Understanding the Barotseland issue
By Sishuwa Sishuwa
“There is no country called Barotseland”, declared the President of #Zambia recently in response to the latest calls for secession from Lozi separatists in the western part of the country. The comment by Hichilema sparked public debate about the sources, nature, and manifestations of the Barotseland challenge. Much of this debate is however devoid of reliable and trusted information that locates the topic in a proper historical context.
To overcome this limitation, the Journal of Southern African Studies have temporarily made free-to-access the informative article on this link below.
The article, written by British historian Jack Hogan, traces the course and persistence of Lozi secessionism from 1890 to 2013 and serves as evidence of the quality research that is published in the Journal of Southern African Studies.
Of potential additional interest to the reader may be the text of the Barotseland Agreement – available on the link below – which defined the position of Barotseland within an independent Zambia and set out the basic pattern of the relationship between the ill-defined Lozi kingdom and the central authorities in Lusaka.
The Agreement was signed on 19 May 1964 – about five months before Zambia gained independence from Britain on 24 October that year – by Kenneth Kaunda (Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia), Mwanawina Lewanika III, (the Litunga or King of Barotseland), and Duncan Sandys (British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies).
Taken together, the research article and the Agreement should help guide the public discussion on this subject by those interested in understanding its evolution over time. I also devote significant attention to this recurring theme of Zambian political history in my book, Party Politics and Populism in Zambia.
Earlier, 46 years before Hogan published his article in 2014, a Canadian historian Gerald Caplan wrote another informative article titled ‘Barotseland: the secessionist challenge to Zambia’, available on the link below. Like Hogan’s, Caplan’s article, published in the Journal of Modern African Studies explains the historical background of the Barotseland challenge, the motives of the Lozi ruling class in demanding secession, and the methods which successive colonial and independent governments have employed in response to this persistent challenge.