Barotse activists jailed


Lusaka – Three Zambians, who were involved in advocating for the secession of the Western Province from the rest of the country under the guise of the Barotse Agreement of 1964, have been jailed for three years each.

The three activists were recently convicted by a Kaoma-based magistrate, Julius Malata, in western Zambia for publishing “false news with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public contrary to the laws of Zambia”.

According to a report in Zambia’s Lusaka Times, the court noted that the offence committed by the three activists Nayoto Mwenda (32), Boris Muziba (36) and Sikwibele Wasilota (33) was a misdemeanour but that their conduct during the court process was not good.

Magistrate Malata convicted the trio accordingly as the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

The court imposed harsh sentence in order to deter future offenders, adding that the trio did not show remorse even after being arrested by police officers.

Zambia was a unitary state that even included Western province and whether Zambian or non-Zambian as long as the offence has been committed in Zambia everyone is amenable to the judicial system of the country, the court observed.

Passing the judgement, Magistrate Malata said he could not allow people committing offences with impunity whether Zambians or non-Zambians, adding that the three-year sentence will be with effect from January 6, 2014.

However, in mitigation, the trio maintained that the case be transferred to the commonwealth court, which is impartial as the matter was an international one.

Mwenda argued that the matter cannot be tried by an illegal and biased Zambian court while Wasilota noted the matter concerns two countries of Barotseland kingdom and Zambia, hence, the case be taken to an independent court.

Malata, who convicted the activists to three years of hard labour, advised them of their right to appeal to the high court within against conviction 14 days.

The Barotseland Agreement of 1964, came into being at Zambia’s independence from Britain and was signed by first Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, together with the Litunga Mwanawina Lewanika.

In 2011, Kaunda at the height of confusion over the session issue, called on the people agitating for the separation of Western Province from the rest of the country to immediately stop their activities, as their calls did not have a place in Zambia.

He was, however, impressed with the position taken by the Litunga, through the spokesperson of the Baroste Royal Establishment, Oliver Saasa, to reject such activities and stop further confusion in the province.

Police quelled a meeting called for January 14, 2011, and violent confusion ensued in which two people died and 131 were arrested and brought to Lusaka for further instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Barotseland is a region in the western part of Zambia, and is the homeland of the Lozi people or Barotse, who were previously known as Luyi or Aluyi. Its heartland is the Barotse floodplain on the upper Zambezi River, also known as Bulozi or Lyondo, but it includes the surrounding higher ground of the plateau comprising what is now the Western Province of Zambia.

In pre-colonial times, Barotseland included some neighbouring parts of what are now the North-Western, Copperbelt, Central and Southern provinces into Zimbabwe, as well as Caprivi (now Zambezi) in north-eastern Namibia and parts of south eastern Angola beyond the Cuando or Mashi River.

The traditional monarchy of Barotseland is called the Litunga meaning ‘keeper or guardian of the earth’. Litunga is also regarded as ‘Ka ongolo ka Nyambe’ meaning God’s created being.

Historically, Barotseland’s status at the onset of the colonial era differed from the other regions which became Zambia. It was the first territory north of the Zambezi to sign a minerals concession and protectorate agreement with the British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes.

<p> In 1900, Britain formerly grabbed Copperbelt and much of North-Western, Central and Southern provinces.

When Lewanika protested against this move, he was assured in 1911 the merger of North-Western Rhodesia and Barotseland was purely for administrative convenience.

However, Barotseland continued to lobby to be treated as a separate state and was given substantial autonomy within the later states.

However, the agreement has no categorical clause which allows for session of any part of the country from the rest of the 10 provinces being a unitary state.

August 2014
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