Zambia Reports (Lusaka)

18 May 2013

Zambia: Tensions Continue With Bemba Chiefs

President Michael Sata's move to reconcile with the Bemba traditional Council, one of Zambia's largest ethnic groupings, by sending Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba as an emissary hit a snag after the Bemba Chiefs demanded for his presence, and not anyone else, in Kasama.

President Sata had sent Mwamba, the Kasama central Member of Parliament, to help ease the standoff between government and the traditional rulers, but the Bembas refused.

The standoff between the Bemba Chiefs and the government began when President Sata dethroned Senior Chief Mwamba of Kasama, alleging that Henry Sosala was not properly installed. This infuriated other Bemba Chiefs who had declared to ignore the president's directive, but Sata invoked executive powers to bulldoze the traditionalists and remove the chief.

Last week, there were heated meetings in Kasama where the Bemba Traditional Council declared Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo as a persona non grata of Kasama because she was fueling the confusion in the Bemba land.

And chairperson of the Bemba Traditional Council Chief Chimba said in that the Bemba establishment was maintaining its earlier resolutions where they resolved to ignore Sata's decisions on Bemba chiefs.

"This is our stance, but we are very willing to meet the president and solve this matter amicably and once and for all. We hope his emissary well brief him very well," he said.

During the closed door meeting with Mwamba, the Bemba Chiefs categorically refused to accept Luo, who had also traveled, from being part of the gathering and she remained outside the venue.

According to a source from the Bemba Traditional Council, the Defence Minister was sent by Sata to go and apologise to the chiefs over his irrational decision to de-gazette a dully installed chief. The source said Sata was pleading for forgiveness because he considered Kasama to be his political strong hold and that the Bembas were his clansmen who supported him heavily in the previous elections.

"The Minister was full of apologies from the president. However, the chiefs want Sata himself to travel to Kasama and speak for himself because we want to help him change and become a better president, instead of what is happening now. He is embarrassing the Bemba tribe. Zambia is for all Zambians and we want him to have respect for everyone," the source sad.

The source said Mwamba brought an assurance Michael Sata that he would a way of resolving the chieftaincy wrangles being orchestrated by the state in the Bemba land.

"This was an important meeting but the bigger one will come later when Sata comes as he has promised through GBM. The most contentious matter that we discuss was the de-gazetting of Henry Sosala as senior Chief Mwamba and installation of Senior Chief Nkula of Chinsali district," the source said.

But when contacted, Mwamba refused to disclose the details of the meeting with the Bemba Chiefs. He said he was only an emissary and he would not delve into what was discussed.

"That meeting was very successful. We discussed the way forward and also looked at many subjects including the chieftainship of senior Chief Mwamba, which will be addressed and resolved by President Michael Sata at an appropriate time," he said.

The meeting between Mwamba and the Bemba Chiefs was held in Malole, a place closer to paramount Chief Chitimukulu's palace in Mungwi.

Mr Mwamba traveled to Kasama on a Zambia Air Force plane and was met at Kasama airport by Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo, who was ostracized from the closed door meeting.

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