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Location of The Mbunda Speaking People in Democratic Republic of Congo




The history of Central Africa recognizes the major migration groups who trace their origin from Sudan1 and the Congo.2  Among these migrations are those of the Bantu Kingdoms of Southern Africa.

Around 1600 Most of southern and central Africa was sparsely populated. The Bantu ethnic groups were agricultural people. They kept herds of domestic cattle and goats. They knew how to plant and cultivate crops like millet, sorghum and cassava.

Central and southern Africa were far more sparsely populated. The people here were not mostly Bantu but the San or bushmen. They lived as hunter/gatherers. They roamed in small groups over large areas of land in order to hunt game and collect the fruits, nuts, grains and plants which they needed for food.

The agricultural skills of the Bantu allowed them to live in larger villages and their population grew. Inevitably as populations grew disputes would arise between different groups of people within the same ethnic group. If these disputes could not be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides then it was common that the disaffected group would decide to leave.

In the 1400’s a group of Bantu people left what is now Sudan during the Bantu migration. Among these were the Mbunda, one of the oldest and biggest ethnic grouping in Southern Africa.

Establishment of The Mbunda Kingdom In Kola (Now Congo DRC

The Mbunda Kingdom dates back from well before the Mwantiyavwa Dynasty was established in Kola.3  The Mbunda trace their origin from Sudan,4 trekking southwards through Kola where they came in contact with the Luba and Ruund Kingdoms.5 While in Kola, the Mbunda people's first Monarch was King (Mwene) Nkuungu. When King (Mwene) Nkuungu died his daughter Naama took over as the second Mbunda Monarch at the Palace of Namampongwe. During the reign of Queen (Vamwene) Naama, the following obligatory regulations for royalty were proclaimed:
First, that a king or chief should marry a grand-daughter of the royal line.
Second, that the reigning monarch and chiefs should come from the sisters of previous monarchs and chiefs.
Third, that when a reigning queen and chieftainesses went into seclusion during their menstrual periods, the Mukwetunga (husband of the queen) should avail himself of the royal regalia and act on her behalf.
Fourth that if the reigning queen and chieftainesses were unmarried, then one of the brothers of the reigning queen would take the insignia of royalty and act on her behalf.

Queen (Vamwene) Naama had four children; Nkonde (male), Chinguli (male), Yamvu (female) and Lukokesha Female).

It was also during her reign that the Mbunda fought off groups of hostile pygmies (tumonapi) who were described as very short people who did not grow any crops nor domesticate any animals, but who were expert trappers and hunters who shot wild game with poisoned arrows (mingamba ya vulembe). They were also very skilful collectors of seeds, leaves, berries, roots and the fruits of wild plants.

It was in the palace headquarters of Namampongwe that all important state rituals, ceremonies or festivals were held. As the centre and focal point of the burgeoning Mbunda ethnic group and state, Namampongwe had the state armory where, surplus weapons of war (vitwa vya ndthzita) were kept.

The Mbunda were talented iron (vutale) and copper (vunegu) workers and proficient hunters and soldiers. They were also remarkably skilled at the art of making pots and jars of baked clay. The Mbunda cultivated the tropical forest which was found in where they grew assorted crops. They also kept domestic stock.

Queen (Vamwene) Naama died at the capital of Namampongwe in Kola. After the death of Queen (Vamwene) Naama and after deliberations among the royal advisors it was resolved that another woman should take over from the late Queen (Vamwene) Naama. It was felt that a woman ought to succeed to the throne. This was in recognition of the ordeal women experience during the time of giving birth. It was further decreed that if a female monarch was crowned, she should not get married. If she did get married then she should surrender her royal bracelet to her immediate brother.

Queen (Vamwene) Yamvu was enthroned to succeed her mother, the late Queen (Vamwene) Naama, as the third sovereign of the emerging Mbunda ethnic group and state. Following the death of Queen (Vamwene) Naama, her son, (Prince) Munamwene Nkonde, married his two sisters, respectively called Queen (Vamwene) Yamvu and Princess (Vamunamwene) Lukokesha.

Queen (Vamwene) Yamvu bore the following offspring with her brother Nkonde:
1. Katongo (male)
2. Chiti (male)
3. Nkole (male)

Her sister Princess (Vamunamwene) Lukokesha also bore the following offspring with her brother Nkonde:
1. Chinguli (male)
2. Chimbangala (male)
3. Yambayamba (male)
4. Nkonde (male
5. Chombe (male)


Interaction With The Lunda and Luunda People

After some time the Mbunda shifted their base within the Kola area and settled in a place more favourable than their previous habitation, Namampongwe. They found Ruund (Luunda) people already settled in this area. Later on Queen (Vamwene) Yamvu married a Ruund (Luunda) hunter and her brother Prince (Munamwene) Nkonde was so incensed with her conduct that he left the area in frustration anger and coined a song as follows:

Ngungu elelo tambula kwendeye lelo,  

Woo, tambula kwendeye!
which means:
The insult forced them to depart.

According to the Mbunda custom of the time Queen (Vamwene) Yamvu should not have married. In the case where she did marry she should have surrendered the chieftainship to her brother Prince (Munamwene) Nkonde. Instead she surrendered the chieftainship to her Ruund (Luunda) husband. It is from this split that the Ruund (Luunda) chieftainship developed in the 15th century; the children of Prince (Munamwene) Nkonde with Queen (Vamwene) Yamvu descend to form the Ruund (Luunda) chieftainship of Mwantiyavwa.

In 1690 the Ruund (Luunda) ruler adopted the style Mwaant Yaav [Mwaanta Yaava]

From Prince (Munamwene) Nkonde and his children with Princess (Vamunamwene) Lukokesha we find the continuation of the central Mbunda chieftainship (Chiundi).

Mbunda Kingdom Re-Established At The Confluence Of Kwilu And Kasai Rivers, In The Now Congo DRC

Prince Nkonde led the majority of the disenchanted populace away from Namampongwe and later settled near the confluence of the Kwilu and Kasai rivers.7 Prince Nkonde was anxious to seek the guidance of his ancestral spirits concerning his leaving Kola in protest of Yamvu's violation of Mbunda custom. He went hunting and killed a roan antelope (meengo). The killing of such a magnificent beast signified that the ancestral spirits approved of his action and served as a censure of Yamvu's conduct.

It was during the reign of King (Mwene) Nkonde that the Mbunda resolved to migrate to new territories where they could search for fertile land and settle down to farm. A place where they could expand and consolidate the structures of their state and ethnic group.

The major factors which stimulated their migration were as follows: 

They found the tropical forests an extremely hard and difficult place in which to struggle for their survival.                                                                                          

There was the cutting down and stumping of the very tall trees, as well as the digging out of their numerous roots, which was a physically taxing exercise.                              

These hardships were further compounded by the botanical scenario of countless wild plants which germinated and grew so luxuriantly and quickly that it was a relentless and onerous task to maintain the fields and gardens of varied crops as required.       

Ruminants could not be domesticated, due to lack of grass for them to feed on, complicated by the presence of tse-tee fly which could be detrimental to their health.

The Mbunda also disliked the perpetual dewy atmospheric conditions (mbundu ya muchuvukila) which were accompanied by stifling, humidity and ceaseless rainfall (nyondthzi ya muchuvulila).                                                                             

They also disliked the rocky soils (livu lya mamanya) and the lack of sufficient wild game and fish (lisholo) of which they were so fond.                                                  

Finally, they feared the rampant epidemics of small pox (mushongo wa lyale), which had taken a great toll of life amongst them.

The Majority Mbunda People Migrate Further Southwards Out of The Now Congo DRC

The Mbunda language spoken by the Mbunda group that remained in the DR Congo, entirely separated from the rest of their people, is of course a special case. Due to passage of time and interaction with other languages, it has become quite different from the variants spoken in Angola, Zambia, and Namibia, and is today even considered as belonging to a different linguistic category.

Prior to their migration, scouts (tumenga) were sent forth to gather surveillance data and explore the geographical and other features of the territories beyond their areas of habitation. The scouting expedition, was lead by two Princes, namely, Prince (Munamwene) Chimbangala, and Prince (Munamwene) Chombe, who were both sons of King (Mwene) Nkonde respectively. Two other men of noble ranks, who comprised the expedition were, Mwata Chombe and Mwata Kapyangu.

The expedition explored a large area to the west and discovered an unknown river which they crossed and then went on to discover the valley of the Lwena river, a tributary of the Zambezi river whose source is in present day Angola. The scouts returned to the camp where the Mbunda were settled, near the confluence of the Kwilu and Kasai rivers. The expedition then tendered a favourable report to the king.

King (Mwene) Nkonde and his subjects built a shrine for offering to their ancestral spirits and authored the salutation as follows:

Mbunda ovoo!
Mbunda va thon'o
Yafuta na ninga
Yakatavu ka ndongo
Mbunda ya Naama ya Nkuungu
Vakulu voshe kamunungathane
Kwithu, kwithu
Muyilya muvinena
Mbunda oyoo.

This means:
Here is your meat and red-brown soil!
Delicious cooked meat is good
With pounded groundnuts added to it.
The soil and meat of Queen Naama and King Nkuungu.
May all the ancestral spirits unite and consolidate themselves.
Be blessed and further blessed.
You consume the meat and then return it.
Here is your meat and red-brown soil!

Prince Nkonde was enthroned as the fourth Mbunda monarch in a palace called Mapamba and, before his death, his son Prince Chinguli was enthroned as the fifth Monarch of the Mbunda.

King (Mwene) Nkonde, unable to travel due to old age sent his son Chinguli who had just taken over from him as the fifth Monarch to go south and search for better land for their settlement. This is the only time the Mbunda had two ruling Monarchs. King (Mwene) Chinguli was commissioned by his father to go out and seek new lands for the people. He led an expedition which travelled southwestwards (Mumbwela) in the direction of what is now called Namibia.

The First Migration Route Led By King Mwene Chinguli Cha Nkonde

Taking a more central route into the now Angola, the southwest of the confluence of Kwilu and Kasai river, King Mwene Chinguli traveled all the way south to the now Kwandu Kuvango fighting the Bushmen and replacing them in the new found lands with a trail of Mbunda descendants who later came to be called the Chimbandi, the Ngonjelo, the Humbi, the Lwimbi and the Nyemba. King (Mwene) Chinguli never returned to Kwilu/Kasai to report his new found settlement lands.

Chinguli's children were:
1. Mbaao (f)
2. Nkonde (m)
3. Luputa (m) 

After a long wait and before the death of King (Mwene) Nkonde the fourth Monarch, King (Mwene) Chinguli's daughter Mbaao was installed as the sixth Monarch to replace the father. Queen (Vamwene) Mbaao was left with the responsibility to migrate the Mbunda to better settlement lands from Kwilu/Kasai.

During Queen (Vamwene) Mbaao’s reign, the Mbunda embarked on their second migration expedition to the southeast of Kwilu and Kasai rivers.

Vamwene Mbaao bore the following children:
1. Kwandu (m)
2. Chondela (m)
3. Kaamba (f)
4. Mbayi (f)
5. Lilu (m)

After the death of Queen (Vamwene) Mbaao there arose a period of disquiet and tumult as a result of the contentious factions which were involved in the choosing of another sovereign ruler for the Mbunda state. One faction advocated the candidature of Prince (Munamwene) Luputa , who was one of Chinguli cha Nkonde's sons. The other faction championed Princess (Vamunamwene) Kaamba, who was one of Queen (Vamwene) Mbaao's daughters. In the royal lobbying that ensued, Princess (Vamunamwene) Kaamba became the choice of the Chifunkuto, which elected the Kings. The Princess was enthroned as Queen (Vamwene) Kaamba. She was the seventh Monarch to preside over the affairs of the Mbunda people.

Vamwene Kaamba bore children as follows:
1. Chingwanja (m)
2. Mulondola (m)
3. Ndongo (m)
4. Katheketheke (f)
5. Muyeji (f)


 1  "The Bantu in Ancient Egypt, citing sources: Alfred M M'Imanyara 'The Restatement of Bantu Origin and Meru History'

     published  by Longman Kenya, 1992 - Social Science - 170 pages, ISBN 9966-49-832-X"

 2  Almanac of African Peoples & Nations page 523, Social Science By Muhammad Zuhdī Yakan, Transaction Publishers,

    Putgers - The State University, New Jersey, ISBN: 1-5600-433-9

 3  Robert Papstein The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers

      Association, 1994, ISBN 99 820 3006X

 4  "The Bantu in Ancient Egypt, citing sources: Alfred M M'Imanyara 'The Restatement of Bantu Origin and Meru History'

     published  by Longman Kenya, 1992 - Social Science - 170 pages, ISBN 9966-49-832-X"

 5  Almanac of African Peoples & Nations page 523, Social Science By Muhammad Zuhdī Yakan, Transaction Publishers,  

    Putgers - The State University, New Jersey, ISBN: 1-5600-433-9

 6  Robert Papstein The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers

     Association, 1994, ISBN 99 820 3006X

 7   Almanac of African Peoples & Nations page 523, Social Science By Muhammad Zuhdī Yakan, Transaction Publishers,

      Putgers - The State University, New Jersey, ISBN: 1-5600-433-9



Further reading


Anatomy of Rebellion, By Claud Emerson Welch, Map on page 22, 36-40

Historical Dictionary of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - Google Books Result


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His Majesty King Mbandu IV,
Joćo Pedro Mussole
of The Mbunda People
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