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Africa

Discontent in Zambia's forgotten province

Feeling of being ignored by federal government among residents of Western Province fuelling separatist sentiment.
Last modified: 29 Nov 2013 22:48

Tell anyone in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, you're going to Mongu, capital of the Western Province, and they'll tell you a variation of "it's a very long way".

Indeed it is - about seven hours by car - but that doesn't explain the lack of development there.

The main street through town is barely paved: it's rundown and in need of investment. It's plain for anyone to see.

Residents have seen other parts of Zambia progress and feel their hometown just hasn't kept up.

The feeling they've been neglected, looked down upon, even ignored by central government is fuelling separatist sentiment.

There's genuine anger at current president Michael Sata because, while he was campaigning for office, he promised to find a resolution, but as president he's failed to.

Within Barotseland, now known as Western Province, the majority of people want independence but the rising tide of discontent stops at its borders.

While they have several outspoken supporters in the capital, on the whole, their bid for separation has no traction across the rest of the country. So what chance do they have?

I'd have to say I think it's only a remote possibility.

The government says it can't relinquish control of the province because if it did others might follow suit. So the only way it might be possible is through force, which they have said they'd be prepared to use.

But that would require real fury on the streets, mass anti-government protests, resources, lots of weapons and people willing to use them.

With their leaders free, the separatists will undoubtably feel emboldened. But they will be watched very closely, for anything perceived to be "wrongdoing" is almost guaranteed to land them behind bars again.

Yet I can't help but feel that they have some momentum now, that despite all the odds, regardless of their chances of success, these are people who would rather try and fail then never try at all.