The continued agitation for secession by traditional leaders in Western Province is no doubt a thorny and complex issue which requires the government of the day to tread carefully in its efforts to resolve it. Like all other serious national issues facing us, we need to summon our wisdom in finding a lasting and peaceful solution to it. In this article, I wish to make a few observations about the issue.
We Are One People!:
Although the majority of Zambian citizens today can identify themselves as belonging to one or two of our country’s seventy-three (73) tribes, we are all essentially one and the same people. In short, we are all members of the Zambian family. And recognition of our oneness has, no doubt, been the linchpin of the enhanced and unmatched national unity which our country has enjoyed since independence. I, therefore, do not support my traditional cousins in Western Province secede from the Zambian nation.
An Era of Integration:
Integration of sovereign states has been one of the leading aspirations of socio-economic policy over the last sixty or so years, so much so that we can appropriately describe our era as an era of integration. There are numerous motivations for such integration, including the need to create larger financial and goods markets, and the need to assume greater bargaining power in international affairs. In general, societal members worldwide have become true believers in the concepts of “strength in numbers” and “in unity, there is greater strength.” Secession in an era of integration is, therefore, counterproductive at best!
What Is the Central Issue?:
I believe the main issue which has continued to invoke secessionist sentiments can be found in Clauses 2 and 3 of Article 4 of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964, which I will cite here below:
Article 4: The Litunga and His Council: (2) The Litunga of Barotseland, acting after consultation with his Council as constituted for the time being under the customary law of Barotseland shall be the principal local authority for the government and administration of Barotseland. (3) The Litunga of Barotseland, acting after consultation with his Council, shall be authorized and empowered to make laws for Barotseland [with respect to issues cited in Agreement].
Unfortunately, decentralization of authority to provinces is not likely to mitigate the prevailing desire for secession because it will require leaders in the 10 provinces to be elected by residents. The secessionist, I believe, are mainly about having the Litunga and his inner circle to preside over the political and economic affairs of Western Province, perhaps with some semblance of democracy through titular structures of elected leaders.
So, our fellow citizens in Western Province need to decide whether or not they prefer to be governed by a monarchical regime without any viable mechanism for peacefully replacing incompetent leaders. The secession which my traditional cousins are seeking is not feasible in the long run without first gauging the general feelings (about the secession issue) of the Mbunda, Mankoya and other tribes in the Western Province, and the Lozi people who have intermarried across provincial boundaries.
A Highly Divisive Issue:
Secessionist sentiments are a highly divisive issue; the longer they are sustained, therefore, the more they are likely to create an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility between the Lozi people and the other 72 Zambian tribes, with whom they have peacefully coexisted over the last 47 years.
Our beloved country has been a unitary and indivisible sovereign state since its inception in 1964. Each and every one of us, therefore, has a civic and moral obligation to guard against the temptation of dividing it on ethnic lines. We need to continue to exercise our civic and moral duty to be patriotic and loyal to our beloved country, and to foster national unity as well as live in harmony with other members of Zambian society.