In Zambia, political detentions were carried out under a State of Emergency, which allowed for colonialist style preventative detentions by the state. This State of Emergency lasted throughout the first 27 years of the independence era, under President Kenneth Kaunda. This was in place on the self-government eve of independence, under the Prime Ministership of Kenneth Kaunda. It was resorted to in the violent suppression of the uprising by members of the Lumpa Church of Alice Lenshina. This continuous State of Emergency was retained until the end of the One Party State in 1991. It was reverted to after the 1991 re-introduction of multi-party politics, but only for a limited period.
However, even without a State of Emergency there has been regular political imprisoning of Barotse people. A Barotse national, who was a District official of the opposition United Party, Timothy Kalimbwe Lupasa, holds the record for enduring the longest period of political imprisonment in Zambia, from 1973 to 1990. This is more than six times more than any political actor was imprisoned under British Colonialism in Northern Rhodesia.
Earlier, immediately after the imposition of the One Party system on 30th December 1972, at least eight Barotse traditional leaders and prominent citizens were subjected to violence and terrorizing post mid-night bundling out of homes to far distance detention centres, after a couple of days of being denied food. This was under the colonial preservation of public security regulations, backed up by a permanent State of Emergency.
Some detainees in this dragnet sweep are Lisulo Muchanza, Pumulo Mulope, Kuwabo Kaunda, Musialela Mupatu, Sitamlaho Musole, Kaluwe Mukena, Zeko Mulundumina and Welesani Mulele. They were detained without trial under falsified charges of seeking the secession of Barotseland, when, in fact, they were demanding the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement.
This was neither the first nor the last time the Zambian Government used politically motivated police brutality as well as detentions and imprisonment to suppress freedom of expression over the status of Barotseland. Some have been visited by the Zambia law for pleading for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement, while other have faced the same for accepting the Agreement’s abrogation, and interpreting it as act of divorce. On both these score, hundreds of Barotse people have been detained, brutalized and killed under Zambian authorities, since independence to date.
This Agreement is the basis under which it was mutually and formally agreed for Barotseland Protectorate and Northern Rhodesia Protectorate to jointly constitute one independent new nation state called Zambia. Even earlier than this, in 1969, after Zambia’s unilateral and un-discussed abrogation of the Barotseland Agreement, the Zambian government arrested and detained other Barotse people, including Luyanga (Induna Imukondo), Biemba Muteto (one time holder of the traditional leadership position of Mwene Kandala), Namumba Katenekwa, Namuyamba Mushala and Nasando as well as Mufaya Mumbuna, among many others.
These draconian measures have continued throughout the period of the fifty years of Zambia’s independence up to and including to date. The Zambian prisons are hardly ever free of Barotse political prisons, including right now, in 2015.
In short, in the handing over of state power from British Colonial governance to African rule after independence there has been change, but with continuity with the preceding regimes’ undemocratic and non-libertarian underpinning. The same continues with the change from the One Party State systems to multi-party governance, as well as from military back to civilian administration.
Half a century after independence, Zambia remains with unaddressed challenge of managing contradictions and conflicts in a just and democratic manner.
It is not yet uhuru!
By Dr. Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika