Jul 20, 2022

Barotseland: UNPO Submits Universal Periodic Review to UN highlighting the repression of non-violent Barotse activists

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, has submitted a Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the Republic of Zambia, highlighting continuing concern of repression and persecution of Barotseland activists seeking self-determination for the Barotse people as well as the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement.

Barotseland is the traditional land of the Barotse people, tracing back to the 15th century. Up until 1964 Barotseland was a fully-fledged national state but was incorporated into Zambia, violating the 1964 Barotseland Agreement, which recognized the Litunga of Barotseland as principal local authority.

Between October 2010 and January 2011 a series of riots related to the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement occurred. This led to 84 activists, including non-violent human rights defenders being arrested and charged with treason in 2013. Although all were released, three leaders were sentenced and sent to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour in March 2016, for non-violent activism for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement

Whereas a dialogue regarding limited aspects related to the Barotseland Agreement was opened in 2018, the imprisoned leaders Likando Pelekelo, Afumba Mombotwa and Inambao Kalima had their sentenced extended to 15 years. Subsequently, Likando Pelekelo died in prison.

In light of the above, the UNPO submitted the following recommendations to the Republic of Zambia:

  • Release all political prisoners detained for non-violent action seeking the self-determination of the Barotse people, including the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement.
  • Ensure that those seeking self-determination of the Barotse people may freely participate in public life in Zambia, including ceasing all efforts to criminalize those who work for self-determination through non-violent means.
  • Open a wide-ranging dialogue with the Barotse people regarding self-determination and restoration of the Barotseland Agreement, including processes to ensure adequate control over economic, social and cultural development in accordance with Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.