By Lubasi Lubasi
18th May 1964. Barotseland and Northern Rhodesia sign the Barotseland Agreement in London allowing the two territories to proceed to independence as one country to be called Zambia but with Barotseland maintaining semi autonomy.
The Zambia Independence Order 1964 states as follows:
Interpretation 125-1 ‘In this Constitution, unless the context otherwise requires;
‘Barotseland’ means the territory that on the 23rd October 1964 was comprised in the former Barotseland Protectorate,
The former Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia means the territory that on 23rd October 1964 was comprised in the Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia.’
The Zambia Independence Act 1964 reads in part;
Establishment of the Republic of Zambia. “On the 24th October 1964 (in this Act referred to as the appointed day) the territories which immediately before the appointed day are comprised in Northern Rhodesia shall cease to be a Protectorate and shall, together, become an independent Republic under the name of Zambia and on and after that day, Her Majesty shall have no jurisdiction over those territories.”
These two legal instruments were the constitutive authority for the Republic of Zambia out of the two former territories comprised in the then Northern Rhodesia. The two pieces of legislation were passed by the British Legislature on 15th October 1964.
“And whereas it is the wish of the Government of Northern Rhodesia and the Litunga of Barotseland, his council, chiefs and people of Barotseland that Northern Rhodesia should proceed to independence as one country and that all its people should be one nation.” (This is where the motto of ‘One Zambia one nation’ was crafted from)
It is on the foundation of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 that Zambia is defined as a Unitary State but the two constituent parts that form the country are ‘conveniently’ not mentioned.
The Zambian government was, upon independence, to put in place legal and administrative instruments for the administration of Barotseland as provided for by the terms of the Agreement. However this was not done and to the contrary, the government embarked on a mission to dismantle the Agreement, swallow Barotseland and reduce it to a province of Zambia.
In 1973, the first change to the constitution of Zambia was made ushering in the one party state and Zambia removed articles that made reference to Barotseland and in particular, Article 125 that made reference to the origins of the Republic of Zambia and provided for the constitutional recognition of the institution of the Litunga was removed.
Article 125 of the independence constitution had read as follows:
“The Litunga of Barotseland” means the person recognised as such by the President under the provisions of Barotse Native Authority Ordinance or any law amending or repealing that Ordinance.”
In place of the foregoing provisions, the Zambian government introduced the phrase “United and Indivisible Sovereign State.”
Kenneth Kaunda’s presentation at Lealui Royal Palace on 16th August 1964;
“It is the Governments full intention that the Barotseland Agreement will be honoured fully after independence. I believe that the Agreement reached in London was an honourable Agreement from the point of view of both the Central Government and the Barotseland Government.”
“I can assure you, Sir Mwanawina and all members of the Barotse Royal Family and of the Barotse Government that the government has no wish to interfere with the day to day running of Barotseland.”
And whereas the name ‘Barotseland’ is said to be unparliamentary in the Zambian parliament, Kenneth Kaunda’s well respected Attorney General, Mr James John Skinner who, when delivering a ministerial statement in parliament on 18th September 1965, had advised that:
“The legal name of Barotseland was Barotseland and not Barotse Province.”
Kaunda and his government however had other plans and continued referring to Barotseland as Barotse province and few years later, on Monday 25th August 1969, Kaunda announced that he had decided to change the name of (according to him) Barotse province to Western Province while the current Western province at that time was renamed as the Copperbelt province in an apparent attempt to delete any memory of Barotseland.
55 years from the time the Agreement was signed, the drama continues and some Barotse ‘nationals’ remain incarcerated in prison over Barotseland as Zambians celebrate their independence.