Thursday, December 29, 2011
The Barotse Agreement: Will it be honoured?
Many people have been following the news from Western province. Commentries, reveiews and analysis have been done to fully understand the whole matter. Times of Zambia's opinion is the latest in analyzing the Barotse agreement in its edition of Decemeber 29, 2011. Below is the full analysis. Zambia is a unitary State which has managed to foster and maintain national unity on a continent replete with civil strife and conflicts that have left indelible marks on many nations and their inhabitants. The peace and tranquility which our country has enjoyed for 47 years is particularly enviable when one considers the tribal diversity which makes up Zambia, and the fact that the preponderance of tribal conflict that has torn apart many African countries has not manifested in any ugly form at home. Peaceful co-existence among the 73 tribal groups and dialects has fostered unparalleled unity and harmony in our country, creating a conducive environment devoid of the propensity for violence that has spawned fratricidal strife in many countries. But this is not to suggest that there have been no upheavals in Zambia. Those who are old enough, and others who are abreast with our country’s history, will recall the violence which characterized the Lenshina uprising of 1964 and the numerous casualties recorded in north-western province during the insurgency led by one Adamson Mushala. Although the Lenshina uprising was quelled with the use of excessive force and the Mushala insurgency ended dramatically when the rebel leader, Mushala, was eventually ambushed and shot dead by the Zambia army in the early 1980s after a protracted rebellion lasting several years, so many innocent victims had lost their lives. Against this backdrop, President Michael Sata’s concerns about activities of some pro-secessionist elements in western province are understandable, for such activities could polarize the region further and lead to unnecessary conflict. What is clearly discernible in the midst of the political posturing currently going on over the Barotse Agreement of 1964 is that there appears to be no unanimity on the way forward by the various groups lobbying for the restoration of the Agreement. There is also an attempt to misrepresent the facts as outlined in the Agreement which was signed by the then prime minister of Northern Rhodesia, Kenneth Kaunda, and Sir Mwanawina Lewanika III, the then Litunga of Barotseland in May, 1964. The gist of this Agreement was to unify the two territories, namely Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland so that they could become the sovereign republic of Zambia at independence on October 24, 1964. The full import of this Agreement was that the Government of Northern Rhodesia and the Litunga of Barotseland, his Council and the chiefs and people of Barotseland agreed that “Northern Rhodesia should proceed to independence as one country and that all its peoples should be one nation.” It was further agreed that when Northern Rhodesia became an independent sovereign republic of Zambia, all treaties and agreements subsisting between Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Litunga of Barotseland would terminate. What appears to be a matter of contention is the provision in the Barotse Agreement which says that the Northern Rhodesia government and the Litunga of Barotseland were to enter into “arrangements” concerning the position of Barotseland as part of Zambia to take the place of the treaties and agreements signed between the Litunga and the British government—the same treaties that were effectively annulled by the same Barotse Agreement on attainment of independence on October 24, 1964. On financial responsibility, the Agreement says: “The Government of the republic of Zambia shall have the same general responsibility for providing financial support for the administration and economic development of Barotseland as it has for other parts of the Republic and shall ensure that, in discharge of this responsibility, Barotseland is treated fairly and equitably in relation to other parts of the Republic.” The Agreement goes further to outline issues pertaining to local administration, the management of land, fishing, forests, control of hunting and bush fires and game preservation. There is nowhere in the Barotse Agreement where the parties talked about secession, whether directly or indirectly. It is important that those lobbying for restoration of this Agreement study the document thoroughly and uphold the letter and spirit of what was agreed upon instead of introducing extraneous issues. Since the lobbyists appear to be fragmented, there is a danger that what began as a peaceful lobby by individuals genuinely concerned about advancing the development agenda of their province could be hijacked by some elements hell-bent on fomenting strife. Lobbying government for a redress of grievances is a fundamental liberty which all citizens ought to enjoy, but such a lobby should be peaceful and should not degenerate into agitation for violence. President Sata has appointed a commission of inquiry into the shooting of protesters in Mongu in January, this year. An opportunity has been availed to all affected parties to make submissions on their grievances. We hope the Barotse Royal Establishment and other concerned parties will afford a chance to the inquiry team to delve into the sticky issues surrounding the Barotse Agreement and come up with a viable solution. Dialogue is the only answer.
at 11:22 AM