By Rodger M.A. Chongwe SC
In an effort to bring the King of Barotseland to the table and facilitate the fusion of the Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia with the protectorate of Barotseland to form Zambia the colonial power through the colonial secretary Sir Duncan Sandys crafted an agreement which was sold to the Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia and Sir Mwanawina Lewanika of Barotseland. This was during the last stages of the constitutional conference at Malborough House in London. It would appear few of the delegates at this conference claim to be aware of this side meeting, which was taking place simultaneously with the main conference.
The representatives of the Barotseland Protectorate argued with the colonial power regarding their own treaty with the British Government that led to the creation of the Protectorate of Barotseland. The nationalists wanted Barotseland to join Northern Rhodesia in its independence as the two protectorates were to all intents and purposes part of one country. People who were prominent in the independence struggle came from Barotseland as well as Northern Rhodesia. However the King of Barotseland did not want to sleep on the rights of his people.
Subsequently Sir Mwanawina Lewanika agreed that Barotseland Protectorate should join with the Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia to form the nation of Zambia on condition that the Barotseland protectorate retained its local autonomous status enjoyed during her status as a protectorate. Barotseland was to surrender those powers that hitherto had been exercised by the imperial power of Britain over Barotseland to the new State of Zambia.
The details of the powers to be retained by the Barotseland Royal Establishment were spelt out in the agreement.
Sir Duncan Sandys on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, Sir Mwanawina Lewanika on behalf of the Barotseland Royal Establishment and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia, signed the Agreement for fusion on the 18th May 1964.
This agreement paved the way for the creation of the State of Zambia on the 24th October 1964.
In 1969 there were constitutional amendments to the 1964 Constitution and part of those amendments were aimed at bringing local government in Barotseland in line with other provinces. Barotseland was renamed Western Province. The King of Barotseland now only called the Litunga of Barotseland lost some of his powers including his treasury and this was in line with what took place elsewhere in the country. The agreement of 1964 was repealed by legislative fiat without any discussion or consensus from the parties.
The above then is the genesis of our constitutional problems emanating from the Western Province. They are problems that have been left to fester for a very long time. Each successive government has skirted around the problem. No real effort has been made by any of our previous governments to sit down with the traditional leaders of the Western Province to settle the issues once and for all. These issues will not go away unless there is a will by all of us in Zambia to seriously address them through our constitution. After all, at the core of the demands is decentralization. Which politician in Zambian would not agree of the need for decentralization and therefore devolution of more power from Lusaka to the provinces?
In regard to Zambians who come from the other provinces, who do not wish to understand that the Western Province has a legitimate claim to be part of Zambia on a different basis to the rest of us. We cannot in good conscience try to gloss over and arrogantly dismiss this fact, as has been the practice in the past. We as the rest of Zambia made a deal with the Barotse Kingdom. We must now in all good faith acknowledge that we did not keep the agreement. Our partners in the broken agreement have clearly not been happy with our behavior for a long while. Let’s come together and put it right in our time. We can take advantage of the constitutional debate now in place in the country and try to settle once and for all this very important national issue for the good of our country.