What is the Barotse Agreement?

 By Hyde Haguta


Historical perspective


Prior to Zambia’s independence in 1964, there existed the Lozi kingdom under the leadership of the tribe’s paramount chief- the Litunga.

A few facts about the Lozi Kingdom is that it existed even before the founding of Northern Rhodesia in about 1911-12.

Zambian Map - red, Barotse Kingdom (Now Western province)

Fact number two, the Kingdom was never colonised by the British Government at the time Northern Rhodesia present day Zambia went under the British hands.

Fact number three, that the Barotse Kingdom is not a tribe (of Lozis) but a nation with several tribes that were within the realm.

Fact number four, it was not the Litunga who gave the geographical scope of his territory when he said as far as the horizon falls, a fact to be elaborated further in this discourse.

In seeking safety at the peak of the scramble for African resources, the Litunga sought British Protection in as much as his counterpart in Botswana did a case of another country that was not colonised but enjoyed British protection in exchange for mineral exploits.

Today, it is both historical and current knowledge that Botswana was not colonised but given British protection even when the continent went through the vagaries or vicissitudes of leaderships.

Britis/Cecil Rhodes Motives in Protectorate

In giving protection to the Litunga, the British were in exchange to get mining rights from his territory, apparently at that time, only the Litunga had modern form of organised governance – with an administration system akin to one exitent in Britain  one – the Litunga at the helm of Government, the Kuta responsible for law making and implementation, and advising him since it was composed of the council of elders- a status quo still in existent to present day.

Thus in the system was to be found in the delight of the British, some form of an Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.

Given this kind of an organised structure, it would be with much ease for Britain to engage in a contract that would provide a two prolonged approach – firstly, that would recognise and give protection to the Litunga, and secondly, in exchange for mineral and mining rights.

Historians therefore hold that in the mapping of the mineral areas, it was not the Litunga who gave the geographical scope of his Kingdom but rather John Cecil Rhodes and his men who had the technical know-how as to the extent of copper in Northern Rhodesia.

The territorial boundary for protection would span as far as the Copperbelt province through to Luapula according to the British, but not necessaily held in that sense by the Litunga at the time. 

Thus in Rhodes’ asking the Litunga the scope of the King’s Kingdom whose response is without substantiation is referred to “as far as to the extent of fall of  horizon” pointing to the north, Cecil Rhodes wittingly include all territories that did not belong to the Litunga because he wanted to reach out to rich minerals Britain wanted to extract.

Thus the seeming aphorism that the Litunga lied that the Copperbelt Province fell under his kingdom is to be found wanting in this explanation.

In the aftermath of the agreement, the Litunga’s or (keeper of the earth)  territory would exist, spanning boundaries to other provinces of present day Zambia.

As a fact presented in the argument by Lozi historians, the BA 1964 brings into fore the fact that the establishment is not a tribe but a nation.

There were other tribes that co-existed albeit with their own sub leaderships not very much subservient to the Litunga such as the Nkoyas just to mention but one.

 Such a status quo would exist until the era of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland – the two Rhodesia being: Northern (present Zambia) and Southern (modern Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi)

But as the struggles for African independence swept through the continent, the federation would only break up.

Political pressure exerted on Britain to give Northern Rhodesia independence, saw efforts being made to hand over power smoothly, but first, by  ensuring that the Litunga’s Kingdom would be safely integrated into the would be single nation after independence.

The British were keen to ensure that the citizens of the Lozi Kingdom would equally enjoy all rights and benefits citizens of the new nation would enjoy in the new constitution.

Thus according to the Barotse agreement of 1964 signed on 18th May 1964 six months prior to Northern Rhodesia’s political independence,

“Kenneth David Kaunda, as Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia, on behalf of Government of Northern Rhodesia of one party and Sir Mwanawina Lewanika The Third, K.B.E., Litunga of Barotseland, acting on behalf of himself, his heirs and successors, his council, and chiefs and of people of Barotseland of the other party and…the Right Honourable Duncan Sandys, M.P., Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the colonies…”

signed the Barotse Agreement of 1964 to pave way for Northern Rhodesia’s independence.

It was from this background that the motto “One Zambia One Nation” would be coined or adumbrated to unify the previously two different countries – one which was under the Litunga on one hand, and another, Northern Rhodesia, under David Kaunda on the other.The signing of this agreement on 18th May six months earlier would thus see the birth to the independent Republic of Zamia in October 1964, and the unification of Northern Rhodesia and the Barotseland Protectorate, both of which were previously under separate British rule come together.

The agreement gave the Litunga a degree of autonomy to administer the region within the confines of the constitution of the independent Republic of Zambia.

However, Kaunda’s government reneged on the agreement in 1969, through a constitutional amendment.

Subsequently, any discussion of the restoration of the agreement was silenced.

However, in recent years, there have been growing calls by various individuals and groups originating from Western Province, for the restoration of the agreement.  

Most recently, representatives of the Litunga’s traditional authority, the Barotse Royal Establishment, made written submissions to the National Constitution Commission (NCC) for the recognition of the agreement in the proposed constitution; however, the submission was rejected by the majority of NCC delegates, according to MISA Zambia. 

Since then, advocates for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement have become more militant, forcing police to use force to quell meetings called by the activists to discuss the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement.

The riots of 14th January were the most violent and left two people dead.

About one 131 people have been arrested though only 24 have been formerly charged.

Investigations are still ongoing to slap appropriate indictments on the detained secessionists.

By Wednesday 19th January, twenty four people had been charged with treason for allegedly agitating for the secession of the Western Province.

The charge was read out to them when they appeared in the Lusaka Magistrate Court.

A Lusaka Police Officer was also early this week indicted for the same charge of treason, and if convicted, the accused all could be handed down death penalties.

Lusaka Magistrate Newa has told the accused that their case will in the meantime be heard by the lower court pending advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions-DPP to move the matter to the High Court.

Some of those charged with treason include Muyangana Muyangana, Mulasikwanda Chezele, Nyambe Namushili, Mukubesa Ilukena and Nayoto Lyambai.    

Police on Alert in Mongu last Friday

And Western Province Police Chief Peacewell Mweemba has told ZNBC that the charging of the 131 people picked up following last Fridays disturbances in Mongu, is on-going.

Mr. Mweemba says a team of investigators is still categorizing charges, ranging from rioting, conduct likely to breach peace and treason.

 click here for the story


6 thoughts on “What is the Barotse Agreement?

  1. Barotse Crack Squad
    Allow me to air my views on the Killing, wounding and arresting of more than 131 youths in Mongu over Barotseland of 1964 on the 14th January 2011.

    I was one of the 131 treason accused persons in Mongu, I had to escape from a containers at CCC were I was detained, we had no fresh air, food, water and medicine for five days and the wounded youth who were treated of gun shots wounds in Lewanika General Hospital were brought to CCC containers which are turned in police cells, life is hell for my fellow friend who are still in these containers, police in Mongu refused access to our parents, wives and children on conditions that we are charged with treason, we are praying and crying to GOD for freedom, development and secession of western province.

    Reports were going to the Human Rights Commission on the violence of right to food, water and treatment.

    I follow SACCORD Information Officer Obby Chibuluma’s words that Human Rights Commission is a toothless organization yes it’s a toothless organization.

    For more information, comments and contribution read Barotse Issues on my Facebook and blog.
    Mataa Mwiya
    Former treason accused detained

  2. A well articulated presentation and unbiased i must say. However, i feel it was going to be important to note within the presentation that the purpose of the agreement was to formalise the Barotse position in Zambia and to let them be a part of Zambia but having their traditional rights reserved. As far as i know, there is no mention of secession in that document and would love to be guided.

    1. Well, many thanks for your candid observation.

      I must hasten to mention here that indeed the word “secession” does not appear in the BA agreement, perhaps because logic provides that there is no secession where two independent entities had individual existence. The spirit of the agreement was to unify two independent nations. Thus drawing an analogue form the marriage contract, two people come together as husband and wife to become one. But where divorce occurs on account of promulgatinmg reasons, that relations breaks. Thus in the Barotse, my view is that these (Barotse Kingdom or Nation and Zambia[Northern Rhodesia as it was called then])are two entities (nations) joined to form the map of Zambia through mutual respect for issues providing need for such an affair. Failure to do such will then lead to break away and secession. But the fact that the word secssion does not exist in the BA does not impliedly mean that the ‘marriage’ is everlasting, just like on the marriage certificate where the word divorce does not appear does it imply that the possibility of divorce is not subsistentative.

  3. Zambia has forever been united why should it be divided now lets not be selfish and too envious but be a peaceful nation like we have always been and solve this issue fairly and one for all.

    1. Dear Augustine,

      What is called Zambia is a product of two nations borne at independence in 1964, by the merging of Barotseland and Northern Rhodesia – otherwise without the two there is no Zambia. Thus if we want Zambia, elements of respect or restoration of issues in the agreement agreed to by the two nations before independence must be respected. Let us not look at Zambia from 1964- there is more than meets eye in the aftermath of the liberation struggle. In fact, Barotse Kingdom is a centuary older than Northern Rhodesia which was founded in between 1911-12 – please read my article again.

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