Is Barotseland equal to Western Province? – People demand to know!

04 September 2019
Author  Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland POst
Schedule to 1953 Order in Council - Barotseland Protectorate Boundary - CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


Actually, the correct answer to this question is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Therefore, a brief explanation will be necessary for a clearer understanding.

Throughout its illustrious history, Barotseland has endured considerable changes to its name, boundaries and political status. However, this article will only focus on the most notable changes, starting with the most recent.

In Zambia currently, Barotseland’s boundaries are exactly and equal to the Western Province. These boundaries are what was inherited at Zambia’s independence in 1964, having been mapped out by The Northern Rhodesia (Barotseland) Order in Council 1953 as ‘Barotseland Protectorate’. The attached map is evidence of this.

Therefore, although the Barotse territory underwent a name change in 1969 when Kenneth Kaunda unilaterally renamed it ‘Western Province’, its boundaries have never actually been altered to date.

However, the change in name, though official in Zambia, does not really change what the territory is to its inhabitants.

Barotseland is simply Barotseland to its people!

There is hardly any Lozi speaker who refers to their homeland as ‘Western Province’. Many consider the name, Western Province, insulting or at best a mere nickname! This is because Kenneth Kaunda did not consult the Barotse or their leadership when renaming the territory.

Therefore, a Lozi going to the territory will either say they are going to Barotseland or simply going home, thus, ‘Niya kwa Bulozi’ or ‘Niya kwa Hae’ respectively. Many even say they are going to ‘Zambia’ when leaving the territory for any part of Zambia other than Livingstone, the latter simply being ‘Libingi’ or Musi-oa-tunya!

Further, Barotseland within Zambia is currently nothing more than a mere province, despite it possessing all the characteristics of statehood, such as a permanent population; defined territory; a government and capacity to enter into relations with other states as set out in the Montevideo Convention on Statehood of 1933, with the additional characteristic of a distinct common language (siLozi) and culture.

So, yes! In Zambia, Barotseland is currently equal to Western Province, surviving only at the mercy of the Zambian state. Whether one calls it Barotseland or Western Province, makes no difference as long as its territorial borders remain the same as they were at Zambia’s independence in 1964.

However, an independent Barotseland need not be the same as the current Western Province because a sovereign Barotseland has a legitimate right to claim, demand or renegotiate her boundaries from her neighbours, and these boundaries could be equal to any other previously and internationally mapped out boundaries which Barotseland either lost or allowed the British government to administer on its behalf through some internationally recognised treaties.

Independence remains a legitimate option for territories like Barotseland, particularly that its very existence in Zambia was to be based on the terms and conditions of the pre-independence Barotseland Agreement 1964, which the Zambian state purportedly abrogated through the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 5) Act, 1969.

Thus, Zambia is currently a delinquent state whose actions towards Barotseland since 1964 amounts to forced assimilation and or annexation, making Barotseland’s claim for independence all the more legitimate.

Therefore, Barotseland independence could be successfully and peacefully achieved through litigation, arbitration, referendum or a combination of any of the above processes.

While some previously held borders can be attained through litigation or arbitration alone, some claimed boundaries may require a referendum to consult the people directly affected by the possible changes.

This happens all the time even under long-established state boundaries whenever disputes arise.

In fact, Barotseland independence campaigners are already aware that, with independence, Barotseland could revert to her previous boundaries, subject to litigation, arbitration and or referendum.

The main independence campaigners such as the Linyungandambo and the Barotse National Freedom Alliance (BNFA), for example, have already stated their respective claims.

The Afumba Mombotwa-Linyungandambo emancipation order of 2012, makes the following boundary claim:

“The national territory of the Kingdom of Barotseland in the meantime shall consist of the whole territory of Barotseland as it was from 1900 to 1947, without taking areas that were regarded as her subject or dependent territories into consideration; that is, its Eastern boundaries shall stretch from Itezhi-Tezhi to the conf1uence of river Chiababi with Zambezi (longitude 26 degrees East) and Northern boundaries shall stretch from the confluence of Lufupa river with river Kafue, Westwards to the Lungwebungu river, (longitude 22 degrees East).

“The boundary on the west shall start from Lungwebungu river (Latitude 13 degrees 28 minutes South), then Southward to Cuando river, down to the confluence of Cuando with river Luiana extending to Katima Mulilo Rapids, running along the Zambezi, Eastward to its confluence with river Chiababi (longitude 26 degrees East).

“But later to be re-defined.” END.

Similarly, the BNFA have acknowledged that,

“The territory of Barotseland is in two segments arising from the terms of the Lewanika Concessions of 1900 and 1909, wherein part of Barotseland was leased to the British South African (Charter) Company, while the remainder was reserved from direct interference by the colonial administration.

“While the reserved area became the autonomous part of Northern Rhodesia and eventually transformed into the Barotseland Protectorate in 1953, and that territory is comprised in what is today defined as the Western Province of Zambia, the areas under concessions include the present-day Kafue national park, west of the Kafue River, districts of Kazungula, Livingstone, Kalomo, Namwala, Itezhitezhi and Zambezi.

“These areas were held and administered by the colonial administration on account of the 1900 and 1909 Concessions and this facility passed over to the Zambian government via the successor Barotseland Agreement 1964 treaty.

“So, when Barotseland becomes an independent state, the status of the areas under concessions automatically revert to Barotseland while the future of the populated ones shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants thereof.” END.

Therefore, in Zambia, Barotseland is currently confined to the territory named Western Province, but, with independence, Barotseland could CLAIM other districts such as Livingstone, Kazungula, Kalomo, Itezhi-Tezhi, Namwala, Mumbwa, Kabompo, Chavuma and Zambezi, etc, which were formerly BaToka and BaLovale districts of Barotseland, but were ceded to Northern Rhodesia under some concessions with the British for administrative convenience at different stages in history.

However, now that these treaties have all collapsed, having been annulled by Zambia through the successor treaty, the Barotseland Agreement 1964, the Zambian state inadvertently disinherits itself over them as Barotseland reverts to her pre-treaty boundaries!

Finally, on the Boundaries, some of the people of the rest of today’s Southern, Central and North-Western Provinces, the territory that formed Northernwestern Rhodesia, may want to join independent Barotseland.

These can also join, as a block or as individual districts, either immediately or at a later stage via referendum.

However, no serious and knowledgeable Barotseland independence activist would include a claim for the Copperbelt Province or Lusaka, because these are way beyond achievable Barotseland. These belonged to what may be termed merely as spheres of Barotse influence.

Secondly, no one is ready at this stage to claim any previous Barotseland territory that presently lies outside of the borders of Zambia, such as those belonging to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Angola. Therefore, the government of independent Barotseland would have to reestablish new relationships with these state neighbours.

So, independent Barotseland has the prerogative to claim its own boundaries which need not be equal to the present-day Western Province.

Therefore, Barotseland, in this case, is not equal to today’s Western Province. It is much bigger!

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The Barotseland Post, also known as The Barotsepost, is an online media platform, for now, that is dedicated to reporting stories and news around Barotseland and beyond, giving exclusive coverage and access to the people and the nation of Barotseland to fully express themselves in their aspirations for self- determination.