SELF-DETERMINATION: THE CASE OF BAROTSELAND IN ZAMBIA!
Thursday, 8th February 2024 | Barotseland Post Exclusive.
1. WHAT IS THE REAL ISSUE CONCERNING BAROTSELAND?
While general underdevelopment and systemic neglect may be among the main triggers for the perpetual discontent around Barotseland, the main issue, however, is about the territory’s legitimate right to self-determination.
Successive Zambian governments know this but have chosen to keep the rest of the country ignorant, while they continue to treat Barotseland, now renamed Western Province, the same way they treat Eastern, Northern, Luapula, or all the other provinces as if it were the same with them.
No. Barotseland is incomparable to all the provinces of Zambia because it has an internationally acclaimed protectorate status.
The territory that comprises Barotseland has a unique right to self-determination that no other region or province can claim to have within Zambia’s borders. For example, through the 1963 ‘referendum’ the people of Barotseland exercised their right of self-determination to choose to belong to Zambia.
They can also choose to disengage from Zambia by exercising the same right.
Recently, a feeble defense emerged on the Zambian Watchdog social media alleging that the Barotse gave away their right to be a nation through a ‘referendum’ vote in 1962/1963. Contrary to this lie, however, the 1963 referendum is, in fact, proof and validation of the Barotse people’s inalienable right to self-determination.
It shows that the state can never make changes to Barotseland’s political status without seeking the Barotse people’s consent through a referendum, commission of inquiry, a Barotse National Council, which is a Barotse People’s PIZO or voice, or any such tools that would qualify as a voice of the Barotse.
With this right, the Barotse can decide to unite with or separate from any state as they choose, and this right is not a one-time-only chance card. No. It is an indefinite perpetual right they can use over and over again.
The 1963 Barotse vote was not a vote to give away their right of self-determination but rather it was an exercise of it, and they decided, at the time, to use their right of self-determination to stay part of Zambia on the terms and conditions of the Barotseland Agreement 1964.
So, all those using the 1963 referendum to lie and imply that Barotseland no longer exists because the Barotse voted in 1963 to stay part of Zambia are grossly mistaken and also note that no other region in Northern Rhodesia was given that vote because none else had it.
2. THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-DETERMINATION
Self-determination is the process by which a group of people, usually possessing a certain degree of national consciousness, form their state and choose their government. Self-determination is not a crime under international laws and politics. It is a right – an inalienable human right under the United Nations Charter!
As a political principle, the idea of self-determination evolved at first as a by-product of the doctrine of nationalism, to which early expression was given by the French and American revolutions.
During World War I, the Allies accepted self-determination as a peace aim.
For example, in his ‘Fourteen Points – The Essential Terms for Peace’ delivered to Congress on January 8, 1918, US President Woodrow Wilson listed self-determination as an important objective for the postwar world, the result of which was the fragmentation of the old Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and Russia’s former Baltic territories into several new states.
3. SELF-DETERMINATION UNDER THE UNITED NATIONS
After World War II, the promotion of self-determination among ‘subject peoples’ became one of the chief goals of the United Nations (UN). The UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations, had also recognized the principle, but it was in the UN that the idea received its clearest statement and affirmation.
4. THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER ON SELF-DETERMINATION
The UN Charter clarifies two meanings of the term self-determination.
i) A state is said to have the right of self-determination in the sense of having the right to choose freely its political, economic, social, and cultural systems.
ii) the right to self-determination is defined as the right of a ‘people’ to constitute themselves in a state or otherwise freely determine the form of its association with an existing state.
Both meanings have their basis in the charter (Article 1, paragraph 2; and Article 55, paragraph 1).
Concerning dependent territories, the charter asserts that administering authorities should undertake to ensure political advancement and the development of Self-government (Article 73, paragraphs a and b; and Article 76, paragraph b).
5. WHAT IS A DEPENDENT TERRITORY?
A dependent territory or ‘Dependency’ in international relations is a weak state dominated by or under the jurisdiction of a more powerful state but not formally annexed by it. Protectorates, fall under this relationship.
6. WHAT IS A PROTECTORATE?
Protectorate, in international relations, is the relationship between two states one of which exercises some decisive control over the other. The degree of control may vary; however, the protecting state guarantees and protects the safety of the other.
Barotseland, for example, was a protectorate of Britain throughout its relationship with the British Empire. Explicitly, however, Barotseland officially became a British Protectorate within Northern Rhodesia through ‘The Northern Rhodesia (Barotseland) Order in Council 1953’ which declared Barotseland a ‘protectorate within a protectorate’ in writing.
Consequently, Barotseland’s British Provincial Commissioner’s status was officially upgraded to that of ‘Resident Commissioner’ in line with all British Protectorates elsewhere!
So, Barotseland explicitly became a British Protectorate on 2nd May 1953, although its relationship with Britain was always that of a protectorate from the late 1800s.
7. WHERE IS BAROTSELAND TODAY?
In 1964, all rights and obligations that Britain had with Barotseland were transferred to Zambia which became Barotseland’s quasi-protector legally. Barotseland was never to vanish within Zambia’s borders but to thrive in it as spelled out in the pre-independence treaty known as ‘The Barotseland Agreement 1964’, which they together signed.
The Commonwealth and Britain also co-signed the 1964 agreement, making it an international treaty recognized under international law and politics.
Some Zambians argue that the 1964 agreement did not constitute a treaty because the term ‘agreement’ was used for its name rather than the word treaty!
That assertion is baseless because the word ‘agreement’ is interchangeable with the word treaty in this case. Britain used it in many similar cases such as in ‘The Malaysia Agreement 1963’ signed between the British government, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak on one hand and Singapore on the other, shortly before signing the Barotseland Agreement 1964 which Britain entered with Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland.
When disagreements arose in the case of The Malaysia Agreement of 1963, Singapore reverted to its original separate existence as an independent state, and today Malaysia and Singapore thrive as separate republics.
However, unlike Malaysia which gave independence to Singapore, the Zambian state, opted for the gradual annexation of Barotseland in the period 1965 to 1969. They purportedly used several ‘legal’ changes to their national constitution to annul the 1964 agreement and completely take over the sovereignty of Barotseland protectorate and went on to administrate Barotseland as a mere province, Western Province, with no special political status from the rest of Zambia.
Zambia’s action against Barotseland’s sovereignty was outright annexation because Barotseland never consented to these constitutional changes which the state undertook unilaterally using the arrogance of numbers in the Zambian parliament or mere presidential decrees in some cases.
8. WHAT IS ANNEXATION?
Annexation is a formal act whereby a state proclaims its sovereignty over another territory. Unlike ‘cession’, whereby territory is given or sold willingly through treaty, annexation is a unilateral act made effective by actual possession and is legitimized by general recognition.
Annexation is frequently preceded by conquest or military occupation of the conquered territory. However, it could also be accomplished, as in the case of Barotseland so far, by the mere threat of military/police force without active military hostilities.
The subsequent recognition of annexation by other states may be explicit or implied. Therefore, whether the other states of the world recognize Zambia’s annexation of Barotseland or not, it is still annexation nonetheless!
The United Nations usually recognizes Annexation only if it is based on the illegal use of military force, and so because Zambia did not use visible military force to be condemned under the UN charters, it does not negate the fact that annexation did occur.
The formalities of annexation are not defined by international law; whether it is done by one authority or another within the state is a matter of constitutional law.
The other term for annexation is colonization or illegal occupation! Therefore, Barotseland today is technically an illegally occupied territory or a colony of Zambia, one African state colonizing another African state!
Consequently, the Zambian state must be roundly condemned by the rest of the world for colonizing or illegally occupying Barotseland without any treaty, having unilaterally abrogated The Barotseland Agreement of 1964!
Since 2011-2012, however, The Kingdom of Barotseland has been taking peaceful steps for the restoration of its sovereignty that began with the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) which the Zambian state has not challenged in any reputable impartial international court of arbitration!
This peaceful initiative by Barotseland must be supported by all peace-loving states of the world!