Abrogation of Barotseland agreement in 1969 led to Mongu riots-Catholic priest

THE Catholic Diocese of Mongu has said the abrogation of  the Barotseland Agreement (BA) of 1964 by the Zambian Government on October 23, 1969 without prior consultation with the people of  Western Province through the Litunga is one of the root causes to the January 14 fracas as this had hurt the feelings of most of the people in the province.
And Alliance for Democracy  and  Development (ADD) president Charles Milupi told the Rodger Chongwe led Commission that the anger and frustrations of the people in the province are partly because of the failure by the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) to move with the people.
Making their submission to the commission of inquiry in Mongu yesterday, Fr Gregory Muleya said the restoration of the BA in the Constitution of Zambia was critical as some people are ready to fight for it.
“The causes of the riots that occurred in Mongu on 14th January have been classified into immediate and root causes. Immediate causes include the denial of permit to hold public meetings, activists groups had on several occasions applied for police permit to hold public meetings with no success.
“Root causes, the exclusion of the BA of 1964 in the draft constitution of 2010. Whenever a commission to review the Constitution of Zambia is established, the hope of  Western Province having the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 restored is raised. A countless number of petitioners to the Mvunga, Mwanakatwe and Mung’omba Commissions submitted the restoration and incorporation of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 in the Zambian Constitution,” he said.
Fr Muleya said despite the numerous submissions the response has always been negative saying Western Province has also had the highest levels of poverty in the country.
Fr Muleya said the police were allegedly responsible for the riots on January 14 because they handled the situation in a provocative manner and  the conduct of the paramilitary and the police during the riots was unprofessional because they used excessive force.
And another petitioner Charles Milupi, 57, in his submission to the commission said the marginalisation of Barotseland by the Government had caused anger especially among the youths.
He said there was utter hopelessness among the people of Barotseland because they felt  there was a deliberate plan by the Government to destroy Barotseland.
“The people of Barotseland looked away from the traditional political leadership and now they look at the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE).
The BRE were, however, slow to recognise the mood-swing and therefore made themselves unavailable to the people who were looking for leadership.
“Because of not making themselves available to their children, the anger and frustration was also directed at the BRE,” he said.
Mr Milupi said it was sad that the previous Government had allegedly lied over the two people who died in Mongu during the fracas.
Mr Milupi said as opposed to the statement by the then vice-president George Kunda that one of the people was killed with a spear because he was an informer, to the contrary he was shot.
He said the former Government also allegedly lied they said a man was shot dead because he was about to burn a filling station, because to the contrary he was on his way to the police to check on the condition of his landlord.
Mr Milupi said the list of the people who were arrested was allegedly made by MMD cadres.
“The police shot indiscriminately and even conducted arrests indiscriminately. Some of the people were not even going to the meeting. Men were hunted and arrested even from their houses. School children were also arrested,” he said.
He said former President Rupiah Banda and the former Home Affairs minister Mkhondo Lungu demonstrated their superiority over the people of the Barotseland in the manner they handled the January 14 fracas.
The ADD president said there was no justification for the police to have shot innocent and defenseless citizens who had no weapons.
He said Zambia only became a unitary state because of the Barotseland Agreement and  there was need to seriously address the matter.
He said the 1964 BA was not about development by the governance of the area.
Another petitioner yesterday told the Commission of Inquiry into the January 14 Mongu riots that President Michael Sata should fire all the police commanding officers who superintended over the brutalising of innocent citizens, attributing the unfortunate fracas to the unprofessional conduct of the police.
Mr Eugene Kapatiso, 28, of Imwiko area, who was one of the people detained, told the Commission that the people who superintended over the brutalising of innocent citizens had been left scot free while
others were even serving in President Sata’s Government.
“We believe that President Sata should have removed all the police officers that commanded the officers to brutalise us,” he said.
Mr Kapatiso told the commission how a female officer tortured him by pulling his manhood and hitting it.
He said he was almost becoming lame because of the brutal manner that the police dealt with him when he was arrested over the fracas.
He said President Sata and the Patriotic Front (PF) Government should explain to the people of Western Province whether he would fulfill the promises that were made during the campaigns as regards the BA of 1964.
He said even if the victims of the January 14 incidence were compensated, it would not help them for as long as the province remained as it was.
Mr Kapatiso told the commission that he was arrested on January 14 and was only released on May 1 from Mumbwa police in unusual circumstances.
“We were released around 22:00 hours a strange time because people do not leave prison in the night,” he said.
Hearing continues.

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