The first part of the Lozi story is given on a page: Kingdoms of Zambia. Click on the link below to read:
It was during the reign of Lewanika that the land now known as Liuwa Plain was set aside for conservation with the people protecting the wildlife as a hunting ground for the king.
Over the years the Luyi/Lozi people, under the direction of their king, developed a system of canals through the floodplain so that boats could navigate easily. The earth removed was used to build mounds in the floodplain for homes and burial sites. These canals and ‘islands’ are still seen today.
The photograph is of the Litunga in the early days. It is courtesy of the Livingstone Museum.
Lewanika saw many changes to his land during his reign. The Europeans started to arrive firstly with missionaries and then by representatives of the British seeking treaties to mine. The most famous missionary to visit, and stay, in Barotseland was Francois Coillard from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society who arrived in 1886. Francois Coillard was married to a Scottish woman, Christina Mackintosh. Francois Coillard had learned the Sotho language when based in the Cape Colony. With the Kololo (Sotho) language now spoken by the Lozi it made communication easy. It is also thought that the Lozi attire – the musisi, worn by women, and the siziba, worn by men, may have originated from the Scottish kilt.
This time was during the Scramble for Africa by European powers, when Germans, British, Belgium and Portuguese were all vying to control the inland areas of Africa. Lewanika was urged by Khama, a king in now-Botswana, to allow the British to give protection as they had done for him.
In 1899 Lewanika’s kingdom came under the formal control of the British but because he was so respected, he kept much of his authority. He came to England for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 and was presented with an admiral’s uniform which he loved and would wear on ceremonial occasions. Successive kings continue to wear a similar uniform.
During the administration of the British all laws were instigated with consultation with the king and his advisors. There was rarely dispute and Barotseland developed steadily and peacefully with regard to the needs of the British and the wishes of the people.
At Independence there was not such harmony as the new Zambian government were wary of the power of the Lozi people. It came to be that both sides decided that it was best that the Lozi people were left to get on with their own affairs as they had always done and yet still be part of Zambia. In the short term this kept peace between all the people of Zambia but in the long run it meant that the west of Zambia saw little development compared to other areas.
It has only been in the past decade or so that much-needed development has come to the west. Infrastructure has been built including one of the most expensive pieces of road in the world across the Barotse floodplain between Mongu and the opposite bank of the river – a distance of 34 km requiring 26 bridges.
There are still rumblings of discontent among the Lozi people, a result of their history, but it is hoped that through dialogue, and over time, differences will be resolved.