Zambia's President Michael Sata on Friday told the military to “deal” with a separatist movement in the nation's Western Province.

“Go and deal with this clique of people that is recruiting former soldiers and wildlife officers into their army,” Sata told a group of graduating army officers in the capital Lusaka.

Sata said a group of mainly ethnic Lozi had recruited around 630 fighters into its ranks, after declaring plans to create a state called Barotseland in March.

The poor west of the country has long been racked by political tumult.

In January last year, police broke up a secessionist meeting, igniting riots that left two people dead in the town of Mongu.

That incident rekindled the secessionist fire, which had been dampened since the 1990s.

Under an agreement signed with independent Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda, the region was supposed to have limited self-rule, but the Lozi say that agreement was never respected. - Sapa-AFP