The kingdom of Barotseland is seeking to leave Zambia after accusing the government of ignoring a treaty granting it autonomy.
The kingdom of the Lozi people was a protectorate under British colonial rule and became part of Zambia at the country’s independence in 1964. Its leader, Clement Sinyinda, has accused the Zambian government of failing to uphold an agreement granting the kingdom independence. The Lozis are the most numerous people in the Western Province region of Zambia. Other ethnic groups that live in the area are said to oppose independence and wish to remain part of a unified Zambia.
The Barotseland National Council (BNC), a group made up of different Lozi organisations, stated:
“We the people of Barotseland declare that Barotseland is now free to pursue its own self-determination and destiny. We are committed to a peaceful disengagement with the Zambian government.”
Mr Sinyinda accused President Michael Sata of reneging on his promise that 1964 treaty granted Barotseland independence, but said that the BNC would use peaceful means to achieve its goal.
In an address to parliament, the Zambian Vice-President ,Guy Scott, said the declaration was “irresponsible and unacceptable,” while an editorial in the Times of Zambia described the move as “not only frivolous, but also illegal.”
Vice-President Scott added: “The government will rise to the challenge of protecting the lives of people and property. It is our inescapable duty, obligation and responsibility to do so.”
The Zambian government has sought to quell the dispute by offering a revenue-sharing plan to distribute wealth more evenly. The Western Province is rich in copper, Zambia’s primary export product. In recent years Zambia’s copper-mining sector has grown rapidly to service increasing demand from the Asian market, predominantly China and India.