July 1, 2016

Barotseland: Zambian Court Acquits Five Youths Arrested in 2015 for Carrying UNPO Flag

On 29 June 2016, the Zambian court finally acquitted the politically motivated charges against five Barotse youths, arrested in 2015 for public displaying a UNPO flag. Falsely accused of ‘seditious practice’, the youths finally walked free from charges after repeated court appearances over the past eight months. Although the normal Zambian legal procedure stipulates that an alleged offender should be brought before a court of law for trial within 48 hours after arrest, the government falls short of fulfilling this right to Barotse people. UNPO welcomes the acquittal of the charges and stands in solidarity with the five individuals and the Barotose people. 

Below is an article published by Barotseland Press

The five Barotse youths were arrested by Zambia state Police in Mongu on Thursday October, 29 2015 and charged with seditious practices. They were arrested when they were peacefully moving about with the UNPO flag fundraising to enable six of their colleagues then on trial in another matter, to attend their court hearing at a Kaoma court many hundreds of miles away.

Sinonge Lutangu, Saviour Mombela, Siyunyi Mendai, Jeff Mwinga, Muyapekwa Kutoma, all members of the freedom youth group, Barotse Imilemas, have now charged that their victory in the Kaoma court means that a fresh struggle for Barotseland will now be launched.

In March 2012, and at a regularly constituted Barotse National Council (BNC) held under the auspices of the Zambian government and the Barotse Royal establishment (BRE), the people of Barotseland unanimously resolved to govern Barotseland as a sovereign state, separate from Zambia.

The 2012 BNC resolution was after the 1964 pre-independence treaty that brought Barotseland under Zambian government jurisdiction was irretrievably and unilaterally terminated by the latter in 1969. Repeated appeals to restore and honour the Barotseland Agreement 1964, the treaty that did not only seek to unite the British protectorate of Barotseland and the Northern Rhodesian colony of Britain, under shared sovereignty, but also guaranteed internal political autonomy to Barotseland within the new republic of Zambia were all rejected by successive Zambian governments.

However, the Zambian government has continued to arrest, torture, incarcerate and even kill the Barotse, using state agents such as the police and military, for peacefully calling for Barotseland independence or merely exercising and asserting their other human rights like peaceful assembly and free expression among others.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international, nonviolent, and democratic membership organization. Its members are indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognized or occupied territories who have joined together to protect and promote their human and cultural rights, to preserve their environments, and to find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them.

Barotseland, a member since November 2013, accordingly bears the UNPO flag at induction, and the carrying and public displaying of this flag is neither criminal nor seditious.

Photo Courtesy of Barotseland Press