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Kazembe Kingdom

17101740Kazembe I N'ganda Bilonda
17401760Kazembe II Kanyembo I Mpemba
17601805Kazembe III ILunga Lukwesa
18051850Kazembe IV Kanyembo II Keleka Mayi
18501854Kazembe V Kapumba Mwonga I Mfwama
18541862Kazembe VI Cinyanta I Munona I
1862 Luukwesa Mpanga Mabote
18621870Kazembe VII Mwonga II Nsemba
18701872Kazembe VIII Cinkonkole Kafuti I
18721883Kazembe IXLukwesa I Mpanga Mabote
18831885 Kazembe X Kanyembo III Ntemena
18851886 Kazembe IX Lukwesa I Mpanga
18861904 Kazembe X Kanyembo III Ntemena
19041919 Kazembe XI Mwonga III Kapakata
19191936 Kazembe XII Cinyanta II Kasasa
19361941 Kazembe XIII Kanyembo IV Chibu "Chinkonkole"
19411950 Kazembe XIV Shadreck Cinyanta III Nankula
19501957 Kazembe XV Brown N'gombe Chofwe
19571961 Kazembe XVI Kanyembo V Kapema
196119 Mar 1983 Kazembe XVII Paul Kanyembo VI Lutaba
1983Jun 1998Kazembe XVIII Munona II Cinyanta
1998 Kazembe XIX Paul Mpemba Kanyembo

Kazembe, also spelled Cazembe, was the largest and most highly organized of the Lunda kingdoms (aka Luba-Lunda states) in central Africa. The “Kazembe” (a word supposed to mean Viceroy) was originally in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a satrap and a scion of the Lunda Empire of the Mwata Yanvo. In the mid-eighteenth century, a Lunda royal, "Mwata Kazembe," established a centralized state in the fertile lower Luapula Valley. Found at the crossroads of long-distance trade routes that stretched from the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans, the kingdom was of interest to Portuguese traders who wanted to join their East and West African colonies and to Swahili traders in search of ivory and slaves.

Kazembe, it will be noticed, is a very common title for a chief in East-Central Africa. It really means general, satrap, or lieutenant, and in moat cases originated as a rank held under a supreme monarch by some minor chieftain, who in time becomes independent and retains the title of Kazembe, much as the Bey of Tunis, though practically an independent sovereign, continued to be known by the title of a Turkish officer. The Kazembe of Lake Moero was originally a lieutenant of the great Lunda empire under Mwato-yanvo. He later shrank to the position of an independent but almost powerless chief, alternately swayed by Arabs and Ba-bemba.

The Lunda territory south of Lake Moero, not to be confounded with the Lunda empire of the Muata Yamvo in the Kassai basin, constituted about the middle of the 18th century a powerful kingdom ruled over by the Muata Kazembe, that is, "Imperial Lord," heir of the ancient Morupwe kings, who were regarded in the sixteenth century as the most powerful potentates in South Africa. But when visited in 1831 by Montciro and Gamitto he had already lost all control over his eastern neighbors, the Wa-Bemba, and at the time of Livingstone's visit in 1867 several other provinces had become detached from his empire.

Eventually, he became a mere vassal of his old Ba-Eemba subjects, retaining, however, the complicated ceremonial of the old court, with its ministers, chamberlains, and bodyguards. Before his tent is mounted a gun draped in red, a great fetish, to which all wayfarers have to pay tribute. Heads stuck on stakes round the royal enclosure, and numerous mutilated wretches in attendance on the sovereign, serve to warn his subjects of his terrible presence.

When visited by Lacerda in 1798, the Kazembe's capital, which formerly changed with every reign, was situated north of the Mofwe, a southern continuation of Lake Moero. A century later the Kazembe, as it is called from the king's title, was south of the same basin, near an island inhabited by the Mossiras, unmixed descendants of the aborigines conquered by the ancestors of the Kazembe. Lacerda, one of the first martyrs of science in Central Africa, died in 1798 at Nshiuda (Lucenda) near Kazembe.

The great chief of the Kazembe, was the one who enjoyed the greatest power throughout the area. He proclaimed his laws in the land. Without being recognized as suzerain he was listened to by the Basanga, the Balunda, and the Bakundu, but only received gifts from them without ever exacting tribute. All the small chiefs of each of these families used to send by way of tribute the whole of their ivory to the chief of the tribe.

After being firmly established at Mulumbu, Msidi thought of replacing by his relatives the Basanga chiefs who occupied with all their subjects the country of the rich copper mines. To attain his object he went step by step. Various expeditions were organized, and Msidi, always victorious, placed at the head of all the villages (and as guardians of all the mines of the country of the Basanga) people who were devoted to his interest. Kazembe wanted to interfere, but Msidi organizing a new expedition turned eastwards. He first routed the Balomotwa, crushed the Bakundu (or Bachila), and then crossing the Luapula penetrated to the capital of Kazembe whom he seized. He put him to death, and established in his place his victim’s son, who bore the same name as his father and recognized Msidi as overlord. This expedition finally established his power over the Balunda of the east and the Bachila.

Kazembe's was one of the oldest known "dynasties" in the southern half of Central Africa. Dr. Livingstone, when at Kazembe's, traced back a number of generations of "Kazembes," each succeeding chief being called by the same name. A Kazembe was in full swing at the time of Lacerda's journey in 1797 (see Burton's Land of the Cazembes, p. 4); and when there in 1890, 1892, and 1899 Mr. Sharpe saw abandoned sites of several old towns of the Kazembe's. Kazembe, the present chief, told Sharpe that his ancestors came from Mwata Vamvo on the Kasai. Many of the customs at Kazembe's were more similar to those of the west of Africa than to those of the eastern half of the continent.

All succeeding chiefs became Kazembe on succession. The tribe still continued to occupy the country, which by the joint efforts of the others had been secured for them, and according to all accounts seemed to have been able to hold their own against all comers. They were, however, settled within the territory administered by this Government, and were causing a great deal of trouble with the authorities by slave-raiding and harbouring Arab slave-dealers (who made it their business to sow dissension among the natives wherever they went). They were also guilty of a great deal of murder, and still imposed tribute on the weaker tribes.

All this had to cease, and the Kazembe was notified by the nearest official to that effect. These notices had been sent to him year after year, but they did not have the slightest effect, so it was decided to punish him. A body of the B.C.A. Protectorate Regiment were called in, and these, together with the B.S.A. Native Police, set out for the village of the chief, but Kazembe, hearing of their approach, fled across the Luapula River into the Congo Free State, and took refuge there. This was a bloodless victory, but there can be no doubt that, had the Government not shown a strong hand, a good deal of bloodshed would have resulted.

Some time after, Kazembe asked permission to return to his own country, and was allowed to settle there, where he now is, a peaceable and law-abiding subject. In a later period, the kingdom's realms were divided between British and Belgian colonial administrations. The Kazembe came under British protection in 1892. By a Treaty made at Kazembe's, in Lunda, on 30 September 1890, between Alfred Sharpe, "for and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, her heirs and successors, on the one part, and the Undersigned, Kazembe, for his heirs and successors, on the other part.

"I. The Undersigned, Kazembe, do, in the presence of Headmen and people assembled at this place, hereby promise:—

"Art. I. That there shall be peace between the subjects of the Queen of England and my subjects.

"II. That British subjects shall have free access to all parts of my country, and shall have the right to build houses and possess property according to the laws in force in this country; that they shall have full liberty to carry on such trade or manufacture as may l>e approved by Her Majesty; and should any difference arise between the aforesaid British subjects and me, the said Kazembe, as to the duties or customs to lie paid to me, the said Kazembe, or the Headmen of the towns in my country, by such British subjects, or as to any other matter; that the dispute shall be referred to a duly authorized Representative of Her Majesty, whose decision in the matter shall be binding and final; and that I will not extend the rights thus guaranteed to British subjects to any other persons without the knowledge and consent of such Representative.

"III. That I, the said Kazembe, will at no time whatever cede any of my territory to any other Power, or enter into any Agreement, Treaty, or Arrangement with any foreign Government."

Mwata Kazembe became one of the more influential chiefs in colonial Zambia, ending with the death of the first "modernizing" Mwata Kazembe in 1950. All of this ensured a small but significant place for the kingdom in African history textbooks and a central role in the most renowned (but dated) synthesis of south-central African history, Jan Vansina's Kingdoms of the Savanna (Wisconsin, 1966). The oral tradition upon which modern understanding of the kingdom of Kazembe rested was written by a collection of elders and aristocrats under the direction of the "modernizing" king, Mwata Kazembe XIV, in the 1940s. It was further edited by a White Father missionary, Edouard Labreque, and finally published in Bemba as Ifikolwe Fyandi na Bantu Bandi (My Ancestors and My People).

The Mwata Kazembe has a palace in Mwansabombwe. Mwata Kazembe XVIII was appointed a District Commissioner in 1985

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Page last modified: 06-12-2016 14:29:24 ZULU