Barotseland drop demand for secession from Zambia

By Michael Malakata, Lusaka, Zambia

Barotseland 'Ngambela' (prime minister) Wainyae Sinyinda.

The people of Barotseland have dropped their demand for secession less than a week after the Baroste National Council (BNC) meeting indorsed the idea. The BNC last week Wednesday unanimously agreed that Barotseland should secede from Zambia and become an independent state under the leadership of the Litungu as King and a Prime Minister.

The resolution of the BNC to secede from Zambia led to the arrest of the Barotseland Prime Minister Clement Wainyae Sinyinda by Zambian security forces two days after the resolution. He was later released and told to report to the police a day later but he instead went into hiding. The Zambian government rejected the resolutions and described the move as treason and irresponsible.

Zambian Vice President Guy Scott said the action by the BNC “is irresponsible and will not hold as Zambia has always been a unitary state”. Sinyinda issued a statement Tuesday stating that the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) has dropped the demand to secede from Zambia. Sinyinda said the BRE has instead opted for dialogue with government in the interest of peace and national unity. He added that the government had acted responsibly, while traditional leaders in Western province had continued issuing attacks, which was not good for dialogue.

Michael Sata elected to the presidency last year, campaigned in Barotseland on the promise that he would restore that Barotse Agreement that was signed in 1964 between Kingdom of Barotseland and the British government, the former colonial master. The resolution by BNC to secede from Zambia was made while Sata was away in India on a private visit. Sata returned to Zambia last week on Friday but has so far not commented on the issue.

Since 2001 when Sata formed his party, the Patriotic Front (PF), he never won a single election in Western Province but won with a landslide margin last year following his promise to restore the agreement if elected president. Minister of Home Affairs Kennedy Sakeni said: “The decision by the BRE is welcome because it is in the interest of peace and unity in the country.”

The country’s three Church Mother bodies last week issued a joint statement at a press briefing in Lusaka, which called for dialogue over the issue. The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and the Zambia Episcope Conference (ZEC) called on the Zambian government to exercise its duty of maintaining law and order and to protect life and property but that the duty should be exercised with due diligence.

The country’s first Republic President Dr Kenneth Kaunda who was the Prime minister of Zambia at the time the Barotse Agreement was being signed in 1964 has offered to help resolved the matter. Kaunda co-signed the agreement. Despite having ruled Zambia for 24 years, he never recognised the Barotse Agreement. He oppressed any Lozi who tried to speak about the matter in public.

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