Author Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland Post
A leaked fifty seven (57) year old confidential report has revealed Her Majesty’s government conveniently imposed the union between Barotseland and Zambia in 1964.
The ‘confidential’ report with verifiable sources may have been leaked at this precise moment not only due to the passage of time and in the interest of truth but also to expose how the United Kingdom government allegedly let down Barotseland, a long time faithful ally.
The report is a short account of the principal events and incidents, such as negotiations, agreements and assurances, which had a bearing on the constitutional position of Barotseland and the constitutional relationship of Her Majesty’s government with it in the period 1890 – 1958.
In spite of the many official assurances given to Barotseland, Her Majesty’s government conveniently shed off all responsibilities to the novice Zambian state and did not seem to care what happened to Barotseland thereafter.
Like no other documentation on the subject, the report names British government officials directly involved in the negotiation processes with Barotseland that culminated in the signing of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 which would make Barotseland a component of independent Zambia, with the mere promise of internal self-government instead of separate sovereignty as was the case with Bechuanaland and Basutoland.
It covers all important issues that anyone; legal, scholar, cynic, historian, activist, politician would wish to know about Barotseland’s relationship with the United Kingdom from 1890 to the advent of Zambia’s independence.
Among some of the topical issues covered are; all the concessions and treaties with the BSA Co and the British government, the Amalgamation of Barotseland and North Eastern Rhodesia, Caprivi Strip, Balovale Dispute, The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and Barotseland Protectorate Status prior to Zambia’s independence.
The report also reveals that some British officials were not always enthusiastic about British Policy towards her colonies, as the case of Barotseland would show.
And reacting to the leaked documents, some commentators have immediately snubbed Britain’s policy of tending to tilt towards expediency rather than ethics on many occasions in her decolonization era, accusing that forcing the Barotse into Zambia was such an example.
“These documents deserve to see the light of day. Obviously it (may) not change anything but it is important for people to judge whether or not Her Majesty’s government was ethical in forcing Barotseland into Zambia.
Some may argue, however, putting the blame entirely on the British government would not be telling the whole story as the documents also reveal that the British government did everything feasible to ensure that all the Crown treaties and concessions with Barotseland would inure in post independent Zambia.
Perhaps what the UK government did not foresee, they may state, is the treachery of the post independence leadership. However, even then, Her Majesty’s government should have prevailed over Kenneth Kaunda’s government when it became clear in 1965 that Kaunda would not act honorably towards the Litunga Sir Mwanawina III and the entire Barotse nation.
Similarly, a source in the Barotseland transitional government regretted the reluctance of successive British governments and the Common Wealth offices to give timely interventions when the Zambian government began to repudiate the pre-independence Barotseland Agreement of 1964, hiding behind the diplomatic veil of non-interference in internal matters of a sovereign state.
“This is what probably gives the British a bad name over their decolonization process when compared say to the French who have always ensured that unbecoming behavior is not tolerated in their former colonies,” he stated, further citing the recent timely French interventions in Côte d’Ivoire when a despot, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down after losing a general election to Alassane Ouattara. Consequently, Laurent was extradited to the International Criminal Court preventing a potentially bloody civil war.
Because of the historical and possible legal implications of these leaked documents, copies of originals are here below reproduced from a verifiable source who served the British Government at the time Barotseland was forced into the union with Zambia.
It is further hoped that the public will make independent judgment whether or not Barotseland has a case against both Her Majesty’s Government and successive Zambian governments in light of the apparent impropriety revealed by these once confidential documents.
The report, with two accompanying memoranda, was written sometime in 1960, during the run-up to Northern Rhodesia becoming independent Zambia, making it a very rare historical point of discussion in the ongoing debate about Barotseland.