of ‘seeking to usurp the powers of the executive’. It must be noted further that Afumba and his fellow Barotse prisoners’ actions were a direct result of the collective decision of Barotse nationals, who by any standard definition are an indigenous minority people, that resolved in 2012 to pursue self-determination outside the borders of the republic of Zambia because the latter had repeatedly refused to honour the Barotseland Agreement 1964 which provided for their self-determination within Zambia.

In view of the above, all peace loving citizens of the world and human rights watch dogs must forthwith recognize Afumba Mombotwa, Likando pelekelo and Sylvester Inambao Kalima as political prisoners as well as prisoners of conscience who deserve to be released from jail unconditionally.

Churches and all advocates of a more just and humane society must not remain silent. They should instead seek to prevail over the government of the republic of Zambia to admit it already that the three Barotse are Political prisoners who must be immediately freed unconditionally!

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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.