KUOMBOKA CELEBRATED IN GRAND STYLE
Walking, riding bicycles, canoeing and flying, thousands of people of different ethnic and social-economic backgrounds, thronged the capital town of Western Province, Mongu, to witness a very special occasion, the Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people.
Clad in all sorts of attire were revelers from near and far, from Kalabo, Lukulu, Sesheke, from literally all the districts of Western Province, from South Africa, Namibia, Japan, Angola, the United Kingdom, and many other countries, you name them.
The presence of Chief Mumena of the Kaonde people, Chief Nsama from Samfya, Chieftainess Kanyembo from Kazembe and Chief Bwalya Musonda also from Samfya, and above all, Zambia’s fourth Republican President Rupiah Banda who graced the occasion, signified the high esteem that is attached to the Kuomboka ceremony. Proprietor of National Milling…Cotton was also there.
ZNBC and ZAIN were equally on the scene doing their promotions of television licensing and subscriber wooing respectively. The Kuomboka traditional ceremony is over three centuries, according to the traditionalists accosted.
To lodge owners, the celebration of the Kuomboka ceremony was a great blessing in business terms. Lodge room rates suddenly skyrocketed to alarming levels. The smiling faces of the expectant spectators were transformed into sorry sights of sadness as they criss-crossed Mongu Town in search of cheap accommodation which was had to come by.
With a mocking smile on her face, one of the lodge proprietors …proudly told a group of public service workers from Lusaka that she was renting her six-roomed house for four million [ K4,000,000] ‘only’ to those interested in occupying it during the duration of the Kuomboka ceremony.
The poor public service workers disappeared from the scene without uttering a single word, but unfortunately wherever they ventured, they were not amused, as the scenario was basically the same, a K35,000 room suddenly tagged at 150,000, the one for K80,000 raised to K400,000, that for K250,000 lifted to K1,000,000. No wonder when it was time to go back home, most people’s pockets were full of holes.
However, the merrymakers were compensated for in a different way, the scintillating flamboyance of the colourful Kuomboka ceremony.
The ceremony was preceded by President Rupiah Banda’s touching down in a newly acquired Zambia Air force plane at Mongu airport at exactly 09;00 hours on Saturday, 11th April, 2009.
President Banda was received by a group of Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, many other high ranking government officials and representatives of the Barotse Royal Establishment. Also on hand to receive President Banda were MMD party members, youths, hundreds of local residents and traditional dancers who entertained the people present before the President talked to the crowd, preceded by a song of tribute sang by the MMD New Deal choir.
The President started by saying the new era in which Zambia has found itself is for all the citizens of this country. He thanked the Litunga, all the royal highnesses of Barotse Royal Establishment and all the people of Western Province for the huge support they gave him and the MMD, which saw him defeat the other presidential aspirants in the October, 2009 elections to enable him continues with the successes of the late President Levy Mwanawasa.
The President assured the crowd that good things were coming and that Zambians should be patient as the 2009 national budget had been announced two weeks prior to his visit to Mongu.
He assured the nation that this year’s budget was meant to address the problems of all Zambians wherever they are and that he would, together with his loyal Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and other leaders continue to respect and work for all Zambians, regardless of all the insults and bad things being uttered about him by those in the opposition and other circles.
President Banda urged the electorate countrywide to block bad, tribal and insulting people from governing the nation, by voting wisely. He called for continued peace and unity in the nation for Zambia to forge forward with its development agenda, citing some neighbouring countries where he said there is unrest and wars because of the absence of peace, love and unity.
The President further said although the construction of the Mongu/Kalabo Road will not be an ease task, it will nevertheless be accomplished. President Banda later an aerial view of the floods situation on the banks of the Zambezi River, which he described as a story of devastation involving the destruction of houses, crops and animals belonging to over 483,000 people.
At exactly 16;25 hours, on the D day, clad in the Lozi traditional gear, President Banda sat, surrounded by thousands of onlookers and dancers, waiting for the arrival of the Litunga at Limulunga. On both banks of the canal leading to the Litunga’s palace were dizzying crowds of people eagerly staring in the direction from which the Litunga’s big boat would come from Lealui.
At 16;41 two small canoes appeared at the corner of the canal heralding the coming of the Litunga. The two boats made a U-turn to report to the escorting the paramount Chief that all is well, the Litunga can proceed.
Soon the sound of the solemn big drums could be heard, accelerating the ululating and singing into top gear much to the excitement of the onlookers who included tourists.
When it was time for the moment everyone was waiting for, the Litunga’s royal boat with a symbolic elephant on the roof of the paramount chief’s shelter majestically appeared, paddled by more than a hundred powerful men including President Banda’s Political Adviser, Akashambwatwa Mbikusita Lewanika.
Following closely behind was the second boat ferrying her royal highness the Litunga’s wife sitting in a shelter on whose roof was a symbolic hen opening and shutting its mouth in a rhythmic manner.
In the third boat were the British Ambassador to Zambia, the royal family’s children and belongings. The three boats made three U-turns accompanied by frenzied drumming and singing before finally stopping to let the Litunga and everybody else disembark.
At the arena at the palace, the paddlers and the members of the royal family danced their lungs out, much to the enchantment of the onlookers, before the delivery of speeches by Litunga’s Ngambela, the Provincial Minister Adonis Mufalali and President Rupiah Banda.
The President described the Kuomboka ceremony as a master piece of oral and intangible cultural heritage for Zambia and the world at large.
He said he was happy to work very well with the educated Lozi sons and daughters and once more thanked the people of Western Province for their continued support, love and loyalty to the New Deal government.
President Banda reiterated that government was assessing the damage caused by the floods in Western Province and that relief supplies would be sent to the affected people soon to mitigate their sufferings.
Earlier, the Ngambela expressed happiness that the Barotse Royal Establishment was working was working well with the government.
The Ngambela thanked government for its timely response to the floods situation in Western Province and for the development programmes taking place in the region. He however appealed to the Government to do more for the people of Western Province.
Speaking during the same occasion, Western Province Minister, Adonis Mufalali said President Banda’s presence was a clear testimony of government’s serious commitment to the Kuomboka ceremony.
He described the Kuomboka ceremony as a unique showcase of the rich Lozi culture and the migration of the Litunga from the flooded Lealui to the higher Limulunga ground and appealed to government to consider the ceremony as part of tourist attraction.
The other dignitaries who attended the Kuomboka were the First Lady Thandiwe, Finance and National Planning Minister, Dr. Situmbeko, Labour and Social Services Minister, Liato, North Western Province Minister, Joseph Mulyata and Community Development Minister, Mike Kaingu among others.
It was the conviction of all the people that attended the ceremony that the Kuomboka is indeed the mother of all traditional ceremonies in terms of pulling crowds. The President returned to Lusaka on Sunday 12th April, 2009.