It is without a doubt that the Barotse National Freedom Alliance (BNFA) has helped the struggle for Barotseland make undeniable and substantial gains towards independence. However, uncertainty still hangs in the air when one would want to know in whose interest such progress has been made if not for personal aggrandizement, or even whether it is genuine progress at all and not a ploy designed to plunge Barotseland’s independence into a much deeper future quagmire. Founded concerns have been raised by those who from the beginning of the Barotse Spring had been calling for immediate and total disengagement with Zambia. However, today it appears as if those who had vehemently opposed calls for total independence to the point of disowning the proponents of such calls in Zambian media (being fully aware of the implications) are suddenly in the forefront of things and are, nevertheless, still demonizing other activists in the same intensity as they had done when they called for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement 1964. Equally unsettling is the fact that some individuals within the BNFA leadership were actually on Rupiah Banda’s murderous government’s pay roll on 14th January 2011. These now self proclaimed champions of Barotseland’s struggle for freedom had kept silent when our people were murdered in cold blood and brutalized by a government they served. Something just isn’t right about that picture.
Another worrisome precedent that needs to be honestly challenged is the claim that BNFA is the umbrella movement of all Barotse activist groupings. Such a claim is not only untrue but also malicious, bankrupt and counter-active. It is a claim that cannot be proved at all. The fact is that actors behind the BNFA plot have managed to convince a few unsure individuals, particularly those from the Barotseland Freedom Movement ( BFM), some free lancers swinging between Hon. Charles Milupi’s ADD and Barotse activism, and some self proclaimed “know it alls”, to believe in their “elitists’ philosophy” at the expense of the masses whom they have labeled the semi-illiterates who hold the wrong end of the stick. What an insult to the people who have bravely stood up to Zambian occupation and borne the brunt of that country’s brutal oppression!
BACKGROUND OF THE ALLIANCE IDEA
Factually laid out, the idea of an alliance had first come up on 24th January 2012. This was soon after we had delivered a joint report on the meeting with the late Zambian president, Mr. Michael Sata (which had taken place at the Zambian State House on 28th December 2011) to His Majesty the Litunga at Lumulunga Royal Palace’s Nayuma. Present in our Mongu meeting when we came from Limulunga were Moreba, BFM and Linyungandambo. In that meeting, it was resolved that a liaison committee representing the said formations be set up in order to create a better and effective way of communication so that we could present a united stand on demanding issues regarding the struggle.
However, the primary objective of the committee was to see to it that the Barotse National Council (BNC) conference that would decide Barotseland’s future with regard to Zambia was held before kuomboka 2012. Mistrust among some delegates was evident. This was largely due to the arrogance of some MOREBA leaders who, in the past, had proved to be unfriendly and untrustworthy where working together with other activists was concerned. These known individuals had a tendency of hijacking and capitalizing on collective initiatives and then sidelining individuals they simply felt uncomfortable to work with. One example of this characteristic is what played out in the kuta prior to handing the Sata meeting report to the Litunga. MOREBA members had behaved as though they had been the only activist group who had met the former Zambian president. Yet that meeting was necessitated by BFM and Linyungandambo efforts; ironically the same efforts which MOREBA had publicly denounced months earlier when our people were being shot and brutalized by the Zambians. However, for unity and progress sake, representatives of the former two movements ended up adopting the MOREBA written report since our main difference had only been on the authorship of the report. This was what led us to think of an alliance going forward. After all, we were not absolutely sure that the BNC conference was going to be convened at all since it had already been postponed several times. We also could not be sure of its outcome if held, given the Barotse Royal Establishment’s known track record of lack of will and capacity to make progressive follow up on past BNC resolutions. Under those real circumstances then, an alliance was vital. One thing we were certain of concerning the BNC this time around was that history was going to be made either way. Mr, Sata had squarely blamed the Litunga for lack of meaningful progress on the Barotseland impasse and we had told His Majesty so. The Litunga had taken this as an unjust attack on his person and we were sure that he was determined to put things right. He even hinted at the likelihood of holding a more joyful 2012 kuomboka ceremony, which gave us a glimmer of hope that the BNC was going to sit before our premier ceremony.
BNC RESOLUTION CANCELLED ANY NEED FOR AN ALLIANCE GROUP
The Barotse National Council, Barotseland’s highest policy making body, was finally convened on the 26th and 27th March 2012. At its conclusion, it unanimously resolved to finally and officially ratify Zambia’s unilateral cancellation of the Barotseland Agreement 1964. The BNC further declared Barotseland free of Zambia. This resolve had certainly cancelled any further need for a Barotse activists’ alliance movement. Only what would be a Barotseland Government was supposed to take the responsibility of disengagement with Zambia. Ironically, the BNC did not specify the makeup of such a government as long as it was to represent the Barotse people and pursue the BNC Resolution.
When the Royal Barotseland Government (RBG) was first set up, soon after the September 20th 2011 Zambian presidential elections, I was one of those who had criticized its make up then although l found no fault with its being formed. I was against the idea of such an important institution of national interest being made up of a single Barotse activist group. This could have been due to my ignorance at the time. However, after the March 2012 BNC, the relevance of such a government became even much clearer and more meaningful. A dangerous and disturbing lull had passed from the serving of a Letter of Dispute to the Zambian Government up until the announcement of Hon. Afumba Mombotwa’s swearing in as head of the RBG. Given what the Sata government had started doing in Barotseland as opposed to intelligently responding directly to the Letter of Dispute, Hon Mombotwa’s move to announce the Barotse government was the only poignant statement to world that Barotseland was indeed determined to move on as declared by the BNC. A dangerous void reminding one of a reggae song that goes, “Now that we found love what are we gonna do with it?” was quickly filled up while power hungry MOREBA leaders, who had passionately submitted in favour of the BA’64 restoration in the Chongwe Commission, pondered their next move. It would appear, today, that these MOREBA individuals were keen on having their BA’64 restoration group wake up to the reality on the ground or risk being overtaken by events in the real sense. Hence their determination to defiantly go ahead with the formation of an unnecessary BNFA.
THE BNFA CAME TO FIGHT AGAINST INCLUSIVE PROGRESS
When Hon Wainyae Sinyinda resigned from being BRE’s prime minister, all because of his solid stand for the implementation of the BNC Resolution, the idea of an alliance was revived by some known MOREBA leaders and the former was quickly sucked into it. These individuals simply wanted to continue with their old and exclusive agenda of clandestinely dealing with BRE in order to discourage or derail real progress brought about by the RBG. This was at a time when the Zambian Government was busy building an alibi to kill more Barotse nationals under the guise of military exercises in Barotseland. The MOREBA leaders could have simply approached the RBG and find out ways by which this vital Barotse organ of governance could be strengthened. However, pride, selfishness and bitterness carried the day as they elected to go ahead and form what is, in relations to the BNC Resolution, virtually confusion. Due to its powerful and yet clandestine support base, the BNFA managed to hijack some initiatives taken by BFM, i.e. the application to Unrepresented Nations and Peoples’ Organization (UNPO) and tried to block all efforts done by the RBG. The trip to Belgium for the application to Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is only one example. BNFA has now further gone ahead to having the well founded and well supported Barotseland Royal Government deregistered with UNPO at a time when one of the requirements needed for a nation to be recognized as such is the existence of an organized government. One is left to wonder as to what BNFA is really up to. Ironically, MOREBA died a natural death as soon as BNFA came into prominence and we have never heard of it since, unless if it will be in reaction to this article.
BNFA A DIVISIVE FACTOR
Given the spirit and behavior of some BNFA leaders, one is left with only acknowledging that this group is not for the unity of Barotseland. Consequently, the independence of Barotseland risks finding itself in the same confusion and shame South Sudan is in today. Most of South Sudan’s present problems were actually created before its birth. One of them is the mysterious death of Dr John Garang.
We shall never stand by and allow those among us who, in the past, had vehemently opposed our independence rule us, either in transition form or as a result of general elections. We have lost a lot of able comrades. Currently, some of the sons of the soil are languishing in Zambian prisons while the BNFA keeps on undermining our hard earned declaration of independence. Let the house negroes go back to their masters in Lusaka and leave us alone in our squeaking sands, flood plains and rice fields. Barotseland is free and we shall not look back on that fact regardless of the undeniable and currently existing but temporal association with Zambia. On the other hand, Zambia has no moral right to ill-treat us in any way (economically, socially, etc) while they still occupy our land. Any persecution over our independence only confirms the resolve we have taken.
In the interest of Barotseland’s peace and unity, it will be wise for the BNFA to disband or exist as the reformed MOREBA that it actually is. The UNPO and other international organization need to note this and take it seriously if at all they genuinely want to help the people of Barotseland. Dealing with the BNFA is, in reality dealing with an independent Barotse activist group which, despite its achievements, does not stand for the unity of other Barotse activist groups. Only those who are not interested in the peace, unity and prosperity of an independent Barotseland would recognize and support such a divisive group.