More than 45 members of a group agitating for the secession of Zambia’s Western Province have been arrested a few days after one of the prominent members of the movement was declared by the group to be the administrator general of the region.
After Afumba Mombotwa was sworn in as the first Administrator General in an act that was captured on video and posted on YouTube by Barotse Post, two government ministers, Geoffrey Mwamba for Defence and Edgar Lungu for Internal Affairs, rushed to the Western Province which the activists call by its pre-colonial name, Barotseland. The two ministers led members of the defence forces in conducting routine security checks in some parts of the province.
Mombotwa, whose actions are being described as treasonous, was not one of those detained. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Declaring the end of the union of Zambia and Barotseland, Mombotwa said in the nine-minute clip:
[…] For all these years what has been missing in Barotseland was statehood. And the moment that which is missing is put in place, then Barotseland ceases to be a stateless nation. I believe some may be confronted with the question, what is the state? […] Whereas a nation is organic, state is artificial. It is something that is formed. Nation develops naturally.
Although the Barotzish entered into the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 in good faith, the Zambians merely intended to circumvent the Barotzish in order to rob them of their sovereignty. However, Barotsish should now rejoice because the time for domination and subjugation is no more […]
Although brewing for over 20 years, the Barotseland issue boiled over in 2011 when activists from the Lozi people there demanding the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 fought running battles with government forces in January 2011, resulting in a couple of deaths.
The 1964 Barotse Agreement gave formal recognition of the authority of the Litunga, king of the Lozi, whose predecessors signed agreements with explorers and colonial governments. These agreements entitled the kingdom to royalties from minerals mined from faraway Copperbelt Province.
Lozi loyalists started clamouring for the restoration of the agreement around 1992, just after the defeat of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president who signed the agreement a few months before independence with the reigning Litunga at the time and the British government, the departing colonial authority.
In December 2012, President Michael Sata ordered soldiers to go and kill members of a group calling itself the Barotse Liberation Army. When the soldiers went to Western Province, they did not find these fighters.
What is not clear, however, is whether the Lozi Litunga, Imwiko Lubosi, is supportive of moves by his subjects to secede from the rest of Zambia. Internal Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu was quoted by state-owned media that security was beefed up at the palace in the provincial capital Mongu. Said Lungu:
I want to state for the record here that we shall provide all the security the Litunga needs in order to ensure continued stability in Western Province and the Litunga in particular.
One of the members of the newly appointed government narrated to the Barotse Post how his house was raided by Zambian security services:
Yes my house was invaded by Zambian criminal and lawless foreign security forces. I hear that they were hoping to find His Excellency Rt. Hon. Afumba Mombotwa in my house. However, I was away in Mongu at the time, as you may be aware that the raid happened the day after Rt. Hon. Afumba Mombotwa named our inaugural transitional government.
Commenting on YouTube to the swearing in ceremony of Mombotwa, Kabaso Nkandu simply wrote:
drama in my beloved nation
Sizyongo Munenge asked:
Whats the currency for Barotseland?