By Shuwanga Shuwanga
There is no coincidence in the latest sending of soldiers and para-military police to Barotseland. The Government of Zambia knows how crucial the up-coming Barotse National Council meeting will be to the future of the so-called “unitary state” of Zambia. Therefore, the deployment of so many security personnel should only be understood as a desperate move by the State in an attempt to portray the Barotse as a violent people and also possibly influence the outcome of this all-time important BNC meeting in our history.
The contradictions coming from Zambia’ Ministry of Defence only proves the evil intention behind this deployment. Colonel Panji Kaunda’s earlier allegations of the presence of Angolan troops and Zambian Watchdog’s revelation of a meeting that took place between the Zambian Government and the Angolan Minister of Defence on 8th March 2012 cannot be taken lightly. The two are related.
In the ill-fated operation of 13th and 14th January 2011, witnesses in Mongu claimed hearing a Nyanja dialect associated with Malawians spoken by some “Zambian police”. One is left to only guess what the State is now up to in Barotseland.
No External Threat in Barotseland
The Zambian security forces are supposedly composed of all tribes in the country regardless of where such particular units may be stationed. As Zambians, we morally believe that there is no police or military unit strictly made up of particular tribes with the deliberate exclusion of others. Strictly speaking, all tribes are supposed to be fully represented in the army, air force, national service and police. The roles played by all these units are clearly defined in Zambian law. Police and their para-military wing are meant to attend to issues pertaining to the internal security of citizens and their property while the army and air force are supposed to guard the entire country against any external threat. There is absolutely no external threat in Barotseland requiring the Zambian Army’s deployment there unless that territory is now regarded as no longer a part of Zambia. In that case, anything taking place in Barotseland will be treated with founded suspicion necessitating some kind of liaison with another foreign state in proximity such as Angola. This is as serious as it gets. One would understand such machination better when taking allegations of Malawian security personnel having been involved in the January 2011 massacre. Sensibly speaking, no Lozi or any Zambian security individual with Lozi relations would have ever thought of killing other Lozi people in cold blood, especially over such an elementary issue that can easily be understood even by a toddler. It is no wonder that even children were among the dead.
Zambian Citizens’ Apathy
The dead silence of Zambian citizens on the issue of foreign troops on Zambian soil and the Barotseland massacre is also highly surprising in many ways.
Firstly, Col. Panji and his senior are supposed to explain to the nation why Angolan soldiers would be in Zambia and, since it is now known, what necessitated a meeting between that country’s defence minister and the Zambian Government. How can Zambians now feel safe in their own country any more when foreign troops would simply walk in while likely fully armed?
It is known that Angolan refugees who refused to be repatriated back to their country were naturalized as Zambian citizens and thereafter settled in Barotseland. Former MMD Home Affairs Minister Lameck Mangani would know this. Such a thing has been happening for decades and it has included refugees who were kept in far flung provinces like Luapula who were resettled in Barotseland territory after the closure of their camps. In most cases, such naturalized individuals are never even known by traditional Lozi leaders and are also known to be opposed to Lozi culture and ways. These are the same people who are known to be having Angolan war weapons some of which are alleged to have been used in committing crimes in Barotseland. Could it then be that the Angolan soldiers Col. Kaunda talked about are indeed in Barotseland, following that secret security meeting between the two countries, to train and arm these naturalized refugees who probably have been brain washed into believing that Lozi people will send them back to Angola if Barotseland became free? Haven’t we heard such allegations even made by some Zambian politicians?
The explanation given by the Zambian Minister of Defence does not hold any water either. If he is a wise person, he would have realised that that explanation was awkward indeed as no sensible person would disassociate the presence of soldiers in Barotseland, whatever their nationality, with the up-coming Barotse National Council meeting. Attacking those who are revealing this rot (Zambian Watchdog) is shameful. Furthermore, Col. Kaunda needs to qualify his earlier serious allegations of Angolan soldiers on Zambian soil to the Zambian citizens. If our suspicions regarding the foregoing are true, then Zambia is headed for a needless disaster with her eyes open. It is certainly not worth it to risk a nation’s security simply because some hard headed individuals feel Barotseland must remain a part of Zambia even when there is absolutely no reason for that and every reason for separation. No Zambian government or leader will contain the Barotse people’s determination to free themselves from the confusion that is the “unitary state” of Zambia.
The Zambian citizens are further amazing in that while most of them regard Barotseland as a part of Zambia, they have failed to condemn the massacre that took place there. They have also allowed genocide suspects with innocent Lozi blood on their hands to continue “serving” in the Government. This lack of solidarity is a curse to the nation. Seemingly, Zambians have settled to the fact that Barotseland must be allowed to fend for itself and as such, they do not feel part of whatever takes place there.
President Sata Influenced the BNC
It is unknown to most Zambians that on 28th December 2011, at State House, President Michael Chilufya Sata repeatedly threatened to let Barotseland go free emphasizing this by saying that he would rather rule a small country without problems than a big one with many problems. He then advised the Barotse activists he had met to go and have dialogue on this issue with their “parents” (leaders) claiming that, them (BRE) and not him were Barotseland’s enemies. The activists were to report back to him after such discussions. He even promised to book them in the Inter-continental Hotel unlike the Pamodzi where they had been booked. Therefore, indirectly, the upcoming Barotse National Council meeting was largely convened based on the President’s advice. Activists who met him can testify to this fact. One then wonders why all the intimidation.
Barotseland issue now Watched by the World
The Government of Zambia must know that the time of putting a lid on the Barotseland issue is over and the world is now watching them. This is proved by news carried out on national radios in some Southern Africa Development Community countries early last month on the Barotseland killings commemoration that was held in Mongu. They had compared Zambia to other war torn African countries where the state would just kill those who differed with it. This is unfortunate for a country such as Zambia.
No amount of intimidation or state orchestrated machination will make the Barotse people fail to decide on their future, even if it meant doing so on 26th March 2012. The only wise thing the Government can do, in respect of President Sata’s words of rather ruling a smaller country without problems, is to allow Barotse people to peacefully decide on their future while acknowledging and respecting the friendship that has existed between us for the past 120 years.
We have been accused of being separatists when actually the President also sees separation as a way of finding a lasting solution to the Barotseland issue. The Barotseland Agreement 1964 cannot be restored because it never operated. Where are we honestly going to start from if we said we restore it, and what actually are we going to be restoring? I personally fully understand the President’s confusion on this. He bit more than he could chew by promising the restoration.
Continued unity on the other hand does not make much sense as such unity must have a base upon which it will be sustained. Unity without a common reason is confusion bound to explode any time. The Zambian leaders and us citizens must be brave enough to accept our forefathers’ blunder. Ever wondered why KK is still alive? He will live on even to a point of crawling until the Barotseland issue is solved. We can save him that trouble by correcting his mess.
Barotseland International Relations Secretary.