As Zambia and the world mourn the death of Kenneth Kaunda, many unschooled in Barotseland’s recent history often wonder why most Barotzis frown upon the legacy of the late founding president of Zambia.
Perhaps the following perspective may help explain why.
By 1964, the Kingdom of Barotseland legally existed as a separate British Protectorate, different from the Northern Rhodesia Protectorate, although both were governed by the same British colonial government due to geographical and historical proximity.
However, prior to Northern Rhodesia’s political independence in October 1964, Barotseland Protectorate signed a tripartite treaty with Northern Rhodesia and Britain regarding the Kingdom’s future co-existence within the sovereign Republic of Zambia, as Northern Rhodesia would later become after its independence.
The pre-independence treaty, The Barotseland Agreement 1964, was completed and signed on 18th May 1964.
Regrettably, Barotseland today exists only as a pariah territory, a subjugated and oppressed impoverished province of a fellow African country with its people deprived of not only basic amenities but also basic human freedoms such as the freedom to peacefully assemble and talk about its own affairs, as Zambian military and police contingents stay camped in the territory to suppress any sentiments of self-determination.
In 2017, we specifically warned Nabiwa Imikendu and his cohorts against dragging the Litunga of Barotseland to the Zambian courts as doing so would not only be futile but would also set very detestable precedence.
Those who may remember know that we specifically advised that the Litunga of Barotseland cannot be dethroned by the Zambian courts because he does not ascend the throne through these courts. We further warned that if we dethroned the Litunga through these foreign courts, we might as well begin a culture of enthroning subsequent Litungas in conjunction with the same courts henceforth!
However, those in support of Imikendu’s litigation against the Litunga were so headstrong that they even tried to emotionally blackmail us and others on the opposing side instead of stating the cultural and national merits of their intended action!
In fact, they made arguing against Imikendu’s action seem synonymous with supporting Imwiko II’s alleged bad governance, and called us enemies of Barotseland who supposedly took pleasure in the continued persecution of Afumba Mombotwa and others imprisoned under Imwiko II’s reign, or the 19 innocent Barotzis killed by Zambian assigned agents in 2011 under his watch.
We, nevertheless, stated clearly that our opposition to Imikendu’s litigation was actually based on the PRINCIPLES of who and what we are as Barotzis, and the precedence we seek to set for posterity.
Zambians are once again outraged at the state police’s alleged killing of two people in Lusaka when they overzealously tried to disperse a peaceful gathering of opposition party supporters who merely wished to offer solidarity to their political leader of choice.
It is widely believed that the police were carrying out orders from ‘higher’ command, reportedly from the outgoing president Edgar Lungu, in his desperation to stop his main presidential challenger, opposition UPND party leader, Hakainde Hichilema, from wrestling power from him in the August 2021 polls.
While the agenda to nominate both the Barotse plains and the cultural landscape as a World Heritage Site may often be presented as beneficial to the Barotzis at face value, the devil may be in the actual details because the proposal is being forcefully pursued by the Zambian State which continues to refuse to dialogue over the equally important matter of Barotseland's political status.
What many people may not know is that the Barotse landscape in question is a vast expanse of open land, covering almost the entire Kingdom of Barotseland as it stands today, technically rendering the entire Kingdom a World Heritage Site as the demarcation map of what is to be nominated will show!
Its floodplain stretches from the Zambezi's confluence with the Kabompo and Lungwebungu Rivers in the north to a point about 230km south, above the Ngonye falls, south of Senanga.
Along most of its length, its width is over 30km, reaching 50km at the widest, just north of Mongu, the main town on the plain, situated at its edge while the main body of the plain covers about 5500km².
Its maximum flooded area is 10750km² when the floodplains of several tributaries are taken into account, such as the Luena Flats.
Royal Barotseland needs to state clearly what type of government it wishes to pursue. Other countries and the international community who wish to recognize Barotseland’s claim for sovereignty must do so knowing, in great detail, what type of government would preside over the territory should its independence claim succeed.
Therefore, the Royal Barotseland Government in transition has been working hard sharing with every country that cares to know what type of government Royal Barotseland would pursue after independence.
There are many types of governments or political systems in the world today, but popular among them are;
Self-determination is the process by which a group of people, usually possessing a certain degree of national consciousness, form their state and choose their own government. Self-determination is not a crime under international laws and politics. It is a right - an inalienable human right under the United Nations Charter!
"We refuse to join those in political grandstanding, singing that Kenneth Kaunda is a great honourable man when the facts and our conscience say otherwise."
As Zambia and the world celebrate Kenneth Kaunda’s 96th Birthday, most Barotse nationals will choose to frown upon the man they consider responsible for Barotseland’s forced assimilation in Zambia - the republic that continues to deny them basic human rights such as free assembly, conscience, association and their self-determination as envisioned in 1964 when Zambia gained its political independence from Britain in joint sovereignty with the Kingdom of Barotseland.
Before its independence, the Northern Rhodesia Protectorate co-signed The Barotseland Agreement 1964 with the Barotseland Protectorate and Britain (their colonial master) for the two to proceed to political independence from Britain in joint sovereignty on the condition that the Kingdom of Barotseland would retain its autonomy within the republic as it was for many decades under the British colonial government.
Kenneth Kaunda, the man whose legacy is currently in the spotlight on his 96th birthday, is the man who signed and agreed on behalf of his Northern Rhodesian government that Northern Rhodesia would proceed to political independence with Barotseland as one nation, with Barotseland retaining its autonomy within the Republic of Zambia - as independent Northern Rhodesia would later be called.
[Before you claim we are committing the crime of proposing tribal war or that we are peddling tribalism, help us understand. Why on earth would the Zambian government advertise a government job to be based in Mongu, Barotseland, and put the ability to speak siBemba fluently as one of the qualifications in a region where the predominant lingua franca is siLozi?]
Hegemony, the dominance of one group over another, often supported by legitimating norms and ideas, is nothing short of what the Zambian government is doing today by the promotion of the Bemba language at the expense of others in the same republic and before you know it, every citizen will be compelled to accept it as the national language of the nation of Zambia.
Currently, Zambia is largely seen as Barotseland’s colonizer who cannot be trusted to make decisions of such magnitude as the proposed listing of the Barotse Cultural landscape as a World Heritage Site under UNESCO without thorough consultations with all stakeholders in Barotseland.
A one-time directive meeting with the Limulunga Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) and the about ten Zambian Members of Parliament (MPs) who hail from the Barotse region does not actually constitute a wide enough consultative process even by the UNESCO set standards.
Therefore, our candid advice is to wait until such a time that the people of Barotseland could not only be consulted but also educated on the implications of nominating their entire homeland as a World Heritage Site under UNESCO - bearing in mind that the Barotse plains and landscape are not only a home to thousands of Barotse but that the Barotse also depend on it entirely for a sustainable existence!
Further, the consultative process must be undertaken without the current associated political overtones. Therefore, the Zambian government must, as a matter of priority, firstly resolve the outstanding issues surrounding Barotseland’s political status within or outside the Sovereign Republic of Zambia.
The Litunga (King of Barotseland) and the President of Zambia cannot possibly broker a deal to restore the Barotseland Agreement 1964 alone without constitutional amendments. Therefore, reports by some sections of Barotse media that THE CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019 - Bill 10, will restore the defunct Barotseland Agreement 1964 after the two leaders allegedly brokered a deal earlier in the week are either misguided or misinformed. If the reports are true that some sort of deal was made by the two, then His Majesty is once again being played for a fool because constitution-making is a transparent affair which must require consensus from both the Barotse and Zambian nationals.
Further, it is not true that Bill 10 has included clauses to restore the defunct Barotseland Agreement 1964. Therefore, it would be a great mistake for the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) to support this fundamentally flawed Zambian constitutional amendment bill based on such misrepresentation of facts.
Factually, there is currently no proposal in Bill 10 to restore the defunct 1964 pre-independence agreement. However, the truth is that the Barotse Royal Establishment did submit something concerning the defunct 1964 agreement to the Parliamentary Select Committee, chaired by Raphael Nakachinda, whose terms of reference was to scrutinize the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill, N.A.B. No. 10 of 2019.
In doing so, the select committee did invite submissions from stakeholders and witnesses and compiled a report which the committee must submit to the speaker of the national assembly as mere recommendations. These recommendations are not binding on the executive arm of government who were the drafters of Bill 10.
Incidentally, the Parliamentary Select Committee’s Report has largely rejected Bill 10 as it was presented to parliament before its deferment to February next year.
The Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) is indeed like the proverbial stubborn fly that follows the corpse to the grave and is buried alive. One wonders if and when they will ever accept that the Barotseland Agreement 1964 is as dead as a corpse that can never be revived, and clinging on to it, like they are doing, will merely lead the stubborn BRE and the Litungaship to the grave with it.
The Zambian state has made it crystal clear that as far as Zambia is concerned, there is no Barotseland to talk about. Yes, during the occasional election season and for political capital or whenever the state wants to profit from the dead Barotseland Agreement, politicians will stroke the Barotse ego by appeasing the Litunga as King over the ‘non-existing’ Barotseland and appear to be willing to resolve all outstanding Barotseland matters!
However, the truth is that Barotseland right now is an already divorced spouse who the more powerful spouse, Zambia, occasionally takes advantage of and rapes to their pleasure! But when will the BRE and Litunga Imwiko II wake up and realize that linyalo ni Naha Zambia li felile kale? [that Barotseland's marriage with Zambia has already been annulled irreconcilably]
Therefore, the Zambian state must be judged through its public legal and constitutional actions towards Barotseland rather than through the occasional sweet words the President whispers in the Litunga’s ears when in the secret chambers of State House or the Kings Royal Kashandi!
That Barotseland’s 1964 ill-fated marriage with the sovereign state of Zambia ended in 1969, is now a matter of law and public knowledge! Therefore, anyone who will promise to restore the dead 1964 agreement without first changing Zambia’s national constitution is playing both the Litunga and the BRE for a fool!
It was despicable to watch the republican president on national television publicly display a well-rehearsed orchestration by three self-imposed chiefs who have, for some time now, mounted an open rebellion against the Litunga, King of Barotseland, and to label their rebellion as ‘tribal conflicts’, even when the main architect among them is actually a blood relative of the current Litunga, is very disheartening.
If President Lungu and his Patriotic Front (PF) are not co-conspirators in this charade, then the Zambian President is being played for a fool by his regional political aides masquerading as civil servants, in the name of Permanent Secretary, Danny Bukali and his Kaoma counterpart, District Commissioner, Kennedy Liale Mubanga.