The Barotse quagmire will not be resolved by legal means. The solution lies in a holistic political settlement and the sooner all parties realize this fact the better.
The current debate will not yield any positive returns due the serious lack of clarity on a number of contentious issues. These include the fundamentals of content, space and legal delimitation of the Barotse agreement which the debate is all about.
The emotional and often highly charged demands from the Barotse separatists are short on specifics but very high on symbolism. This makes it difficult to create parameters on which a debate and subsequent resolution can be arrived at.
The first and most daunting task is the delimitation of what constitutes Barotseland. This is a vexatious issue which pits several interest groups that are not mutually inclusive. If indeed the separatists or secessionists were to succeed in achieving their national sovereignty what would include their territory?
It is not good enough to suggest that Barotseland is synonymous with the Lozi language. The two are not the same. Barotseland is far more expansive than the language. It incorporates a huge geographical area that includes many tribal groups over and beyond the Lozi linguistic area.
The two must be clearly defined before anybody can lay any claim to any territory. Similarly it is difficult to hold anybody accountable for separatist intentions when the land involved is not clearly demarcated. It becomes even more difficult when the perpetrators of secession do not indicate the manner in which the territory will be forcibly acquired.
Added to this conundrum is the fact that the Barotse Royal Establishment which should be championing the cause of secession has maintained a studious distance from the fray, leaving it to a few activists who have been supported by external funders.
In the breach, have fallen a few overenthusiastic individuals who have no clue what a secession is all about and that it is even criminal to consider, let alone take any steps to realize such an eventuality. They are the people who are prepared to manifest their support and allegiance to a nonexistent territory with a fervor that bordered on the absurd.
The Government should not be seen to be victimizing fanatics who have little understanding of law and intricacies of territorial integrity. It must instead engage with the traditional and informal leaders that have influence over the people either agitating or blindly supporting the case for secession.
As we have said before, it is wrong for the Government to create martyrs. If anything happens to one of the detainees a cause will have been created for martyrdom even where this is not deserved.
If anything the Government has a duty to explain to the people of Barotseland the meaning of the promise made to restore the Barotseland agreement. It is beyond question that the promise was made and that it is partly because of this that the current agitation has arisen.
That is why the law will not do in resolving the problem. Recourse must be made to politics, where the problem originated from.