Zambia: Lealui: Summer Capital of Barotseland

THIS year's Kuomboka ceremony was special in that it was taking place after last year's failed festivities due to very low water levels in the Zambezi flood plains.

And to grace this years occasion was Vice-President Lupando Mwape who led several ministers and diplomats to join in the funfare of this world renowned commemoration.

On the day of the actual fantastic voyage across the vast plains over 50,000 loyalists, local and foreign tourists and Zambians at large thronged the Limulunga harbor to catch a glimpse of the Lozi king, the Litunga emerge from the waters for the umpteenth time in the over 100 years the Kuomboka ceremony has been recorded.

Here in this first part are some extracts of the historic perspectives of the ceremony as compiled by the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE).

The Malozi people have great love and respect for the Litunga .Their first loyalty is to the Litunga. He is the symbol of their unity and identity, the one who owns all the land, cattle and natural resources : Minya mupu na ngombe.

He is the one whom the needy may appeal for assistance. Since time immemorial the Litunga has been the final arbiter and fountain of peace and justice Mwele no sikeka.

Lealui, is the summer capital of Barotseland, it is located on the Barotse flood capital and 13 kilometers south west of Limulunga, the winter capital and 13 kilometers west of Mongu.

It was first settled by King Sipopa in 1864. Lealui was also re-organised by the King Lubosi Lewanika in 1878 as a cultural, traditional and administrative capital of Barotseland. Subsequent Barotse kings maintained Lealui as their capital. However, the prestige of Lealui assumed greater significance during the long reign of King Lubosi Lewanika who ruled from 1878 to 1916. His task was to rebuild the Barotse nation following the upheavals and turbulence caused by the Makololo invasion.

Litunga Lubosi Lewanika consolidated Malozi rule and traditions. Lealui became a cultural center of the kingdom.

Accession to important traditional positions has to be performed at Lealui. The enthronement of the Litunga, installation of the Ngambela, the Natamoyo, princess Ngula (Makoshi ) district chiefs, other senior Indunas and their attendants can be done only at Lealui .This is so because traditional regalia and shrines necessary for senior cultural installations are provided for only at Lealui.

The Aluyi, now the Malozi people settled on the Great Barotse flood plain at the beginning of the 16 th century. The plain was a trough stretching about 200 kilometers north to south and 50 kilometers wide at its widest point. It was grassland interspersed with clusters of bush and trees on two mounds. Some indigenous trees were predominantly palm trees and acacia. Today, however, most trees found on inhabited mounds are exotic mango and gum trees, the original vegetation having been cleared for settlement and agriculture. A network of rivers, lagoons and lakes intersect the Barotse flood plain.

The coming of Europeans during the latter part of the 19 th century enhanced the status of Lealui as a seat of government. Landmark decisions, which were to shape the destiny of Barotseland were made in Lealui .

Lealui played host to pioneer missionaries like Francois Coillard who brought a new Christian religion to the Malozi people. This matter had to be discussed critically and decided upon at Lealui. Coillard, a Hogue not Minister of great moral courage and evangelical fervor opened a school at Lwatile adjacent to the Kuta . The decision to welcome the gospel shaped the religious destiny of the country and ultimately peace and security.

Lealui was also a commercial center where national concessions and treaties were negotiated and signed . Some of these agreements with international corporate and European nations were, The Ware concession in 1889, The Lochner concession in 1890 and Lawley Treaty in 1899 which declared the land ruled by King Lubosi Lewanika as North Western Rhodesia . Later, Barotseland became a British Protectorate.

The Arabs from the North-east and Mambari from Angola traded in Barotseland. They brought in guns and gunpowder in exchange for ivory .The Mambari made their post at a small brook called Kasa ka Mambali a few kilometers north of Lealui.

Lealui as headquarters of the Barotse Native government then played a pivotal role in the administration and governance of Barotseland during colonial rule. In this regard, the judicial process which brought about rules and ordinances Misha of Barotseland were developed at Lealui.

It was at Lealui that the important Barotseland agreement of 1964 was discussed. This agreement allowed Zambia to attain its independence as a unitary state in which Barotseland was an integral part.

Development policies such as the programme of canal construction, conservation of forests and marking of forest reserves and wildlife management were formulated at Lealui. King Lubosi Lewanika declared Liuwa plains a game sanctuary, The Barotse Royal establishment then formulated rules and regulations to effectively manage Liuwa game park. Silao indunas were appointed to shepherd several species of game into what is now called Barotse Royal Establishment they also prohibited poaching.

In 1964, the management of Liuwa game park was taken over by government authorities. Some of the Barotse game guards were absorbed by the Wildlife Service of Zambia. However, due to neglect and poor management, Liuwa game park seriously depreciated in terms of numbers of game.

In view of the aforesaid, the Barotse Royal Establishment together with Zambia wildlife Authority (Zawa), went into partnership with the African Parks (AP) Zambia Limited in order to enhance the conservation of wildlife and management of the park to acceptable international standards. The positive result of that bold decision by the Barotse Royal Establishment is that the number of game in the park is increasing at a fast rate and the park has become a tourist attraction.

The significance of Lealui as a heritage site lies in the history and architecture of the Royal buildings within the enclosing courtyard known as lyangamba; The Kwandu (The Litunga's official residence) is an imposing structure which was built from 1896 to 1902, It was constructed with local materials from all over Barotse kingdom. It is a piece of ingenious engineering. Another great structure is the Kamona. It is the extant building on site. The Kamona furniture is preserved and forms part of the relics and rituals in the process of installing a new Litunga .

The new Litunga temporarily resides in the Kamona immediately after coronation. The manner of furnishing in the Kamona is very unique, it depicts the ancient life style of our ancestors. It is preserved as symbol of continuity of the Malozi dynasty. It is a reminder of our origins and our roots upon which our present is founded.

There are several other buildings which accommodate the Litunga's family and close staff. The most important of them is the Nanda. The Nanda is the queen's residence found in Lyangamba but partitioned from the Litunga's residence by a fence. Supporting the Royal buildings is a set of auxiliary buildings serving many purposes , some as residences for senior members of the Royal family, others as storage houses for various items such as food stuffs, Royal emblems like drums, culinary items and hardware materials related to Kuomboka paddles, head gears and all general regalia.

Leauli as a famous heritage site has been in a state of decline fro many years now. The decline of this site is due to natural ageing and deprecation of ephemeral organic building materials and the active work of termites over a long period. This state of affairs is indeed a challenge to every Mulozi. It is also a challenge to the dignity of our cultural pride.

To the Malozi people, Lealui commands a special place in the kingdom. It invokes positive sentiments and has been the subject of praise song and lyric one such lyric command heard is Lealui Mundi wa Alume meaning Lealui the village of brave men in memory of the gallant warriors and the battles they won which built the Great Barotse Nation of that time.

Up to the mid 1960's Lealui was a beautiful densely built city inhibited by hundreds of people. Since then, however, for a number of factors, many people have left the Royal village to the hinterland on the edge of the Barotse flood plain. Now Lealui is in dilapidated state ad sparsely populated.

In response to this sad development, his Royal Highness the Litunga Lubosi Imwiko has formulated progressive plans for the restoration of the Lealui heritage site . The restoration of Lealui will involve rehabilitation of the Royal building and water reticulation among others.

It is necessary therefore for all well-wishers to support this noble cause to make these progressive plans formulated by the Litunga a reality by providing the needed material and other related support.

Already, the outer court yard (Lyangaba around the palace building has almost been completed in brick structure. The rehabilitation of Kamona is completed. In this regard, special tribute goes to the National Heritage Conservation Commission, the American embassy, African Parks (AP) Zambia limited, the Government for providing material and financial resources and Silalo indunas and their subjects for providing poles, barks planks and grass.

The Barotse Royal establishment this year embarks on the rehabilitation of the Nanda. The Barotse Royal Establishment welcomes more donations from well-wishers who would like to play a part in this noble cause.

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