The release of all the Barotseland activists facing treason trial is most welcome and a definite step in the right direction.
The release was obviously the easier part of the exercise, the next stage of finding a lasting settlement should be more difficult, complicated and indeed delicate.
The process will however be made easier by an acknowledgment by the Government that it had a role to play in raising the hopes and expectation of Barotseland people on the reinstatement of the 1964 agreement and therefore the subsequent annexation or secession of the territory.
Whether or not this was promised explicitly is no longer an issue, at issue however is the reality that a group is agitating for secession on account of clear sentiments expressed by the leadership.
What is at issue and what should be the first step is to establish the drivers and proponents of the various sides in the argument in the issue and allow for an open, transparent and candid exchange of views in order that the exact legal, social, political and traditional status of the Barotseland is achieved.
Once there is a common understanding, a way forward can be charted. It is impossible to reach compromise and consensus for as long as the two parties do not have a common understanding of the issues at play and how these can best be resolved.
It is also important for the two parties to understand that the interests and concerns of Barotseland go beyond the Government and its antagonists Linyungandambo, as there are many other interested parties with vested interests in Barotseland.
The one Zambia one nation declaration created a dynamic that was embraced rightly or wrong by all the people of Zambia including those from Barotseland with the result that issues of consanguinity now spill over the traditional regional borders.
The ultimate result is the reality of a one, united and unitary state, where the Mashori are blood relatives of Barotse citizens. Therefore apart from seeking cessation, it may be necessary to consider double or even triple citizenships as the modern generation claims multiple loyalties across traditional, regional and generation divides.The first step therefore, may be a definition of terms, classification of citizenship, demarcation of boundaries and ultimately duties, responsibilities and obligations of the individual citizen before the whole issue of secession can be fully discussed.However as we have stated before, every war ends on the negotiating table. The conflict between Government and the secessionists must ultimately end on the negotiating table where these matters will be discussed in full.Our appeal to the Government is to urge restraint. The high handed approach of arrests displays of euphoria will not promote the cause of dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Barotseland issue.Government should engage the Barotse Royal Establishment and all concerned parties to give any form of finality to the problem.