These diverse views are published under the principle of freedom of expression in accordance with rules of civility and respect for all other human rights.
From inception in 2012 the Barotsepost, which later became the Barotseland Post, has been guided by the conviction that the aspirations and human rights of the people of Barotseland for self-determination are not only valid, but also as paramount as any other, therefore, the need to broadcast and publish these views without fear or favour. These rights have been for many decades under Barotseland’s disputed integration into the republic of Zambia through the express terms of the now defunct 1964 pre-independence agreement referenced to as the Barotseland Agreement 1964, largely suppressed, while their views of self-determination considered secessionist, and hence treasonous under the laws of Zambia. The Barotseland Agreement of 1964 was systematically repudiated shortly after independence, and unilaterally abrogated in 1969, through an ACT of parliament, by Kenneth Kaunda’s first Zambian government, and any matters relating to it were considered treasonous all throughout Kenneth Kaunda’s state of emergency rule until 1990–1991, when he made an electoral promise to the BRE that should he win the impending first multi- party election in nearly two decades, he would be willing to discuss the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.
His main challenger and eventual winner in the 1991 multi-party election was FTJ Chiluba. However, upon assuming state power as president, Chiluba and his new government officially responded to the Barotse Royal Establishment’s request for dialogue stating that the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 had become ‘stale’ due to the ‘passage’ of time and would, therefore, not be a subject of further discussion. His successors, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa and Rupiah Bwezani Banda, Zambia’s third and fourth Republican presidents, respectively, maintained the same ‘non-negotiable’ position.
Then the matter degenerated to what has now officially been called ‘The Mungu Riots of 14 January 2011’, although the Barotse people are more inclined to calling it as the ‘Zambian government instigated January 14 Mongu massacre’, arguing that it was in fact the Zambian police, under fourth republican president Rupiah Banda, who fired live ammunition indiscriminately on unarmed ordinary Barotse citizens who had expressed a desire to gather peacefully with their traditional and royal leadership and chart a Barotse national response together on the way forward for their nation of Barotseland, now that it had become clear that successive Zambian governments would not be willing to dialogue on matters relating to the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.
Officially, two fatalities were acknowledged by the Zambia police and government. The Commission of Inquiry instituted by President Sata and chaired by Dr Rodger Chongwe reported that the actual number of fatalities was as high as nineteen persons, with several others either injured or still missing. Prior to the 2011 presidential and general elections, President Banda published an official statement in national mass media how he regretted the Mongu fatalities, and he also promised to engage the Government of Barotseland under the Litunga over the Barotseland Agreement 1964, if he won the 2011 election.
In the same electoral campaigns, candidate Michael Chilufya Sata promised through the mass media and at public election campaign rallies that he and his Patriotic Front government would restore and honour the long disputed Barotseland Agreement of 1964 within ninety days of assuming the presidency. He went on further to say that there was nothing to fear about the agreement. This promise was widely covered by both private and public national media. Commenting on then vice president George Kunda’s meeting with the Litunga of Barotseland, the Ngambela and some senior Barotse Indunas in Limulunga held on Tuesday, 4 January 2011, Sata said that
‘the Barotse Agreement is still a valid agreement,’ Sata said. ‘How can you ignore an agreement that was signed, sealed and delivered almost forty-seven years ago? . . . There is no honest person who can deny the existence and validity of the Barotse Agreement. And those with honour and integrity honour valid agreements they have entered into whether they still like them or not . . . The PF [Patriotic Front] government will honour the Barotse Agreement without hesitation because we have no problems with it. We see nothing wrong with it.’
Sata said Zambians needed to learn to live in a country of diversity and that it was also a fundamental principle even in international law for successive governments to honour agreements they find.
‘We have always said we have nothing to fear about the Barotse Agreement. It is a decent agreement that must be honoured,’ Sata said.
Only crooks, dictators who want everything to be controlled by them from Lusaka can fear the Barotse Agreement. . . . How can an agreement that brought our country together as a unitary sovereign state be seen to be a divisive instrument; to be about secession and treason? . . . The Barotse Agreement united and brought together what was not united; what was divided. It is an agreement that brought unity in diversity to our people and as such must be honoured and respected.’
He said intimidation and threats of treason would not resolve the matter.
‘How can an agreement that exists be treasonable? That agreement is real, so what’s treasonous about that? In fact, the peace and unity that Zambia has enjoyed since independence as a sovereign state can be partly attributed to the Barotse Agreement,’ Sata said.
PF would like to see to it that Zambia remains an oasis of peace by engaging the people of Barotseland over the Barotse Agreement and ensure that their grievances are resolved once and for all.’
However, in spite of all the above political rhetoric Mr Sata made as an opposition leader while seeking the Barotse vote, he too followed the dishonourable path of his predecessors. No sooner had he assumed the highest political office than he started abusing the rights of the Barotse people. In 2013 he recorded the highest number of indiscriminate arrests and incarcerations of over eighty-seven Barotse people, including women and children, among them two 10-year-old school-going boys, and one 90-year-old man, who he all charged with the capital crime of treason, punishable only by death upon conviction under Zambian laws, for allegedly celebrating the setting up of the Afumba Mombotwa transitional Barotseland government. These were all let free, without any compensation after three months of deplorable prison conditions, due to having no real case against them.
Consequently, with all this effort and several attempts made by the Barotse people to have the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 restored and its terms honoured or resolved through dialogue, and with all this repressive mass arrests, lengthy detentions without trial, psychological and physical torture and deaths, the Barotse people organised a BNC. This is the highest and directly representative gathering of the Barotse people. On this occasion, this gathering took place in the presence of high ranking Zambian government political, military, and security officials, as well as representatives of various foreign missions accredited to Zambia. This event was not only held in public but was also beamed via satellite to the whole world, with major national and world broadcasting networks such as CNN, VOA, BBC, Aljazeera, and Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) reporting on the BNC resolutions.
This is the open and public occasion when the Barotse declared that henceforth they had officially and formally accepted Zambia’s abrogation of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. Consequently on Tuesday 27 March 2012, the BNC unanimously resolved to accept the unilateral nullification of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 by Zambia. They also resolved that Barotseland immediately initiate all formal and necessary procedures and acts for the re-establishment of Barotseland sovereignty and independence.
Further, on 14 August 2013, Afumba Mombotwa took oath of office to head a provisional care taker Barotseland government which he publicly named on the 15 November 2013. So far three international institutions - the Union of Free States (UNFS), the Federation of Free States of Africa (FFSA), and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples’ Organization (UNPO) - have recognized Barotseland. It is, therefore, our considered mandate at the Barotseland Post to cover and follow this story as it evolves, keeping the world and Barotseland citizens home and away informed of the progression of events in Barotseland, and covering other matters of both national and international interest.
The Barotseland Post Team.