Incessant Calls for Barotseland Independence


By Henry Kyambalesa

1. Introduction:

In this article, I wish to comment on incessant calls by the Barotse Freedom Movement (BFM), the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE), the Barotseland National Council (BNC), and the Movement for the Restoration of the Barotse Agreement (MOREBA) intended to secure the secession of Western Province from the Republic of Zambia.
Advocacy for secession by any segment of the citizenry is, indeed,a thorny, complex and unpleasant issue for our beloved country.But like all other serious national issues facing us, we need to summon our wisdom in finding a lasting and peaceful solution to the issue.
In the ensuing sections, I wish to make a few observations relating to the issue. Specifically, the following constitute the corpus of the remainder of the article:

(a) the central issue bolstering the advocacy for secession;

(b) the superfluous nature of the secessionist sentiments; and

(c) amicable resolution of the issue.

2. What Is the Central Issue?:

I believe the main issue which has continued to invoke secessionist sentiments in Western Province can be found in Clauses 2 and 3 of Article 4 of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 titled “The Litunga and His Council,” which provides for the

“(2) The Litunga of Barotseland, acting after consultation with
his Council as constituted for the time being under the
customary law of Barotseland shall be the principal local
authority for the government and administration of
“(3) The Litunga of Barotseland, acting after consultation with
his Council, shall be authorised and empowered to make laws
for Barotseland [with respect to issues cited in the

3. Secession Is Not Necessary:

Zambians, by and large, believe in the devolution of power to the country’s 10 provinces so that local people can be afforded the opportunity to make their own decisions on important issues which affect their lives. They are generally committed to the idea of creating semi-autonomous regions, and a federal or central
government that will wield limited powers and perform a limited number of functions.

This kind of political dispensation may well be a more prudent compromise to the secession being contemplated by my traditional cousins in Western Province.
Besides, we are all essentially one and the same people, although the majority of our fellow citizens identify themselves as belonging to one or two of our country’s seventy-three (73) tribes.

In shorthand, we are all members of the Zambian family. And recognition of our oneness has, no doubt, been the linchpin of the enhanced and unmatched national unity which our country has enjoyed since its independence on October 24, 1964.
Moreover, secession in an era of integration is counterproductive at best. Integration of sovereign states has been one of the leading aspirations of socioeconomic policy worldwide over the last sixty years, so much so that we can appropriately describe the era as the era of integration. One would be amiss not to cite the numerous motivations for such integration.

The primary rationale for economic integration derives not only from economic considerations; rather, it emanates from social, security, technological, and political factors as well. At the political level, for example, the basic motivation for integration, or at least economic cooperation, springs from the assumption that the
process of socio-economic development requires some form of
international cooperation or interdependence.At the technological level, a country may, as insinuated in the SAPEM (1992:29) journal, decide to integrate with others in order to gain unrestrained and protracted access to a larger market for
any forms of advanced technology which may be conceived and/or developed in the country, as well as to benefit from joint scientific and technological development efforts and programmes. In the 21st century, African governments particularly should not expect to make any headway in their quest for enhanced
socioeconomic development if they cannot briskly integrate their countries’ national economies.

The enormity of development hurdles facing much of the continent—including limited domestic markets, inaccessible foreign markets, lack of investment capital, and unfavourable terms of trade with industrialised nations—certainly call for what
may be referred to as “south-south economic cooperation” if they are to rid their countries of what Bill Clinton (2000) characterised as the “astonishing poverty” currently facing the continent before the end of his two-term tenure as U.S. president in 2001.

In shorthand, meaningful socioeconomic development in Africa is,as African heads of state and government have unanimously concluded (OAU, 2000), “contingent upon the integration of [the continent’s national] … economies.”

Let us now turn to savant P. S. Mistry (2000:570&571) for an observation that provides a general rationale for African countries particularly to relentlessly seek stronger and permanent membership in regional economic blocs, and simultaneously work towards consolidating the operations of the “African
Union”—proclaimed in Libya in March 2001, assented to by member-countries in Ethiopia in May 2001, created in Zambia in July 2001, and formally launched in South Africa in July 2002—to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU):
“African countries no longer have the luxury of avoiding the imperatives [associated with] … integration, which is inescapable for most of them if they are to … [succeed in their socioeconomic pursuits and endeavors]. On their own, they will not be able to arrest and reverse the slide toward marginalisation in the global economy … and to realise their potential to become more efficient and competitive economies.”

Overall, societal members worldwide have become true believers in the concept of “strength in numbers,” or “in unity, there is greater strength.”

4. Resolution of the Issue:

There are a number of feasible ways and means by which the demands for secession can be resolved. State Counsel John Sangwa has called for a spirited national debate on the issue, and for ultimate subjection of the issue to a referendum.

Another approach is for the incumbent Republican President to constitute a “Barotse Commission of Inquiry,” whose terms of reference should be to conduct an intensive study of the issues involved, the general feelings of the Lozi people about the
agitation for secession from Zambia, the general feelings of the Mbunda and Mankoya people (among other tribes in Western Province) about the secession issue, and, among other things, the options for resolving the issues surrounding the 1964 Barotseland Agreement. Moreover, there is a need for serious consideration of ethnic interests by the national government in the distribution of power,
educational facilities, health services, infrastructure, and other essential public services and facilities. Additionally, Parliament needs to seriously consider the prospect of amending the Republican Constitution (Amendment) 2016 to
include Articles suggested in the Addendum to this article.

5. Conclusion:

Secessionist sentiments are a highly divisive issue; the longer they are sustained, therefore, the more they are likely to create an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility between the Lozi people and the other 72 Zambian tribes, with whom they have peacefully coexisted over the last 59 years.Our beloved country has been a unitary and indivisible sovereign state since its inception in 1964. Each and every one of us,
therefore, has a civic and moral obligation to guard ourselves against the temptation of dividing it on ethnic lines. We need to continue to exercise our civic and moral duty to be patriotic and loyal to our beloved country, and to foster national unity as well as live in harmony with other members of Zambian society.
Incidentally, our fellow citizens in Western Province need to decide whether or not they prefer to be governed by a monarchical regime without any viable mechanism for peacefully replacing incompetent leaders. Besides, they need to decide whether or not they desire to become “subjects” in a Kingdom without the basic rights and
freedoms currently accorded to them as “citizens” of the Republic of Zambia.
And, to reiterate, the secession which my traditional cousins are seeking is not feasible in the long run without first gauging the general feelings (about the secession issue) of the Mbunda, Mankoya, Mbwela, Kwangwa, and other tribes in Western Province, and the Lozi people who have intermarried across
provincial boundaries.


Petitions for Secession
In the light of the ongoing saga relating to secessionist sentiments in Western Province, there is a need for Parliament in our beloved country to seriously consider the prospect of including a Constitutional proviso relating to Petitions for Secession.
This could be placed under PART XX of Republican Constitution (Amendment) of 2016, and the current PART XX (that is, General Provisions) could become PART XXI and the Articles under it re-numbered accordingly as Article 264 through Article 281.
Articles under the new PART XX (that is, Petitions for Secession)could be numbered as follows:
Any district or province that will seek to secede from the Republic
of Zambia will abide by the following requirements:
[Article 258]
(1) Petitioners will prepare a hard copy of their petition, which will
include the following:
(a) The petitioners’ office and/or postal mailing address(es);
(b) The basis of the petitioners’ authority to seek secession from
the Republic of Zambia on behalf of the district or province;

(c) A detailed rationale for seeking secession;
(d) Authentication of the petition by the petitioners by means of
their full names and signatures, including the date of the
(2) A complete copy of the petition will be submitted by the
petitioners to the Minister of Justice in advance of any further
actions of compliance with the requirements prescribed in this
[Article 259]
(1) The petitioners will, in accordance with existing laws relating to
the holding of public meetings, convene public meetings at
selected locations in the district or province for which secession is
sought, at which the content of the petition will be publicly
explained by the petitioners.
(2) The names of supporters, as well as their signatures in support,
of the petition will be collected by the petitioners at the end of
each public meeting.
(3) The total number of all the names and signatures ultimately
collected will be at least one-fiftieth (1/50) of the estimated
population of the district or province seeking to secede from the
Republic of Zambia.
(4) Each of the signatories to the petition will be assumed to be at
least eighteen (18) years of age, to have understood the content
of the petition, and to have been resident in the district or
province seeking the secession for at least five (5) years.
[Article 260]
(1) The petitioners will submit the names, signatures and
addresses of signatories to the Minister of Justice for sample-
verifications of the existence of signatories and any other relevant details relating to the signatories.
(2) The Minister of Justice will acknowledge receipt of the signed
copies of the petition and information about signatories within six
(6) months from the date of receipt of the petition.
(3) The Minister of Justice will reject the petition if any of the
particulars relating to the signatories will be found to be forged,
fudged, or inaccurate, and will communicate the outcome of the
sample-verifications to the petitioners within six (6) months from
the date of acknowledgment of the receipt of the petition.
(4) In the case of forged or fudged information relating to the
signatories, petitioners will be prosecuted, the nature of the
punishment of which will be prescribed by an Act of Parliament.
[Article 261]
(1) A petition that will pass the verification process will be
submitted by the Minister of Justice to Parliament within six (6)
months from the date of acknowledgement of the petitioners’
(2) Parliament will render its decision regarding the petition within
one (1) year from the date of receipt of the petition.
(3) Parliament’s decision will be final, and will be binding on both
the Zambian government and the petitioning district or province.
(4) In the case of positive consideration of the petition by
Parliament, Parliament will, within one (1) year from the date of
its decision, set up the process of separation of the district or
province from the Republic of Zambia, including details relating to
assets to be shared between the Republic of Zambia and the new
country, and the date and time of the actual separation.
(5) In the event of a rejection of the petition by Parliament, the
petitioners will have the opportunity to submit a revised petition
to the Minister of Justice after five (5) years from the date of a previous denial, and as many times as they will wish.
[Article 262]
Any other means of seeking to secede from the Republic of Zambia other than what is prescribed in this Constitution will be treated as a treasonable offence.
[Article 263]
(1) The costs associated with the preparation of petitions, the
holding of public meetings, and the submission of petitions to the
Minister of Justice will be borne by the petitioners without any
financial and/or material support from foreign governments,
organisations and/or individuals, or from organisations and/or
individuals outside the district or province seeking to secede for
the Republic of Zambia.
(2) If the Minister of Justice will determine that the petitioners
received financial and/or material support from foreign
governments, organisations and/or individuals—or from
organisations and/or individuals outside the district or province
seeking to secede for the Republic of Zambia—to bolster the
preparation of petitions, the holding of public meetings, and/or
the submission of petitions to the Minister of Justice, he or she
will reject the petition.


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