‘Twakomba akaka’, comrade ‘bo’ M’membe, HH has not refused to honour Barotseland Agreement
By Austin Mbozi(The Mast)
At this stage, the desirable is the reconciliatory approach of pleading, oh yes pleading saying ‘twakomba akaka’ (Tonga), with Socialist Party leader comrade Dr Fred M’membe to avoid accusing republican President Hakainde Hichilema of lying to the Barotseland ‘separatists’.
The truth is, the President never said he rejects the Barotseland Agreement. He only vowed to maintain Zambia a unitary state, which comrade M’membe agrees with. The problem is that many Zambians, totally ignorant about this issue and what the President meant, are saying ‘we agree with the president’s rejection of the Barotseland Agreement’. And comrade M’membe capitalises on this mass ignorance, saying ‘yes, the President promised lies to honour the Agreement and now he rejects it’. These HH supporters will end up further annoying the Barotse activists to rise against him while popularising M’membe.
The reality is that comrade M’membe’s and President HH’s solutions to this have more in common than differences. The imaginary differences are only superficially created by comrade M’membe. But still, in highly sensational political issue like this one it is better to plead with him to moderate his accusations for the utilitarian greater good of national unity rather than taking the deontological moral self-righteousness of attacking him.
Here are the highlights/analysis of their positions.
First, both comrade M’membe and President HH agree that Zambia should remain a unitary state, against Barotseland ‘separation’.
Second, both campaigned/campaign to restore the 1964 Barotseland Agreement. Yes, President HH campaigned/promised to honour it. And so does comrade M’membe. But we cannot tell the differences in how the two hope to honour it until we hear President HH’s proposals. We only know comrade M’membe’s approach: to extend the Agreement’s semi-autonomous powers to all provinces; much like I proposed way back in my column in his Post Newspaper. I will later address the merits and demerits of his proposal. For now, my point is that both he and HH promise to honour it.
Comrade M’membe is committing what academic philosophers call ‘attacking a strawman’ in accusing President HH of changing his position. You cannot accuse someone of what he has not said and then start attacking him for it! President HH only said he wanted a unitary state. He never said he rejected the Agreement. Advocating for a unitary state does not contradict the Barotseland Agreement, because its very appendix accepts sovereign unitary Zambia as ‘one nation’. When President HH said he wanted a unitary state he was not attacking advocates of the Agreement. He was responding to advocates of ‘separation’.
I agree with that Barotse action which says: Either the Zambian government honours the Agreement or we will separate to return to our pre-Agreement colonial-era status. But the other faction has gone too far in saying ‘we no longer want to Agreement’. Remember that in 2022, I wrote two articles in this column, suggesting that UPND must take a pro-active move to negotiate with the activists because they will doubt its commitment if the push comes from the activists? I hope UPND will now become more pro-active, approach the activists for negotiations. Then, hopefully, the activists will tone down.
Third, both comrade M’membe and President HH have no problems calling Western Province ‘Barotseland’. Comrade M’membe again commits a fallacy of attacking a strawman. President HH only said he has problems with having a Barotseland separate republic. But comrade M’membe accuses him of rejecting the name Barotseland in reference to Western Province as part of Zambia. It is not President HH who removed the name Barotseland. It is Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda. This region was called Barotseland Protectorate after the 1890 Lochner Concession between King Lubosi Lewanika and Cecil Rhodes’ agent Frank Lochner. Then it was re-named Barotseland Province in 1964 after the May 1964 Agreement after Kaunda negotiated with Lewanika Mwanawina III that Barotseland becomes part of unitary Zambia on condition that Barotseland retained autonomous regional rights over locally-generated finances, land, fisheries and a regional parliament (the katengo Kuta), presided over by the Ngambela (prime minister) under the Litunga (king).
But privately, Kaunda planned to discard the irritations associated with administering this region with semi-autonomous power. He began by rejecting his own pre-Agreement verbal assurances to include the Agreement in the Zambian Constitution. Then in 1969, he organised a national referendum, asking Zambians to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the question of whether or not the Agreement should be honoured. The majority within Barotseland Province supported the Agreement. But the majority in mainstream Zambia rejected it. Yet Kaunda said ‘the majority of Zambians allowed me to reject it’. So he rejected it and renamed the region Western Province.
Kaunda’s action was crooked and illegitimate. He should not have asked the non-Barotse Zambians to vote in this referendum. He should have adopted the majority vote of the Barotse people.
International legal jurisprudence governing plebicites admits only the voice of the legitimately aggrieved, not the majority oppressors. Suppose you find some among five women protesting that the ten men around are trying to rape them. You are irresponsible if you allowed a vote of all the 15 persons and then allow the sex to go on just because all the ten men voted for it plus one woman. The referendums on Scottish, Basques or Quebec ‘separatist’ movements only ask the members of the legitimately aggrieved, not the English, mainstream Spanish, or English speaking Canadians respectively, whether these minorities should separate. Hey there Professor Hamalengwa, my fellow columnist across the ‘river’ (opposite page). Is my law correct?
So, the rest of you non-Barotse Zambians saying ‘we support the President for rejecting the Barotseland Agreement’ shut up. After all, ‘nanga Barotseland niya a nyoko?’
The author has media-written hundreds of ethnicity-related articles, academic-published on global economic justice, wrote a book ‘Language Politics in Zambia’ (2018), and teaches at the University of Zambia. Phone +260-978-741920. Email: email@example.com