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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Lozi in Zambia

View Group Chronology

Zambia Facts
Area:    752,614 sq. km.
Capital:    Lusaka
Total Population:    10,307,000 (source: CIA World Factbook, 2003, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Lozi are at moderate risk for future rebellion. They have lost autonomy, an important risk factor for rebellion. In addition, they have had persistent past protest (although not recently) and suffer from repression. These three factors indicate grievances are not being redressed, making rebellion more likely. Lozi are territorially concentrated in the Western Province and have a high level of group identity. Talk of seccession and political independence exist among the group. However, this sentiment is only shared by a smaller number of Lozis, where many others do not see this stance as an advantageous one. However, the internal fighting and lack of commitment to Lozi organizations will hinder any efforts. Of note, kindred Barotse in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia rebelled in 1998, and there has been talk between the two since then. A joint insurrection is possible. Members of the Barotse Patriotic Front in Zambia even crossed the border to help fight in Namibia in 1999.

There are some mitigating factors. The Zambian government has been moving towards more democratic processes since Chiluba stepped down in 2001. There is also increasing transnational pressure on Zambia to maintain democratization. Recent years have also seen direct aid from foreign governments to Lozi health and development projects, alleviating some Lozi grievances.

Lozi risk for protest is also moderate, fueled by continuing grievance but hampered by lack of coherent Lozi organizations.


Analytic Summary

The Lozi, also known as Barotse, are concentrated in the Western Province of Zambia (GROUPCON = 3) in what is known as Barotseland, their regional base (GC2 = 1). They live apart from other groups and have not dispersed to other parts of the state. The Lozi are one of four major historical kingships in Zambia. They have their own language, Lozi, but group members also frequently speak English (LANG = 1). There are some differences between Lozi and Bemba in cultural forms, in terms of dress, continued importance of traditional ritual and female initiation rites (CUSTOM = 1).

The Lozi kingdom was a well-established empire by the late 18th century. In the early 19th century, the kingdom was divided by a civil war that lasted until 1885. A new king was installed in that year, and shortly thereafter, he signed a mineral concession and protectorate treaty with the British South Africa Company. The Lozi enjoyed autonomy under British rule, but at the cost of losing their resources and much of the power of the king. In 1961, the Lozi sent representatives to Britain to petition for the independence of Barotseland. The petition was denied. On the eve of Zambian independence, the Lozi signed an agreement which made Barotseland part of Zambia. However, all of the traditional privileges of the kingdom were to be maintained. Legislation in 1969 rescinded this agreement and Barotseland became nothing more than another province (AUTONEND = 1969).

The Lozi do not suffer cultural or obvious political discrimination (POLDIS03 = 0); however, the Bemba ethnic group has traditionally been preferred in tribal politics and appointments, as all presidents until the 2008 election of Rupiah Banda were affiliated with the Bemba-speaking cluster of ethnic groups. The Lozi want to regain their lost autonomy in order to control resources in Barotseland, especially since the recent discovery of diamonds in the area (POLGR06 = 3). Western Province is underdeveloped, but this appears to be due to historical neglect and not to current discrimination (ECDIS06 = 2). Lozi do complain that Barotseland has been neglected and needs greater investment for economic development (ECGR06 = 2).

Although the Lozi are concentrated territorially (GROUPCON = 3) and share a strong group identity, they are not in a strong position to advocate for their interests. There has been intragroup conflict in the past, and there is not strong support for Lozi organizations. In May 2000, there was a coup attempt against the Lozi chief by those who claimed other clans should be given the opportunity to rule. More importantly, although several Lozi political organizations exist (GOJPA03 = 2), there is not broad support for any of them. In local government elections, Agenda for Zambia (a pro-secession Lozi group) managed fewer than 20 seats. Of note, it does not fully control a single council in the province. The Agenda for Zambia, with support from the Barotse Patriotic Front and the Barotse Cultural Association, also failed to win any seats in the Western Province in the 1999 national elections. Many Lozi do not support secession because of a feeling of nationalism and the impression that Lozi leaders who support it are simply out for their own good.

The Lozi were relatively quiet until the late 1980s when they began agitating for autonomy for their region (PROT88-92 = 1). Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's founding president, had been able to placate the Lozi by including their traditional ruler in the Central Committee of his United National Independence Party (UNIP) party. However, when other political movements began agitating for a multi-party system, the Lozi took this opportunity to once again bring up their wish for autonomy. In the first multi-party elections in 1991, the Lozi voted overwhelmingly for the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), the main opposition party, in the hopes that it would grant them autonomy. MMD won, and Frederick Chiluba was elected president. MMD, under Chiluba and then Levy Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda, has won successive elections since 1991. However, MMD has been just as unresponsive to Lozi claims as UNIP was. However, Lozi are represented in both the legislative and executive branches of government and also are influential in the governing structures of Western Province (LEGISREP04-06 = 1; EXECREP04-06 = 1)

Throughout the 1990s, the Lozi became more vocal in agitating for autonomy (PROT93-98 = 2). Little violence has taken place (REB94 = 3; REB95 = 1; REB96-06 = 0), although the Lozi leaders have threatened it on occasion. In 1994, Lozi leaders ordered their lawyers to seek legal arbitration for settlement of the issue, possibly through the International Court of Justice. There was no protest in 1999 through 2003 (PROT99-03 = 0) and only verbal protest in 2004 (PROT-4 = 1). There has not been any conflict with other groups in recent years (INTERCON99-06 = 0).



Englebert, Pierre. 11/2004. "Should I Stay or Should I Go? Compliance and Defiance to National Integration in Barotseland and Casamance.", accessed 7/14/2008.

Flint, Lawrence S. 2003. "State-Building in Central Southern Africa: Citizenship and Subjectivity in Barotseland and Caprivi." The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 36:2. 393-428.

Kaplan, Irving. 1979. Zambia: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: American University.

Lexis-Nexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

Sumbwa, Syambe. 2000. "Traditionalism, Democracy and Political Participation: The Case of Western Province, Zambia." African Study Monographs. 21:3. 105-146., accessed 11/14/2007.

Taylor, Scott D. 2006. Culture and Custom of Zambia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Zambia. 1999-2006.

Zambian Statistical Office. 2001. "Language and Ethnicity." Zambia Census Report, 10., accessed 9/7/2007.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006