The Rise of Barotse Separatist Nationalism in Zambia: Can Its Associated Violence Be Prevented?

  •  Zibani Maundeni    
  •  Edgar Bwalya    
  •  Phana Kwerepe    


This paper explores the idea that poor governance explains the rise of separatist nationalism in situations such as Zambia, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia (in Africa) that had previously been independently governed during the colonial times, but later joined other states at independence to enjoy normal politics, but later degenerated into violent separatist nationalism. Our argument is that centralisation of power in an environment in which cultural groups are calling for regional autonomy, for even development, and for the international community to intervene on the side of peace, create grounds that explain the rise of violent separatist movements. The Barotseland Protectorate negotiated for autonomous development and, after securing constitutional guarantees in its favour, voluntarily joined Zambia in what was expected to be a one nation, two states system. After four decades of resisting constitutional amendments in favour of the centralisation of power, the Barotse of Zambia abandoned the politics of autonomous development and started calling for a separate state. Their resolve to remain peaceful is not aided by the international community that is reluctant to intervene, exposing the political process to radicals who consider violence as an alternative. The paper argues that violent separatist politics is preventable.

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