Leaders of Barotseland Continue to be Imprisoned in Zambia
UNPO calls upon the international community to address the issue of the leaders of Barotseland being unjustly detained in Zambia. The detentions take place in the scope of the generally and continuously poor human rights track-record of the country. The systematic discrimination against the people of Barotseland has been happening since the 1964 Barotseland Agreement, which was never legitimately put into force. Thus, there is no legal grounding for the union between Barotseland and Zambia. The current imprisonment of the three Barotseland leaders serves as a further blow for the lack of self-determination, which is an inalienable human right of the people of Barotseland. Evident from the power imbalance between Barotseland and Zambia, the former remains committed to the non-violent struggle in advocating for human rights.
The three leaders of Barotseland were arrested on 5 December 2014 and have been detained since. Three months ago, on 10 September 2018, their appealed case was heard by the Supreme Court of Zambia. Regrettably, Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s previous ruling, and added a further five-year extension to their sentence. It is crucial to mention that concerning the content of their appeals, the Supreme Court’s ruling does not take into account the fact that the current basis for the argument of Zambia being a unitary state is derived from the Zambian Constitution of 1996. That legal basis was absent in 1964. It is also true that the inasmuch as the conviction sentences the leaders of Barotseland, the verdict also has a heavy political allusion to the self-determination question of Barotseland. In an ideal state of affairs, political questions belonging to the domain of international relations, including that of self-determination, should be resolved not via a domestic court. For this reason, it is important that the question of Barotseland receives adequate international attention and that its political implications are discussed by a wide consensus.
It is further significant to recall that the hitherto struggle of Barotseland has been, and continues to be, non-violent, instead favouring diplomatic means. This November, southern Africa was visited by Prince Harry of the United Kingdom. The Barotse National Freedom Alliance (BNFA) also appealed to the prince citing the illegal incorporation of Barotseland into Zambia to raise the profile of the Barotse plight. However, Harry’s primary objective of the visit remained UK-Zambia relations. In their letter, the BNFA extended an invitation for Prince Harry to meet with Barotse leaders and drew attention to the fact that they unilaterally declared independence in 2012, since there is no legally binding legislation for Zambia’s rule over Barotseland.
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