Pacifying the West


THERE is urgent need to pacify the restive Western Province, which bears all the hallmarks of enduring tension as a result of historical and contemporary circumstances.

Two clear issues of concern have arisen that require Government attention. 

The first concerns the Barotse Agreement of 1964 which must receive some attention to establish a lasting solution to what may continue to be a festering sore that will nibble at the peace, tranquility and national unity that we are enjoying.

The second concerns the demand by the Nkoya establishment to gain independence both territorially and politically from the Barotse Royal Establishment.

The Nkoya’s complain that their political status has been seriously undermined by the BRE which has imposed traditional control without juridical legitimation.  They argue that in 1943 the then colonial government recognized their identity and therefore traditional sovereignty of the Nkoya people, a fact attested by the creation of Mankoya District as a distinct authority from the BRE. They also argue that hegemony from the Lozi leadership started in 1936 when Prince Mwanawina, half brother to then Lozi Chief Yeta III, was sent to Kaoma, then Mankoya, as a tax collector in Chief Mutondo’s area where he started posing as a Chief.

This apparently infuriated the Nkoya’s who petitioned the colonial administration for separation, which request was granted but on the eve of signing, Chief Mutondo Canyincha died from suspected food poisoning, hence putting paid to the process of separation. Since then the relationship between the Nkoya chiefdom and BRE has never been fully settled. This wrangling has now given rise to the demand by the Nkoya people to separate or secede from the rest of Western Province or that area called Barotseland.

The Kazanga Kabombo Cultural Association have been in the forefront demanding that Chief Mutondo and Kahare should have been elevated in the same manner as other chiefs have gained recognition in other parts of the country.

This is a festering argument that must be resolved because the Nkoyas definitely feel marginalized and have complained that they have been overlooked in appointments and allocation of resources generally.

On the BRE side, the situation is equally restive with the demands for the re-instatement of the Barotse territory as supposedly envisaged in the BRE agreement.  Many questions arise, among them the very issue of the Nkoya people whose persuasive arguments locate the Lozi tribal group in transition.

They claim that Mongu was originally populated by the Nkoya people hence the name Mongu which is a corruption of the word “mungul ula” meaning pumpkin in Nkoya.  They suggest that the Lozi’s sought refuge from the Nkoya’s as they fled the rampaging army of Sebitwane.

If these accounts are true, it means that Government has work cut out for it to separate and identify the various traditional, political and indeed historical precedences to arrive at an equitable settlement that will satisfy all the contending parties.

A start has to be made and the sooner the better.