By Dr. Ndangwa Nayoo
On 27 March 2012 the people of Barotseland at the convened Barotse National Council (BNC) spoke with a loud voice, by endorsing the resolutions of the BNC, which among other issues unequivocally expressed the desire to reconstitute Barotseland into a sovereign nation. All seven districts of Barotseland had representation at the BNC, with certain sections of the Barotse Diaspora also in attendance. This was not only a monumental occasion but a bold and courageous undertaking by the people of Barotseland, which elevated the drive towards Barotse self-determination to a qualitatively higher level. Barotseland’s declared independence was also not a domestic affair but reverberated across the continent of Africa and further afield. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported this occasion on 29 March 2012 on its website under the headline: “Barotseland kingdom seeks to leave Zambia.” Part of the BNC’s resolution read accordingly:
“The people of Barotseland shall exercise their right to revert Barotseland to its original status as a sovereign nation, so that the people of Barotseland shall determine their political, cultural, social and economic development…”
Thereafter, the Barotse government (in waiting) was instructed to immediately formalize the declaration of a dispute with the Zambian government and to notify the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), the Commonwealth and United Nations of the former stance. It also mandated the Barotse government to request the United Nations within thirty days to oversee the transition process and put in place a transition process leading to taking over all government functions in Barotseland, and the election of the Legislative Council also known as the Katengo.
It is almost exactly a year since this landmark decision was taken and during this period Barotseland has witnessed all forms of harassment and political intimidation from the Lusaka regime; betrayal by some of its sons and daughters, especially members of the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE), vacillation and back-peddling of senior members of the BRE on the issue and outright selling out. Unfortunately for the cowards, the wheels of history have already been set in motion and the move towards total independence is not a question of “if” but of “when” it will transpire. This Ten Point Plan is my humble contribution which is meant to break the impasse and/or gridlock vis-à-vis Barotseland’s self-determination by proffering the needed strategy and tactics for the said endeavour. The ten points for the total liberation of Barotseland are the following.
1. Deepening the disengagement of Barotseland from Zambia by creating parallel institutions and structures
By disengaging with Zambia, the people of Barotseland would be effectively delegitimizing the presence of Zambian institutions in Barotseland. The people of Barotseland would also be putting the onus on Zambia to exculpate itself as to why it should continue to have a presence in Barotseland. This would not be far off the mark with international covenants as well as being in accordance with international law, for instance the right of return. In doing this, the people of Barotseland would be underscoring two critical factors:
(a) that they do not recognize the Lusaka regime and that they have begun instituting a “velvet” divorce as in the case of the former Czechoslovakia after it dissolved itself peacefully. This led to the formation of the Czech and Slovakia Republics after 1 January 1993.
(b) they would also be activating indigenous forms of production which existed prior to Zambia and promoting Barotse self-reliance such as the unplugging and building of canals. Already, the people of Barotseland have created structures that are parallel to those of the Lusaka regime such as the Barotse National Council (BNC), the Barotseland Football Federation (BFF); the Barotse Government in waiting etc. These efforts are indeed commendable. In line with the declaration of independence there is now need for a deepened approach that requires the bringing on board of more human resources and finances in order to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of the aforementioned.
There is also a need to move swiftly to create other institutions such as the University of Barotseland (UB); the Barotseland Scientific Council (BSC); the Barotseland Economic Chamber (BEC) and the Barotseland Authority of Fisheries and Forestry (BAFF), among others. Most importantly, there is a need to reify some of the fundamental institutions of the past into modern institutions such as the Barotse Native Treasury (BNT) that could be changed into the Barotse National Treasury (BNT ); the Barotse National School (BNS), etc. We have a rich history of governance, so this must not be a problem.
2. Building the capacity of the Interim Barotse Government
Most of the above-mentioned tasks must be co-ordinated by the interim or Barotse government in waiting. The individuals behind this formation must be enabled and capacitated in order to become a competent and highly functional bureaucracy. This means that the government in waiting must not only have the intellectual acumen but also administrative skills to drive the agenda of Barotseland and execute many of the issues raised in this Ten Point Plan.
3. Democratizing and modernizing the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) or dissolving it altogether
The people of Barotseland are fighting for a constitutional monarchy along the lines of Britain or Lesotho and not an absolute monarchy such as Swaziland.
However, the BRE should not mistake our love and respect for the institution of Litunga as subservience or a misplaced romanticism of the past. Therefore, the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) should in the same vein be mindful of these aspirations and move with the modern times. The BRE should not forget that Barotseland was lost in 1964 because of its rigidity and inability to modernize itself. In effect, the BRE must be overhauled and transformed in line with contemporary trends, where progressive monarchies exist alongside democratic governments and systems. However, should the BRE fail to accede to the will of the people, then it should be dissolved and the people of Barotseland shall march to freedom as a Republic.
4. Constituting an eminent panel of legal experts, academics and scientists
Knowledge is power and it is now time to constitute an eminent team of progressive and revolutionary legal experts and academics who will not only play an advisory role to the interim government of Barotseland, but will also be spearheading Barotseland’s legal battles at international fora, such as the Hague’s International Court of Justice for instance. Simply selecting reactionary and Lusaka based Lawyers and academics will not do as many of these are already compromised. There should be a search for younger, sharper and intellectually astute Barotse nationals who cannot be easily bribed by Kwachas and Ngwees. A wider net must be cast into the Barotse Diaspora for this endeavour.
The first action would be to challenge the illegal transfer of the money of Barotseland from the former Barotse Native Treasury (BNT) to the Zambia Ministry of Finance in the 1960s. Efforts were made in this area in the early 1990s but stalled because of the BRE’s lack of strategy. Questions to ask would be: How was this money utilized, why was the Zambian government able to steal this money in the first place and how can restitution be attained? These are some of the questions which must be seriously considered by the Panel of Legal Experts.
The British government must also be petitioned directly at No. 10 Downing Street and not at some obscure High Commission in Lusaka to come and explain why this Barotseland Agreement was arrived at. This time we shall not be asking for its implementation but to show that its non-implementation is what has led to our march towards total independence. Britain must not be exonerated at all. It created this mess in the first place. Meanwhile, the scientists and academics would be researching on best practice models relating to socio-economic and human development, technological and engineering advances which could be adapted to the conditions Barotseland once it is liberated.
5. Constituting of a panel of elders
This is the repository of experience which the panel of experts and scholars would draw upon and use as “living proof” in the light of the fight for Zambia’s independence, the signing of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 and the eventual abrogation of the Barotseland Agreement 1964 by Zambia.
This generation of elders is quickly fading away and we should immediately take their statements, views and assertions and put them on record. There must be no mention here of the traitors, spivs, brigands and cowards who sold out Barotseland in the 1960s. There is still a small group of the Barotse nationalists who were there and had challenged the one-party state regime regarding Barotseland’s sovereignty four decades back. These are the elders who should be brought on board.
6. Creating a solidarity fund in an offshore account
Everything that is contained in this Ten Point Plan requires finances. Therefore, a Barotse National Solidarity Fund (BNSF) must be created forthwith and an account must be set up offshore so that the Zambian government must not freeze it. Concomitantly, a Barotse Trust Fund (BTF) must be constituted in order to raise funds and co-ordinate activities that solicit such finances. A highly credible team must be sought after in the Barotse Diaspora to lead this initiative.
Although this should be the task for the interim government of Barotseland, all Barotse nationals must chip in by donating anything they have whether it be a 10 Kwacha or 1US Dollar. Remember how Barack Obama managed to raise funds for his first presidential campaign? A leaf must be taken from Obama’s approach. The use of the internet and progressive internet sites such as the Barotse Post, the Limulunga Post and the Portal of the interim government of Barotseland can play critical roles. Those who can sell a cow, a goat, some fish, cassava so as to have money to donate to this cause, must be allowed to do so. For example, this year’s Kuomboka (if it takes place and if the BRE have chosen the right side of history and not become reactionaries and/or puppets of the Lusaka regime) could be used to mobilize for funds for the solidarity fund.
7. Building solidarity networks across Barotseland and the Barotse Diaspora
The above will only transpire if there are strong networks between those who reside in Barotseland and the Diaspora, e.g. London, New York, Paris, Cape Town, etc. The Barotse national in Lusaka, Livingstone and the Copperbelt can be exonerated as many of them have vested interested in these areas and may not be forthcoming. The issue is to leave them for now. Let the international Diaspora play a critical role that it must play in this historical undertaking.
8. Mobilizing, conscientising and organizing the people of Barotseland into a cohesive force
This should be the cardinal role of the interim government of Barotseland and all political formations of Barotseland such as the BPF, Linyungandambo, MOREBA and the BFM. It just does not help to be writing petitions to the United Nations etc., before the nation is organized. Political education (especially for the young Barotse nationals) is important for our people as we march on forward towards total independence. All the above-mentioned political formations must have an education corps that will go all over Barotseland mobilizing and conscientising the Barotse nation on their roles and responsibilities as Barotse citizens and how to respond to an occupying force of the Lusaka regime. From the village to the silalanda to the silalo, all Barotse nationals must be organized and mobilized for the total defense of the revolution. So village committees must be set up as well as cells up to the district level, then to the provincial level, and then to the national level of Barotseland. The Diaspora network would then easily plug into this organized and holistic body. This should also go hand-in-hand with the establishment of Radio Free Barotseland which should not subscribe to the regulations of Zambia and can be operated underground. This is where the critical issues of the fatherland can be discussed and deliberated upon.
9. Establishing a National Front for the Liberation of Barotseland
This will enable various Barotse political formations to have a common approach towards the total emancipation of Barotseland. With the above-mentioned activities unfolding, there is a need to create an organ where each political formation and the BRE (if it is serious) to send representatives who will deliberate on Barotse strategies and tactics for the total liberation of the fatherland. Unity is strength and a divided nation will surely fall. The Lusaka regime has managed to conquer and divide us since 1964 due to mainly disunity, betrayals and cowardice.
We cannot go as in the past and therefore the sons and daughters of Barotseland must rise above self-interest in the fight for a united and prosperous Barotseland. Different ethnic groups of Barotseland must galvanize and stand as one; otherwise this fight will be futile.
10. Setting up a government of national unity
Only when all the aforementioned have been put in place can there be a move towards the installation of a government of national unity in Barotseland.
Thereafter Barotseland’s various political formations can earnestly prepare for democratic elections.
Kopano ki tukuluho! Barotseland shall be free!
Editor’s Note: Dr. Ndangwa Noyoo holds a Phd, in Social Development from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and an M.phil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge, among other achievements