Tension in Zambia’s Western Province

Over the past couple of weeks, Zambia has experienced rioting by a separatist movement in its Western Province.

Zambia is a relatively quiet country in the Southern African Development Community. This semester, I am working with a team of graduate students on a project that maps Zambia’s labor regulations and productivity. Most of us have experiences working on research related to sub-Saharan Africa, yet we had little combined background knowledge of Zambia at the outset. This is largely the result of little media and research attention on the small land-locked country in recent decades.

From 14-16 January, the Western Province, which is also the poorest in the country, experienced ethnically motivated riots which left two youths dead. The Black Bulls’ (Lozi ethnic group) campaign for regional autonomy has led to discrimination against minority ethnic groups in the province, which have been dubbed “non-inhabitants”.

On 25 January, the Ministry of Finance announced that 586.5 billion kwacha (…dollars) have been allocated to “capital projects, infrastructure rehabilitation, and maintenance and development” in the Western Province. Whether this increase from 45.5 billion kwacha in 2010 is related to the secessionist movement is unclear.

So far, 23 people have been charged with treason for their role in inciting the riots.


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