By Harrison M. Musonda
The recent events in Western Zambia should remain as a constant reminder of how lack of dialogue, ethnocentrism, cynicism and lack of consultation can degenerate into total civil disobedience and eventual war if not handled properly by those in power and the agitators of such organized disobedience. As Zambians continue to debate the hot topic of the Barotse Agreement of 1964, one wonders how such a beautiful country endowed with abundance of resources, intellect, culture and peace loving people can be taken heist by a group of ethnocentric fundamentalists with no proper agenda other than for personal glory of martyrdom. What should bother Zambians today is why these tribal fundamentalists would want to be so annoyed with other Zambians to the extent of destroying a country so admired by all our neighbors for its peace and stability. For over 46 years since Zambia got its independence from its colonial masters, most of these agitators of ethnocentrism and civil disobedience have enjoyed the very peace they want to destroy through free education, medication, housing and transportation, things that have eluded others in many countries on the continent of Africa.
A critical analysis of their self- determination for a free Barotseland brings to the minds of many Zambians one important point, the question of the legality of the very first concession (Lochner Concession of June 1890) signed by Lewanika who without consultation cheated that most of the land north of the Yambeji River and all its tributaries belonged to him thus giving the Muzungus free exploration rights for minerals that was never from his domain, for a token of a few hundreds of pounds. It is out of such betrayal of other tribes, some who to this day do not even know or understand Siluyana that led Lewanika to feel so important among his people, yet forgetting that out there were other tribes who paid homage to their own chiefs in the same manner that his people of the plains of Lealui did to him. And that these other people who did not belong to his Siluyana speaking tribe had their own systems of governments just like his.
Would it be wrong to call this very first concession a “Legality of Illegality” deception? What Lewanika lacked was respect for other tribes that did not fall under his jurisdiction. There is no historical evidence to prove that Lewanika had travelled up north beyond the Lealui plains in areas where copper was mined during that period. It is a fact that he must have known that other tribes beyond the plains would not accept the deceiving agreement which mortgaged other chiefs’ lands, their resources and their rights to the white man for the sake of a few pounds which were solely meant for Lewanika’s kith and kin.
During the 46 years of enjoying our peaceful negotiated independence, Zambia under the banner of One Zambia, One Nation has risen above the tide of rough waters to diminish the tribal conflicts that would have torn our country apart through intermarriages and Christian brotherhood. While it is evident that towards independence, there were a few tribal factions created by some politicians that wanted to advance tribal agendas, this was thwarted by advocates of peace and justice such as Dr. Kaunda, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Munukayumbu Sipalo, Jethro Mutti, The Wina Brothers, Lawrence Katilungu, Godwin Mbikusita Lewanika, Justin Chimba, Elijah Mudenda, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Mufaya Mumbuna, Grey Zulu, Mungoni Liso and many others too numerous to mention by advocating for unitary state.
Arguably, some current crop of self-determined Barosteians have gone on record to demand the separation of Western Province from Zambia forgetting the sacrifice that peace loving Luyanas like Nalumino Mundia, Mbambo Sianga, Princes Nakatindi, Fines Liboma, and many others made to unite Zambia. Some have even gone to the extent of thinking that in modern Zambia, the boundaries that Lewanika claimed can still stand the test of this time. In their dreams! Others have advocated for civil disobedience, called for international arbitration and formed rebel groups that are meant to destabilize peace in Zambia and the southern region.
Zambians who have intermarried and live in unity cannot afford such behavior being exhibited by a few disgruntled individuals that have nothing to relate to other than wearing an ivory bungle and calling themselves bana bamulena. Which Mulena allows hate and bloodshed?
The 21st. Century crop of self-determined Barosteians should learn from what has happened in other parts of Africa. The insurrections caused by tribal and ethnocentrism are many to sight and we all know that most of these have ended in loss of lives, property and wounds that take years to heal. Even where they have achieved to gain self-rule (like Eritrea) through “self-determination,” conflicts have continued for years and generation after generation continue to treat one another with suspicions and hate.
Would one be wrong to sight the Biafra conflict in Nigeria, The Savimbi War, which was largely pitted between the Ovimbundu and the central government of Angola, the Tutsi/Hutu conflict in the great lakes region, the Entumbane uprising of 1980 in Zimbabwe that led to the Ghurakundi attack on innocent Ndebeles just to mention but a few. In all these and many other wars, it is the innocent people at the grass roots level that suffer the brunt of fighting and destabilization while the agitators seat in warm and comfortable hotels elsewhere sipping expensive wines, hot coffee, smoking cigars and eating steaks.
Conflict for whatever reason is something that one should avoid for one simple reason, all conflicts are about selfishness. There is need for the self-determined Barosteians to understand that Western Zambia is much diversified in tradition and culture, and Zambia as a nation is much more diversified than Western Zambia, hence the need for all Zambians to be united in diversity. The great thinker Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.” How then do some Barosteians call themselves civilized if they cannot coexist with people from other tribes who among them are their cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, mothers, fathers and the least goes on? Civility is measured by how we coexist, which seem to be absent among some agitators as can be heard by calls for all non-Lozis to leave Western Zambia. Writing on the common law of loving thy neighbor, Alfred Adler stated that “there is a Law that man should love his neighbor as himself. In a few hundred years it should be as natural to mankind as breathing or the upright gait; but if he does not learn it he must perish.” Is this law so hard to follow or do we just want to forget our civility for personal glory and gratification?
Are the self-determined Barosteians deaf as not to understand the meaning of the rich Bemba proverb that says “Umunwe umo tautola inda,” which when translated simply means “you cannot pick a louse with one finger?” This proverb carries with it deep meaning to those that think by being self-determined as an ethnic group can conquer and win. Thomas Berry admonishes those involved in ethnic groupings to desist from such acts by encouraging diversity when he said, “Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection of our societies.”
How then as a nation, together with our self-determined brothers in Western Zambia move forward to a better united, diversified and authentic Zambia? We must learn to coexist and dialogue over issues. We must be willing to be students of common goal. Why not take heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr., when he said “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we perish together as fools.” Or could it be better for us to understand the advice of Herman Melville who once said “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Let every Zambian think of future generations who today carry names such as Nyambe Banda, Isiteketo Mulenga, Kaluba Like, Womba Imasiku, Kadochi Mwangala and Chanda Hamumuni, whose lives may greatly be affected by the actions of selfishness and poor vision of some self-determined individuals. You don’t need a visit to an optician to behold what the future holds over this issue. Rather it is simply by using the intellectual ability given to us by God our Creator that we can forge forward in unison as a united diversified nation of Zambia. Tiyende Pamodzi!!
Self-determination or not, let there be civility of dialogue through normal channels of communication. Thanks to the Kuta Yama Lozi, for the hard stance taken through the Ngambela and His Royal Highness Litunga Imwiko to denounce such hateful means of actions taken by Liyungandambo, MOREB, BFM and the like. Let wisdom prevail in times like this when all the very vulnerable people in Western Zambia like any other province want are good health facilities, schools, better transport system and easy access to various needs to survive, than to fight a war whose foundation they may never come to understand or appreciate.
To the self- determined Barosteians, try to learn some lessons from some countries in Africa that have broken way from their original countries and are still dependent on them for their survival. Some people in Western Zambia are being misled by the fact that, in the event that the exploration of minerals and oil were to succeed, life would automatically improve in a twinkling of an eye. Far from it. Who doesn’t know what has happened in the Lambaland over their Emeralds and Copper? Aren’t the poor Lambas not still poorer than ever before? Who is enjoying the dividends from mineral wealth on the Copperbelt? How many Lambas drive limousines as sign of wealth coming from a mineral rich province? Come on people, the agitators of secessionism will forget the sacrifice of their own people and will start fighting over who controls the best mining areas or the best oil wells. The common man from the Luyi, Subiya, Manyengo, Totila, Chokwe, Luchazi, Nkoya, Mbunda, and Luyana tribes will forever be enslaved and Zambia cannot afford to see its people treated like second class citizens by a few elite ethnic fundamentalists.
Bana bahesu, it is time to cultivate an authentic Zambian relationship of true Christian brotherhood based purely on unity in diversity, void of mistrust, ethnocentrism, suspicion and unnecessary upheavals that are bound to ruin our country to the extent where we shall go begging again for another protectorate from those that colonized us. Let us remind ourselves of our purpose on this earth, a purpose of acknowledging the fact that we are of one descent “Luba-Lunda Country,” we are one in spirit “Christians,” we are on one mission, “Heaven bound” and that we have to make Zambia a better country for our children and the future generations and leave it better than we found it. While acknowledging all these facts, we must also admit in our hearts that we shall always remain to be individuals with diverse thoughts, and that one day soon, we shall individually have to answer to our God at the judgment throne.
Let me end by quoting a Lakota saying, “Mitakuye Oyasin.”