(MISA/IFEX) - On 19 January 2011, police in Western Province recorded a statement from Radio Lyambai Station Manager Mukeya Liwena over the alleged broadcast of seditious statements by his station concerning a meeting that the police had cancelled.
Liwena reported to Mongu central police following reports that police had launched a manhunt for him after his station was forced off the air due to the confiscation of on-air computers and other equipment for allegedly broadcasting seditious material which police say fueled violence and riotous behaviour in the area.
Liwena, who was in Zambia's Capital City, Lusaka, at the time of the broadcast of the said seditious material and subsequent arrest of his deputy on 18 January, told the police in the presence of MISA-Zambia, that he had issued a memorandum instructing his staff to consult him before airing anything over the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 as it was a sensitive national issue.
He said that the Assistant Station Manager, Nyambe Muyumbana, produced and aired the programme alleged to contain seditious messages without his consent.
Meanwhile Muyumbana, who was arrested and detained on 18 January for allegedly running the seditious material on 14 January, was released on bail following an intervention by MISA-Zambia.
On 14 January, police forced their way into Radio Lyambai, and confiscated broadcast equipment which included computers and a radio console, resulting in the station going off the air. Police alleged that the station was broadcasting seditious material on the morning of a planned meeting that day in Limulunga, within the precincts of Mongu, which was deemed illegal by the government.
The meeting which was called by people advocating for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964, ended in a violent riot where police say two people died, several were wounded and both private and government property was extensively damaged or destroyed.
The Barotseland Agreement, which was signed by then Prime Minister Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the Litunga (King) of Barotseland, Sir. Mwanawina Lewanika, and British Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, Duncan Sandys, gave birth to the independent Republic of Zambia in October 1964, upon the unification of Northern Rhodesia and the Barotseland Protectorate, both of which were previously under separate British rule.
The agreement gave the Litunga a degree of autonomy to administer the region within the confines of the constitution of the independent Republic of Zambia. However, Kaunda's government reneged on the agreement in 1969, through a constitutional amendment. Subsequently, any discussion of the restoration of the agreement was silenced.
However, in recent years, there have been growing calls by various individuals and groups originating from Western Province, for the restoration of the agreement. Most recently, representatives of the Litunga's traditional authority, the Barotse Royal Establishment, made written submissions to the National Constitution Commission (NCC) for the recognition of the agreement in the proposed constitution. However, the submission was rejected by the majority of NCC delegates.
Since then, advocates for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement have become more militant, forcing police to use force to quell meetings called by the activists to discuss the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement. The riots of 14 January 2011 were the most violent.