Barotseland Freedom Movement
International Relations Secretariat
23rd February, 2012
Please allow us to respond to the article entitled “Barotseland government creates official information web portal” dated February 19th, 2012.
Barotseland Freedom Movement (BFM) categorically disassociates itself from the said web site. As correctly stated, it is the Linyungandambo who are behind both the web site and the imaginary Barotseland government.
We further find the use of some of our members’ names on the site unacceptable as it was done without their consent or knowledge. This is nothing else but sheer lack of responsibility on the part of the authors. The issue of Barotseland is a very serious one that cannot be solved by wild day-dreamers who wake up one morning and suddenly decide to create “the Government of Barotseland”.
We have always suspected that Linyungandambo, which has a far less following than BFM, is more concerned about positions in the inevitable new Barotseland. Their creation of a Barotseland government web site does confirm these suspicions. This is the reason why some of their influential leaders refused to work with BFM when we were preparing for the first anniversary of the Barotseland shootings memorial service. They wanted to be involved in something in which they would be portrayed as the main players.
It was Linyungandambo who insisted that the 14th January 2011 meeting go ahead even when we had warned them of the danger then posed to innocent people. As a result of their stubbornness, mostly BMF followers fell victim to police brutality. Of all the leaders who were arrested, only two were from Linyungandambo, one from moreba and the rest from BFM. The majority of those who were kept at Mumbwa Prison were also followers of BFM. This only point out to how irresponsible Linyungandambo can be. No good reasoning adult would think it wise forming a Barotseland government now when the current Zambian Government has shown interest in dialogue.
We know that Barotseland had a flag and National Anthem long before the Zambian equivalents came into existence. However, the following are clear and indisputable facts;
- Barotseland is still internationally regarded as a part of Zambia
- All peoples of Barotseland are Zambian citizens
- There is one government in Zambia headed by one democratically elected president
- There is one National Anthem for Zambia, one National flag and one Court of Arms.
Why should we seek to confuse our people over such clear issues?
Linyungandambo Should own up to its Controversial Issues
Over a month ago, Barotseland Freedom Movement leaders physically went to the Mongu Police Station to request for permission to hold the first memorial service for the January 14th 2011 victims. The permit was granted in the name of BFM. Why can’t the Linyungandambo leaders also come out in the open so that they be seen and own up to the many controversial documents and issues associated with them? All they are good at is shoving innocent people into harms way while they themselves go underground. It is this kind of irresponsible behavior that makes us find it extremely difficulty to work with this group. We cannot allow a situation where innocent people’ lives are put at risk yet again. The painful memories of January 14th, 2011 are still vivid in our minds.
BFM Campaigned Against the MMD Government
When the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) government justified the cold blooded murder of our people, BFM saw that the only way we were to fight back and win was through the ballot box. Elections were fortunately due the same year. We took it upon ourselves to rally behind any party that had a better following numerical wise. The Patriotic Front was seen to be more formidable one. Although we did not openly mention this to our people, we, however, told them not to vote for the MMD ever again. Some of our followers openly campaigned for the PF; and it worked. Our goal was achieved.
This should not be taken to suggest that BFM was in any agreement with the PF. We only used the latter to whip those who had killed us. We would gladly employ the same strategy if at all the PF government also resorted to persecuting our people. We would fight back using the ballot box. However, it is our hope that the Barotseland issue will be sorted out long before the next general elections.
Linyungandambo Destroyed the Merger with BFM
We do acknowledge that at one point we had agreed to merge with Linyungandambo since our goals happened to be basically the same. Unfortunately, that noble agreement made in prison was overturned by an influential member of the group who himself had “eluded” the police drag net of 13th January 2011 by fleeing into the Barotse Plains. This gentleman refused to accept his brave comrades’ noble decision to merge with BFM and, therefore, the all important unit crumbled. As BFM, we came to find it increasingly difficult to work with individuals who in turn would be easily overruled by their uncooperative and arrogant leader.
A Case against the Zambian Government
The people of Barotseland have, without a doubt, a credible case against the Government of Zambia, regardless of who may be in power. This is no longer in relation to the unilaterally terminated Barotseland Agreement 1964 only, but also in relation to the needless arrests, maiming and killing of Barotse people on January 13th and 14th, 2011. Without a doubt, crimes against humanity were committed by the MMD government in Barotseland.
Internationally, it is an accepted norm that any government that turns state weapons on protesting citizens automatically looses its legitimacy to rule such a people. This was the case in Serbia, Bosnia, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. We see the same scenario currently unfolding in Syria. The former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, is presently under trial for nothing else but allowing his security forces to shoot at protesters. Surprisingly, the democratic Zambian Government has gone silent on the issue of crimes against humanity committed by the Rupiah Banda government in Barotseland. This silence worryingly suggests that in Zambia the rule of law is only unevenly applied when it comes to the Barotseland issue.
The present Government of Zambia led by President Michael Sata has demonstrated its willingness to solve the Barotseland problem. This spirit should be encouraged by all peace loving Zambians. The Linyungandambo way of trying to find a solution cannot be termed as realistic by any means. The will of the Barotse people, which, we believe, was clearly expressed in the Dr. Roger Chongwe Commission of Inquiry must be used to guide us in the direction that should lead us towards a lasting solution. Any imposed (colonial style) or coerced solution on the Barotseland issue is bound to back fire in a disastrous way. Dictatorial tendencies and negative pre-conceptions will lead us nowhere. Peace and civility must be allowed to lead us towards a just settlement.
Thank very much.
BFM International Relations Secretary.