The Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) last Friday submitted to the parliamentary select committee on the constitution of Zambia (amendment) bill no. 10 of 2019 and among its submissions was that the unitary status of Zambia was based on the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.
The BRE further submitted that the Barotseland Agreement that Zambia unilaterally abrogated in 1969 be recognised in the Constitution as the basis for Zambia being a unitary state.
The BRE explained in its submission that was presented on its behalf by Sakwiba Sikota’s United Liberal Party (ULP) that Zambia was a creation of two nations that agreed to unite into one nation and one people under the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 and that the Bill 10 should include Articles that acknowledge that fact.
The BRE is also opposed to Article 4 (3) which states that, ‘the Republic of Zambia is a Christian, unitary, indivisible, multi – ethnic, multi – racial and multi – party democratic state.’ The BRE contends that the word ‘indivisible’ defeats the spirit and purpose of a unitary state.
‘The BRE wishes that this Parliamentary Committee will ensure that Bill No. 10 of 2019 includes Articles that acknowledge the fact that Zambia is a creation of two nations that agreed to unite into one nation and one people under the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. In this regard the BRE feel that the word “indivisible” be deleted,’ reads part of the submission.
The BRE further pointed out that the centuries long traditional government system of Barotseland, were the Litunga is an institutionalized symbol of authority and unity among the 38 ethnic groups and is the established medium of preserving the diverse cultural heritage, customs and the cultural values of all the ethnic groups comprised in Barotseland revolve around the Litungaship.
The BRE stressed that the Litunga ensures that people in Barotseland choose their chiefs in accordance with their peculiar hereditary succession systems. Once correctly selected and chosen, chiefs are brought before the Litunga to be installed and given the instruments of power and that anything to the contrary constitutes a serious breach of Barotse traditional values and cultural norms.
‘Arising from this background the position of the Barotse Royal Establishment and the people is that Barotseland shall remain united and all its thirty – eight (38) ethnic peoples remain one people under the leadership and direction of His Majesty the Litunga,’ reads part of the submission.
Article 165 in the proposed amendment is however in direct contravention of the Litunga’s authority on recognition of Chiefs within Barotseland.
The BRE warned that it will not accept any constitutional provisions which are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 and quoted Article 8 of the defunct Barotseland Agreement which stated that ‘the government of the Republic of Zambia shall take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that the laws for the time being in force in the Republic are not inconsistent with the provisions of the Barotseland Agreement 1964.’
The BRE wants Articles 149, 165 and 4 (3) in the proposed Bill 10 to be amended and incorporate their concerns.
Article 149 will give the President excessive and unilateral powers to creat, divide or merge provinces but the BRE fears that the excessive power may be used for the alienation of parts of Barotseland and merge them with lands outside the jurisdiction of His Majesty the Litunga. The BRE considers the proposed amendment unconstitutional and a threat to the integrity of Barotseland and as a direct affront to the authority of the Litunga.
But the submissions by the BRE have angered a cross section of people in Barotseland who have lamented that the BRE was going against the Barotseland National Council (BNC) resolutions of March 2012 which resolved to accept the abrogation of the Barotseland Agreement by the Zambian government and mandated Barotseland to revert to its pre 1964 status owing to Zambia’s failure to respect the treaty.