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28 October 2022
[Simalaha Community Conservancy / Sisheke Chiefdom, Mwandi, Zambia; 21 July 2023]: It is with great sadness and a sense of loss that Peace Parks Foundation is announcing the passing of His Royal Highness Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta, the traditional ruler of the Sisheke Chiefdom in the Western Province of Zambia, on 19 July 2023. He passed away after a short illness. He was a remarkable leader, visionary and ambassador for conservation, and a source of great authority in the work of Peace Parks. His presence and guidance will be greatly missed by the Foundation and the many communities he strived to serve, support and uplift.
As the second-born son of the late Litunga of the Lozi King, His Majesty Ilute Yeta IV, His Royal Highness Inyambo Yeta brought forth remarkable leadership, having studied law at the Universities of Swaziland and Edinburgh. His ascent to the throne of the Barotse Royal Establishment in 1977 made him the youngest Senior Chief in the history of Barotseland. He also served as Vice President of the ruling party – the United National Independence Party headed by Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the first Republican President of Zambia – and as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs.
Senior Chief Yeta’s collaboration with Peace Parks Foundation spanned many years, including his appointment to the Board of Directors in 2011. He played a pivotal role as a guardian of national culture, nature, and identity, introducing meaningful reforms and advocating for the empowerment of women and youth. His visionary stance on sustainable development and conservation, exemplified by his declaration of war against poverty and environmental degradation, inspired positive change.
I have done a very un-Zambian thing by declaring war. A war on poverty. A war on environmental degradation. And a war on exploitation and unsustainable land-use practices. In the name of development and growth, we lost our forests and their associated timber resources. The teak forests were devastated with little or no benefit to my region or its people.Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta, speaking at a Peace Parks function in 2009.
Senior Chief Yeta also played an instrumental role in developing an integrated development plan for the Zambian component of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) and a climate change project focused on forest and fire management. Under his guidance, the establishment of the Simalaha Community Conservancy in 2012 became a testament to community ownership, regenerative resource sharing and local enterprise, setting a remarkable precedent for sustainable wildlife economies.
The establishment of the KAZA TFCA, spanning the borders of five countries and sharing the rich natural resources of the Okavango and Zambezi River basins, has however brought hope to the Sisheke Chiefdom and the Barotse people, located in Zambia’s poorest and least developed area.Senior Chief Yeta
Peace Parks has been supporting Simalaha since its inception, under the invaluable guidance of Senior Chief Yeta. A precedent-setting agreement was reached to contribute communal customary land to develop as a wildlife conservancy, with the conditions of local income generation through the development of a wildlife economy and, in the long-run, exciting tourism prospects.
To the west of Simalaha, Senior Chief Yeta was instrumental in supporting the rehabilitation of Sioma Ngwezi National Park, engaging Peace Parks Foundation to ensure ecosystem restoration, the introduction of a wildlife restocking programme and new, integrated tourism offerings to create opportunities for wealth creation for local communities.
Speaking to the lasting duty of care towards conservation within Zambia, the greater transboundary region and beyond, he said:
My legacy for my people of Barotseland, my legacy for Africa, is that I want to see indigenous people empowered – to be empowered economically so that they can be proud of themselves.
The loss of Senior Chief Yeta is deeply felt by Peace Parks Foundation, but his legacy will continue to inspire and guide our work in conservation and community development. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends, the entire chiefdom and indeed to the people of Zambia during this difficult time.
It is with deep sorrow that Peace Parks Foundation mourns the loss of His Royal Highness Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta, a visionary leader and advocate for conservation. Chief Yeta’s passing leaves a tremendous void in our hearts and within the communities he dedicated himself to serving. His wise counsel and unwavering commitment to conservation and community empowerment were truly exceptional. We are profoundly grateful for his invaluable contributions and will strive to carry forward his impactful legacy.Mr. Johann Rupert, Chairman of Peace Parks Foundation