Barotseland is a nation in South Central Africa, whose territory traditionally extended to roughly ten times the size of Belgium. Under the terms of a bilateral treaty signed in 1964, named the Barotseland Agreement 1964, Barotseland became an autonomous region within the Republic of Zambia.
In the early 1960s, rather than seek independence from Northern Rhodesia in its own right, Barotseland chose to be part of an independent Zambia, as long as the Litunga and the Barotse National Council (BNC), the highest decision and policy-making body in the Barotse governance system, retained some authority. This included power over some of the region’s potentially lucrative natural resources, such as land, its forests and fishing, and over laws and practice. For instance, there was to be no right of appeal from Barotseland’
The first President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, flouted this agreement and attempted to destroy all remnants of Barotseland’
Under British colonial administration, Barotseland had enjoyed nearly full autonomy since the late 1800’s. The Litunga, the Lozi word for the king of Barotseland, had negotiated agreements first with the British South African Company (BSAC) and then with the British government that ensured the kingdom maintained much of its traditional authority. Barotseland was a nation-State, a protectorate within the larger protectorate of Northern Rhodesia. In return for this protectorate status, the Litunga gave the BSAC mineral exploration rights over Barotseland. Barotseland had very good relations with the United Kingdom, and the Litunga was described as one of the most colorful guests at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 by the New York Times.
The Barotseland Agreement of 1964 enshrined these rights, which has caused unrest to rumble on in the region for nearly half a century. Within a year of taking office as president of the newly-independent Zambia on October 24th 1964, President Kenneth Kaunda began to introduce various acts that abrogated most of the powers allotted to Barotseland under the agreement. The Local Government Act of 1965 abolished the traditional institutions that had governed Barotseland and brought the kingdom under the administration of a uniform local government system. Then in 1969 Parliament passed the Constitutional Amendment Act, annulling the Barotseland Agreement of 1964. Later that year the government changed Barotseland’
Human rights violations continue in Barotseland today that are attributable to the Government of Zambia and targeted against Barotseland activists who are peacefully attempting to assert their rights under international law. In a separate but complimentary legal procedure, the BNFA has therefore also petitioned the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), based in Banjul, to bring them to an end.
In 2012, a Barotseland National Council accepted Zambia’s abrogation of the Barotseland Agreement 1964, terminating the treaty by which Barotseland initially joined Zambia. This has been widely covered by networks including the BBC.
In 2013, Barotseland also became a member of the UNPO, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, joining Tibet and Taiwan at this international organization dedicated to giving a voice to peoples who are currently unrepresented at the United Nations. Many new States, including Estonia, Latvia, Armenia and East Timor, were former members of the UNPO.
Our letter on behalf of the BNFA to President Sata, and the PCA arbitration agreement which has been submitted to the President of Zambia to sign, may be found on the BNFA's website. If President Sata refuses to sign this arbitration agreement, this may only be viewed as an admission that Zambia is aware that its continued occupation of Barotseland is illegal under international law.
Dugué & Kirtley AARPI and Ms. Sylvana Sinha, who is a member of the International Arbitration Attorney Network, represent the BNFA, an umbrella group of Barotse activists formed for the purpose of coordinating the implementation of the sovereign resolutions of March 2012 Barotse National Council in a peaceful manner.
The International Arbitration Attorney Network is a group of highly-experienced arbitration practitioners based in North America, Europe and Asia, focusing on international commercial arbitration, investment treaty arbitration, and the resolution of pure public international law disputes. One of the founding members of the International Arbitration Attorney Network is Dugué & Kirtley AARPI.
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