Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the verge of revolt

The troubled past of the House of Lubosi.

When Francois Coillard a French missionary arrived at Lealui in 1886 he found Lubosi the King of the Lozi’s at the time struggling to unite a kingdom on the verge of revolt.

The trouble then as now stems from the Polylithic administrative body Lozi’s now call the “national council”. It should really be called the supreme council, as neither the Lozi’s nor the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) enjoys any national status.

The supreme council is made up of indunas (who are formerly commoners) and princes of the royal family.
Any Lozi commoner could aspire to become an Induna (a judge and councilor) or Ngambela (Prime minister and Chief councilor)- according to Gerald L Caplan in his book The Elites of Barotseland 1878 – 1969: A Political History of Zambia’s western province.
The rules of succession to the Litunga or King are not rigidly fixed in that any male descendant in the patrilineal line of the first legendary King Mboo is eligible. This creates a constant state of uneasy and back-to-back pandering between the supreme council and the Litunga. The Litunga can appoint any commoner to any supreme council title as Induna or Ngambela but the supreme council is in turn the body that appoints a Litunga from the line of eligible princes.  Thus in a culture were class and title matter as is certain in the Lozi culture, ambitious commoners who rise to be Induna may rump up the stakes by wielding their favor to bolster their own interests and thereby keep the kingdom on the verge of revolt.

And so it was, when Fran├žois Coillard arrived in Barotseland, Lubosi later known as Lewanika (who became Litunga in 1885) was making frantic steps to preserve both his Kingship and his kingdom. He was the third Litunga in 3 years and faced an immediate threat from Mwanawina who had just lost a succession decision by the supreme council.  To secure his position Lubosi appointed his known supporters to the Council and had the Kuta agree to replace Mwanawina’s Ngambela Ngenda with his own preference Silumbu.

Lewanika later enlisted Fran├žois Coillard's assistance in negotiating for a British protectorate to be declared over Barotseland in an attempt to strengthen his grip on the kingship. However, the king and the missionary misunderstood the connections between the British crown and Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC). Lewanika and Coillard were gradually caught up in self-serving posturing, which resulted in the signing of the Lochner Concession, which delivered the Lozi kingdom to the BSAC's domain on 27 June 1890. During the first seven years after signing the Concession, the BSAC failed to make any of its promised annual payments of £2000 or to provide any of the educational assistance that it had pledged to Lewanika. (wikipedia)

Fast forward to now, we find the current Litunga Lubosi II also caught up between the political interests of ambitious Indunas and preserving his kingdom.  The Indunas who now comprise what they call the “National Council” aspire to elevate their own positions in the Lozi social system by demanding secession from the Republic of Zambia.

 Lubosi II (which ironically means the escaped one) whose own accession to the throne was not without controversy appears, at pains on how to navigate the intrinsic potential for instability fostered by the institutional structure of a supreme council of ambitious Indunas.

Only by great wisdom, shrewdness and justice have Kings before him managed to control and keep in check the ambitions of those royal members and indunas that are not satisfied by properly preserved traditions and the prestige of the Barotse Royal Establishment.

Article contains references to The Elites of Barotseland, 1878-1969: A Political History of Zambia By Gerald L. Caplan and The Transforming Gospel: The Mission Of Francois Coillard And Basuto Evangelists In Barotseland by Jean-Francois Zorn

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