STATE HOUSE LIED! No tribal conflict in Barotseland but isolated succession disputes resulting from misguided Zambian policy

09 November 2019
[L-R] Copy of SI No. 29 of 2015 withdrawing recognition of Josiah Mubukwanu Litia Nyumbu as Chief Chiengele by President Edgar Lungu (R) - CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


It was despicable to watch the republican president on national television publicly display a well-rehearsed orchestration by three self-imposed chiefs who have, for some time now, mounted an open rebellion against the Litunga, King of Barotseland, and to label their rebellion as ‘tribal conflicts’, even when the main architect among them is actually a blood relative of the current Litunga, is very disheartening.

If President Lungu and his Patriotic Front (PF) are not co-conspirators in this charade, then the Zambian President is being played for a fool by his regional political aides masquerading as civil servants, in the name of Permanent Secretary, Danny Bukali and his Kaoma counterpart, District Commissioner, Kennedy Liale Mubanga.

To begin with, the disgraced Josiah Litia Mubukwanu Nyumbu was enthroned by his blood relative, King Imwiko II, as Mwene Chiengele, the chief in charge of Nañoko area of Mongu district, until he was accused of illegally selling land in his area by his subjects in 2014.

Unlike in Zambia, no ‘chief’ in Barotseland presides over a ‘tribe’! They all preside over jurisdictions officially classified as ‘Chief Area’, ‘Silalo’ or ‘Sikiliti’ which are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural jurisdictions in which all the people co-exist peacefully as ‘Barotse’, now loosely translated as Lozi.

This might be confusing to many Zambians because the term ‘Lozi’ has deliberately been popularized to mean one specific ‘tribe’ over which the Litunga is ‘Paramount Chief’ – the same way Chitimukulu is Paramount Chief of his Bemba tribe or like Mpezeni is Paramount Chief of the Ngoni tribe.

However, this is not so in the case of the Litunga!

Not only is there no such tribe called ‘Lozi’ but also the Litunga is officially and legally designated as Litunga of the entire Western Province - as Kenneth Kaunda unilaterally renamed Barotseland in 1969. His Majesty's jurisdiction extends to all the 38 or so ‘tribes’ that make up the Lozi speaking nation of Barotseland!

Therefore, all land in the Kingdom belongs to the entire commonwealth of Barotseland, reposited in the Litunga, regardless of ethnicity and is never to be sold for personal gain, as Litia Nyumbu was accused of doing in 2014.

However, when summoned by the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) to answer to the charges levelled against him by his subjects, Litia Nyumbu, who was regularly enthroned in line with the culture of Barotseland as Mwene Chiengele, decided to rebel by refusing to appear before the BRE Kuta in defiance of the summon.

He, instead, opted to seek sanctuary in his ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party connections and accused the Litunga of wanting to dethrone him on account of his Mbunda heritage.

He further claimed that, as a Mbunda, he did not have to answer to the Litunga - his blood relative, calling him a mere ‘chief’ of the Lozi, supposedly a different tribe from his Mbunda tribe.

He then sought to impose himself as the ‘paramount’ chief of all the nine (9) Mbunda chiefs in Zambia, seven in Barotseland and two in the North-western Province, uncharacteristic of any sane Mbunda chief as all Mbunda chiefs in Zambia, Barotseland and globally must declare allegiance to only one ‘Paramount’ ruler, King Mbundu of Lumbala Nguimbo in present-day Angola, while those in Zambia, particularly in Barotseland, must also pledge allegiance to the Litunga, King of Barotseland, and must live peacefully with other Lozi tribes under the longstanding governance structures of Barotseland.

The Mwene Chiengele title in Nañoko area of Mongu district has fundamentally been reserved for the Xamuka (Shamuka) Mbunda community for over two centuries, and like all other Mbunda chieftaincy titles in Barotseland, must exist in line with the above understanding between the successive Mbunda Kings at Lumbala Nguimbo (Angola) and their respective counterpart Kings of Barotseland.

Even after the Litunga regularly dethroned Josiah Litia Mubukwanu Nyumbu as Mwene Chiengele for gross misconduct and gross insubordination, he replaced him with Kashengula Nyumbu - another Mbunda from the same Shamuka Mbunda community under the Chiengele royal family in line with the cultural norms of Barotseland.

In reality, the wrangles at Nañoko are between the supporters of the deposed Josiah Nyumbu and those of Kashengula Nyumbu, the new Mwene Chiengele regularly selected by the same Mbunda royal family and advanced for customary enthronement by the Litunga in line with Barotseland governance systems as Josiah’s replacement.

There are a total of seven (7) designated Mbunda royal chieftaincy titles representing seven different Mbunda communities settled in several districts of Barotseland today who are all living peacefully under the Kingship of the Litunga alongside their brothers and sisters in the BRE and from all the other 38 'tribal' communities of Barotseland.

However, Josiah Nyumbu wishes to make his current personal rebellion against the Litunga and BRE as a Mbunda rebellion! He wishes to label his dethronement as a ‘persecution’ of all the seven (7) Mbunda communities in Barotseland, warranting the creation of a separate province where he will be the Mbunda Paramount chief, while his Nkoya counterpart, Webster Mulubisha, will hopefully be designated Paramount chief of the Nkoya. 

Josiah Nyumbu is merely a dissident who has not only rebelled against the Litunga but he has also rebelled against the Mbunda Monarch, based at Lumbala Nguimbo in Angola, who he has branded as a ‘foreigner’ that should not concern himself with matters affecting citizens of Zambia but must restrict his involvement to matters of the citizens of Angola.

What impudence!

This was when the Mbunda Monarch tried to intervene by giving Josiah some royal counsel, and for State House to be seen to promote Josiah’s mischievous activities by shielding him from retribution risks an international spat.

It is also important to state that although Kashengula Nyumbu was enthroned by the Litunga on 7th April 2018, more than a year ago, the government of Zambia has taken its sweet time to gazette him as the new Mwene Chiengele to take over from the dethroned Josiah Nyumbu who has since refused to relinquish both the title and the Nañoko royal palace.

The narrative Josiah recounted before the Zambian President and recorded for the national television audience, actually happened earlier in the year when supporters of Kashengula Nyumbu tried to forcefully evict Josiah out of the royal palace at Nañoko to give way to Kashengula Nyumbu, the new Chief Chiengele. Some of those suspected to have been responsible for this ordeal, mainly Kashengula Nyumbu’s retainers, have already been arrested, sometime in February this year, and are still in extended incarceration for aggravated robbery charge but without trial.

Therefore, the delayed government gazette regarding Kashengula Nyumbu might be because the PF prefer their ardent supporter, deposed Josiah Nyumbu, who the state has maintained on the Government payroll, leaving Kashengula Nyumbu still unattended to, and this is the real cause of the problems at Nañoko, Njonjolo and Shikombwe.

Criminal assault of any sort must be condemned, but if State House will call these occurrences in Barotseland as ‘tribal conflict’, then State House must show supporting evidence that what is happening is conflicts between two or more of the 38 ‘tribes’ that make up the Lozi nation.

In this present case, however, State House could be grossly misinformed, which is very doubtful, given the vast resources at its disposal. State House could easily have read past reports over this particular wrangle which started in late President Sata’s regime.

In 2014, after Josiah had refused to answer to charges of illegal land distribution levelled against him by his subjects, resulting in his dethronement, he boasted in some named daily publication that he could not be dethroned by the BRE or by the Litunga, claiming that only the president of Zambia (Sata) could dethrone him.

Consequently, it was President Edgar Lungu who, in 2015, authorized the de-gazetting of Josiah Nyumbu through Statutory Instrument No. 29 of 2015, signed by his Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs at the time, Michael B. Pwete, which stated that Josiah Litia Mubukwanu Nyumbu’s recognition as Chief Chiengele, the Lozi chief of Nañoko area of Mongu District, had been withdrawn.

Some may have forgotten, but this publication on 11th June 2015 published a signed copy of SI No. 29 of 2015, dated 5th July 2019 stating the above facts.

However, with the 2016 changes in the national constitution which appears to undermine the authority of the Litunga over Barotseland, Josiah Nyumbu was able to contest his dethronement in Zambian courts that have taken forever to determine any logical conclusion.

The 2016 Zambian constitutional amendment Part XII on Chieftaincy and House of Chiefs 165 (2) which states that Parliament shall not enact legislation which:

(a) confers on a person or authority the right to recognize or withdraw the recognition of a chief…, is largely responsible for the trio’s rebellion against the Litunga.

On the other hand, the Chiefs Act, which is still part of the Zambian law, stipulates clearly that no chief in the Western Province will be recognized by the State unless such a chief has the express recognition of the Litunga of Western Province!

This ambiguity in these Zambian laws is what has given impetus to the three named individuals to mount acts of rebellion in the three chiefdoms at Nañoko, where Chief or Mwene Chiengele presides – a title reserved for the Xamuka (Shamuka) Mbunda royal family of Mongu district, Njonjolo where Mwene Kahare presides over the Litoya Chiefdom – a title reserved for the Mashasha Nkoya royal family of now Nkeyema district and Shikombwe Chiefdom where Mwene Mutondo presides – a title reserved for the Lushange Nkoya royal family of Kaoma district.

Similarly, there are six (6) designated Nkoya royal chieftaincy titles representing six different Nkoya communities settled in several districts of Barotseland today who are all living peacefully under the Kingship of the Litunga alongside their brothers and sisters in the BRE and from all the other 38 'tribal' communities of Barotseland.

However, Stanford Mayowe and Webster Mulubisha, like their fellow dissent Josiah Nyumbu, also wish to claim their succession disputes are 'persecutions' of all the six Nkoya tribal communities in Barotseland, allegedly at the ruthless hands of the so-called Lozi tribe in Barotseland.

Apart from these three (3) rebels, all the other thirteen (13) chiefs from the various Mbunda and Nkoya royal families are at peace with their fellow Chiefs in the Barotse Royal Establishment and the Litunga, King of Barotseland.

Therefore, State House and President Lungu labelling these isolated succession disputes ‘tribal conflicts’ smacks a smear campaign against Barotseland and the Litunga Imwiko II, who himself also has Mbunda heritage.

How could any of this possibly be tribal conflict?

Consequently, by parading these three ardent PF supporters masquerading as chiefs on national Television for cheap publicity and propaganda without hearing from the Litunga or BRE, President Lungu has rendered merit to our long-held view that the problems in Barotseland are state-sponsored.

It would now appear that Zambia has adopted an official policy that seeks to dismantle Barotseland by dividing it across ethnicity so that Barotseland can easily be administered as the mere ‘western province’ that it has officially become under Zambia!

This is against the spirit of the pre-independence Barotseland Agreement 1964 which guaranteed the continued existence of Barotseland as a Kingdom within Zambia - an autonomous nation within the sovereign Republic of Zambia.

This attention-seeking stunt by President Lungu also gives credence to reports that the plan to divide Barotseland into two provinces, one to retain the name ‘western province’ for the so-called Lozi tribe and the other to be named ‘Kafue province’ for the Nkoya and Mbunda is indeed on the cards.

And as we and many others have repeatedly warned, this might soon be possible with the extra unilateral presidential powers proposed in the 2019 constitutional amendment Act (Bill 10) if passed into law.

Therefore, we wish to continue alerting the Litunga and the BRE that fraternizing with President Lungu and his PF government in the manner they have been doing will not only grossly undermine the authority of the Litunga but also compromise the integrity of Barotseland and further dismantle every remaining semblance of the Kingdom it once was.

To the Zambian state, we wish to call for higher responsibility as such recklessness will risk instability that might spill over to the other parts of Zambia as well!

There is no tribal conflict warranting the Zambian State to alarm the nation to the extent we have seen displayed on national television in the past couple of days.

Yes, the three chiefly areas under discussion are rocked with succession wrangles - encouraged by the misguided Zambian policy, as promulgated by the PF Zambian government, as the ruling party manoeuvres to entrench its supposed penetration in the region after failing to honour the many electoral promises it previously made to the region – including on the very important issue of the defunct Barotseland Agreement 1964 and the arresting and imprisoning of peaceful Barotseland activists for merely reminding them to resolve the Barotseland saga.

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