The standoff between government and Bemba chiefs in Northern Province has heightened and the latest development is that the traditional rulers have declared not to recognise Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party because he had been fanning confusion in the Bemba land.
The agitated traditionalists met On Monday in Kasama district where they overwhelmingly declared Nkandu Luo as a persona non grata. The traditional rulers have also dared the government to continue the freezing of its allowances to the acting paramount Chief and Senior Chief Mwamba.
The standoff between the Bemba chiefs and the government started when President Michael Sata last week de-gazetted Senior Chief Mwamba of Kasama alleging that the traditional ruler was not installed correctly.
But the Bemba Traditional Council, which consists of over 20 Chiefs, met in Kasama on Monday morning and rubbished Sata’s decision to stop recognising Senior Chief Mwamba.
“Today, the Bemba Royal Establishment has officially announced that Henry Sosala and Maxwell Mcheleka will continued in their capacities because they were duly appointed chiefs Mwamba and Chief Nkula of the Bemba people of Kasama district and Chinsali respectively in Lubemba, said Kabilo Masemba, the spokesperson for the Bemba Traditional Council.
The Bemba Traditional Council otherwise known as bashi Lubemba in the Bemba dialect declared Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo as an enemy of the people of Kasama and they demanded to meet Sata to dialogue over the matter.
“We are stakeholders in this case and it is so shocking to only hear about one of us being de-gazetted by the President through the press and we have not even been given any substantive reason for de-gazetting Senior Chief Mwamba,” Kabilo Masemba said.
He said many parts of the succession procedure in the Bemba land where a preserve of the Bemba Traditional Council and they felt insulted for de-gazetting a chief before the traditional leaders could be consulted.
Masemba warned Nkandu Luo not to step foot in the Bemba land because she was fanning trouble among the Bemba people and their traditional leaders.
“Senior Chief Mwamba was installed by bashi Lubemba, the late Paramount Chief Chitimukulu Mwango Chilufya and all the steps were taken. So we are aware that it is Nkandu Luo who is bringing all this confusion. Nkandu Luo is our enemy as she has been fighting the Bemba Traditional Council. She should keep away from this place because her presence here in Kasama will be deemed as Government interference in our traditional affairs,” he said.
Masemba said Nkandu Luo had no jurisdiction to involve herself in succession process of the Bemba people because some rites in the succession system were secret and sacred and not for public consumption.
“The public had no power to question the decisions made by the bashi Lubemba because the Lubemba is the final authority in matters of governance and our succession. It is only the traditional courts, which we call Ichenje and Ilamfya that are authorised to appoint chiefs and the outcome of the two traditional courts are,” he said.
Masemba said Sata had interfered and was trying to usurp the powers of the traditional establishment, but he advised the President to make an urgent trip to Kasama so that he could be educated about the Bemba succession system.
He said Sata had not travelled to Kasama to mourn the late paramount Chief Chitimukulu, a move that was expected from the Head of State as a show of respect, recognition and courtesy. Masemba said the government had stopped releasing government allowances to the acting paramount Chief Chitimukulu.
Masemba dared the government to keep its money allowances from Senior Chief Mwamba and the acting paramount chief because the Bemba Traditional Council would fund the two establishments.
“Even if the Government decides to withdraw grants to the chiefs in the Bemba land, their subjects will look after them,” he said.
Many observers are noted the absurdity of the standoff between Sata and Senor Chief Mwamba because the traditional ruler openly supported Sata before the 2011 elections.