Barotseland dreams about independence

Barotseland dreams about independence

Many countries in the world have independentist movements within their borders and the African continent is no exception. Due to its colonial past and the distribution of its regions between the European colonies, the current African map is composed of several states who encompassed a whole series of kingdoms, societies and peoples within the same border.

With the arrival of independence in black Africa, new identities had to be built for these post-colonial states. Zambia did not stay out of this process. Before the arrival of the Europeans, there were various villages and great kingdoms such as Kazembe or Lunda, which dominated part of the current country. Another of the kingdoms which were framed within what now is Zambia was Barotseland, a territory that covered a part of the western side of the country. Therefore, there was no sign of a Zambian identity as such until the independence in 1964, which came alongside President Kenneth Kaunda.

Of all the regions that make up Zambia, the former kingdom of Barotseland is the most inclined to return to the path of independence. Barotseland is the homeland of the Lozi people, also known as Barotse, whose center was the Bulozi plain. Currently, if we look at a political map of Zambia we would not find a trace of this ancient kingdom, but instead, the province “Western” with Mongu being its capital. Interestingly, the lozi monarchy is still active nowadays. Its monarch, known as “Litunga” (guardian of the earth) is, since the year 2000, Lubosi II Imwiko.

Like its monarchy, the national sentiment is still alive amongst part of the Lozi population, nostalgic for its pre-colonisation past. Since independence, there have been several attempts to recover part of their autonomy and greater internal control of the region. However, President Kaunda, in order to avoid nationalist outbreaks, chose to rename the old kingdom as “Western Province”, with the aim of losing that national character.

However, the nationalist movements did not disappear and there is still a current that defends the independence of Barotseland. The new strength of these movements is due to the denunciations against the central government of Lusaka, who has not even tried to improve the situation of the province. Compared to other more developed regions, the truth is that this province is quite isolated, with little infrastructure and no development policy. Therefore, the Government should rethink which policies should be carried out in the province. If it doesn’t, there is no doubt that the nationalist movement for Barotseland’s independence can go further and become a real problem for Zambia’s stability.

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