The Spirit of the Barotseland Agreement

By Gideon Mule

For all country people of foresight this time is essentially one in which we must speak the truth with absolute candour and boldness. Let us face the facts before us with honesty and courage admitting our shortcomings and strengths, and I mean all parties involved for it is indeed true that the Barotseland issue and its associated agreement are a national issue. We have dodged this matter for a long time now; let us conclude!

I would like to state some hard facts that leaders from Kenneth Kaunda to Michael Sata have not been bold enough say and are costing us alot. Everyone acknowledges the fault lines of the Barotseland Agreement from its veracity and authenticity to its legal and moral sense. Let it be understood that the Agreement in the eyes of attaining Zambia’s independence was not meant to be used as a tool to blackmail or divide the nation. Those calling for Barotseland’s independence ( and I believe are few in number) are going against the spirit of the Agreement. In the same light those attempting to trivialize the Barotse issues have not understood the idea of One Zambia One Nation. I contend that if the founding fathers ever thought of later dividing this nation based on some transient reason of neglect the motto and the national anthem would have carried different messages. ‘Land of work and joy in UNITY… we all ONE strong and free…’  We need  to work with the people of Western province as one people to find solutions to their problems, again, as one people. Further, this nagging about the ‘written agreement’ should be straightened out. The written Barotseland Agreement is no more important than the unwritten agreements of all the regions and chiefdoms of this great nation who came together, gave up their individual sovereign dominions and rallied behind one common goal of INDEPENDENCE. This single issue if not properly handled has a cancerous potential to throw our nation into a conflict and turmoil, absolutely undesirable but undeniably and inevitably imminent at the current pace. The Agreement must be given due attention and the matter resolved amicably. That is why I am disappointed by our government’s if not party’s RAPID response to the Mongu Riots Commission of Inquiry’s report. We must be seen to be treating this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

My appeal also goes to the people of Western province to be patient and rational as their demand is not some small inconsequential matter. It would be wrong for our brothers and sisters in Mongu to think that their demand for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement has no consequences too important to consider. The ‘reluctance to restore’ the Agreement is welcome but was wrongly done by our president. Let me advise that it would be wrong to take statements made so far, whether by Lusaka or Mongu, as conclusive. Everything is being done prematurely but may I suggest that cabinet and government engages a broad-based consultative approach because merely publishing the Agreement in newspapers is not consultative enough. There is absolutely no need for parties involved to start threatening each other, ‘we will die for this’ or ‘treason this and that.’ As far as I am concerned the majority of this country does not want the Barotse issue to deteriorate into strife and divisions. Rather let us use the Barotseland Agreement and the merry spirit of victory (PF and AFCON victories) to create a stronger and better country. PF and its government can cease this as a priceless and once in a lifetime opportunity to implement what successive regimes have failed to; DECENTRALIZATION. Let us consider and accept these self-evident truths:
1. it would be misplacement for Barotseland to consider as an option seceding from Zambia to create its own independent state
2. it would be suicidal for the PF government to trivialize the Chongwe Commission report
3. the written Barotseland Agreement is no more important than the unwritten agreements of all the regions and chiefdoms of this great nation who came together, gave up their individual sovereign dominions and rallied behind one common goal of INDEPENDENCE.
4. elements in Mongu which are calling for the independence of Barotseland, only concerned with the letter have not understood the spirit of the Agreement
5. the PF government has a rare opportunity to implement the DECENTRALIZATION policy taking into account the Barotse model or its hybrid

Zambia must continue to be one state. May God bless ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION

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