The history on how Zambia was created has remained hidden from the average Zambian through deliberate omission from the school syllabus.
Today even schooled Zambians do not understand why Zambia is called a unitary state or worse still what a unitary state is.
A unitary state is a country that is formed by more than one segment through an agreement or treaty and one common feature of such states is that they can break if the conditions agreed are not observed. For example, UK or the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” is a unitary Kingdom (State) of what were once four separate nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (though most of Ireland is now independent).
The other formation is a federal state which has similar features and conditions as unitary states. Examples include the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland to which Zambia, (Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland) where part. The Federation broke up because it only benefited the settler interests in Southern Rhodesia.
The third one is a monolithic state formed out of a single entity and some examples are Zimbabwe and Angola, these states are indivisible.
Zambia is or was called a unitary state because it was created out of two separate countries namely the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia and the British protectorate of Barotseland.
Barotseland became a British protectorate in 1890 and the assurance was conveyed through Lord Knutsford in 1891.
Several assurances were made by the British among them one that read as follows; ‘The Barotse have been assured, repeatedly, that Barotseland is a Protectorate of the Crown, (and) that this status is preserved under the successive Orders-In Council and that they are only part of Northern Rhodesia as an administrative arrangement with safeguards under the Governor representing the Crown.’
A total of 27 assurances were issued by the British Crown among them 1911 Order-In-Council, the 1924 Order-In-Council, and the 1925 Barotse Fund Ordinance under which a special fund was established to fund the running of the Barotseland Government.
The 1953 Special Order- In-Council assured Barotseland Protectorate status within Northern Rhodesia before it could join the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
The Orders-In-Council are what culminated in the 1964 Barotseland Agreement because the two countries should have attained independence separately but entered a treaty to form a unitary state which Zambia did not want to respect and abrogated it in 1969 technically abolishing the unitary state of Zambia
What was agreed in this agreement?
Just like single people cannot sign an agreement to divorce yet not married, the Barotseland Agreement was not about Barotseland breaking away from Zambia but was about the two countries co-existing as one under a unitary arrangement with the motto of One Zambia One nation extracted from the Agreement which read;
‘And where as it is the wish of the government of Northern Rhodesia and the Litunga of Barotseland, his Council and the Chiefs and people of Barotseland that Northern Rhodesia should proceed to independence as one country and that all its peoples should be one nation.’
(One Zambia one nation)
Just as a marriage certificate has no clause for divorce yet there are grounds for divorce if the marriage is not respected, you will not find a clause for secession in the agreement yet there are grounds for breaking or reverting to the previous status if conditions are violated, in this case its Article 70 of the Vienna convention on the law of international treaties which applies.
There is no longer one Zambia one nation without Barotseland because Zambia divorced Barotseland through abrogation of the unity treaty but has held on to Barotseland by force having repeatedly refused to restore the agreement so that the two remain in a unitary arrangement.
The government is aware of the facts and consequences but has kept the Zambian people in the dark. It is for this reason that the Zambian government is scared of having the matter arbitrated by an international body because they know their fate.
Unfortunately for Zambia the matter is now before international bodies and will soon have to explain the truth to Zambians.
The next article will look at the extent of the boundary of Barotseland and whether there is need for a referendum to leave the failed unitary state of Zambia and the position of Southern, North Western and parts of Central Provinces.