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King Mwene Mbandu I, Lyondthzi Kapova



Mbunda Kingdom In Mbundaland Before Portuguese Occupation and Mbunda/Portuguese War "The Kolongongo War"



King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova was the 21st monarch of Mbundaland in the southeast of present-day Angola before the Portuguese colonization of the Mbunda territory at the beginning of the 20th Century. He became a key monarch resisting against Portuguese occupation of Moxico, which resulted in large-scale abductions by the Portuguese of many of those resisting their occupation.[1a] He took over the reigns of the Mbunda Kingdom from his nephew King Mwene Katavola II Musangu.[2]

Early life

Prince (Munamwene) Mbandu Lyondthzi Kapova was the son of Vamwene Vukolo Ngimbu Kanchungwa, one of the daughters of the famous Vamwene Ngambo Lyambayi. The prince played a significant role in the war against the Chokwe together with another Prince known as Munamwene Limbuti. Munamwene Mbandu Kapova and Munamwene Limbuti had marshaled the Mbunda forces and personally led them in destroying and wreaking vengeance against the fortified stockades of the Chokwe chiefs and their subjects. This was after the Mbunda discovered that their 20th Monarch Mwene Katavola II Musangu did not arrive at the palace in Kovongo within a few days after the Mbunda-Chokwe battle, having been ambushed and killed by the Chokwe guards who then ran away, all the way back to their original homeland in the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo.

King Mwene Katavola II Musangu's uncle, the tough Prince Munamwene Mbandu Lyondthzi Kapova, in return for five cattle and thirty slaves, promised a systematic war of vengeance against the Chokwe for his nephew's death. The stockade of the Chokwe Mwa Ndumba in the Kwitu River valley, Mwa Kanyika and Mwa Chinjenge in the Kwandu valley were all attacked. Most of the Chokwe encountered in those areas and in the locality of the Kovongo valley were killed and their bodies thrown in rivers, burnt or beheaded and impaled on stakes. The Chokwe chief Chinjenge surrendered to Munamwene Mbandu Lyondthzi Kapova. Mostly only the youthful and attractive Chokwe females were taken and spared as captives. It is as a result of these battles, as well as those unleashed by Munamwene Mbandu Lyondthzi Kapova on the Chokwe that the lasting relationship between the Mbunda and the Chokwe developed.



King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova took over the rulership of the Mbundaland from his nephew Mwene Katavola II Musangu. Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova also led the Mbunda in their armed confrontation with the Luvale who were anxious to break the military power and independence of the Mbunda state and wanted to capture slaves for sale. The two opposing military forces engaged each other in armed combat in the Lunjweva area and Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova shot and killed Masambo, the leader of the invading Luvale forces. With the elimination of Masambo, the invaders were put to rout and forced to beat a hasty and disorderly retreat back to their homeland.

In recognition of Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova's capability in quelling threats against the Mbunda he was affectionately given the sobriquet: Kathzima Mishambo which means the "extinguisher of flames.” The Mbunda nation remained unconquered and in a state of full military preparedness. So when the prideful Mbunda heard of the military adventures of the Lozi under Litunga Lubosi-Lewanika, they were ready for them, just in case they ventured into Mbundaland. The Lozi who were acquainted with the military capability and sagacity of the Mbunda, never undertook a military campaign against the Mbunda of Mwene Mbandu Lyondthzi Kapova "Kathzima-Mishambo-the extinguisher of flames".


First uprising against the Portuguese

The Mbunda Monarchs maintained trade links with the Portuguese merchants in the hinterland of the Bié Plateau and on the Atlantic coastline through their long time agents the Ovimbundu traders. This trade was later disrupted by the Portuguese war of occupation in 1914, which brought the country of the Mbunda within the borders of Angola in 1917. Trade connections also thrived with the adjacent nationalities like the Akwanyama, Ovambo, Chokwe, Luvale, Lozi, Luimbi, Herero, the Humbi, Chimbandi, Nyemba, Ngonjelo, Lunda, the Vangati, Mashi, Mbukushu, Makoma and Nyengo.


With the passage of time, the Portuguese colonists were cajoled by their merchant representatives into developing a keener interest in the uncolonized territories in the interior and those farther east of their immediate occupation. This pressure on the Portuguese colonists was sustained for a long time because the commercial interests of the Portuguese merchants in these territories had escalated and hence they greatly desired to bring them under sole Portuguese control before the English, farther east, laid their hands on Mbunda country and other territories.


The Portuguese merchants of the brand such as the famous Antonio Francisco da Silva, otherwise known as Silva Porto, realized that it was to their own benefit and advantage as well, as of Portugal that the Portuguese hastened to bring the remaining territories under their firm control. As it became obvious that, Angola or Portuguese West Africa would eventually be surrounded by non-Portuguese controlled territories thus making an impossibility of the presumed union of Angola and Mozambique, the Portuguese merchants grew more embittered and desperate. They mounted pressure on the Portuguese authorities to use their power and influence to establish missions and forts in the uncontrolled territories so as to forestall foreign agents acting on behalf of better organized foreign European powers or competitors.


As an introductory step towards the implementation of the policy of colonizing Mbundaland, the Portuguese authorities dispatched a number of Portuguese traders to set up trading posts under the escort of armed pombeiros, mulattoes and assorted groups of various ethnicities which originated from the western, southern and south-western hinterlands and coastal areas under the heel of the brutal Portuguese colonialism. Portuguese merchants of the likes nicknamed as "Kamulingi" (meaning small gourd), "Saluwe" in Nengu at its confluence with the Luwe River, "Kapiyo" in Kashwango, "Chayevala" in N'inda of Lumbala Ngimbu, another "Kapiyo in Kembo," Kamuku (meaning 'little rat') in Lwati, "Lima Samakaka" at the source of the Kashwango, in the area of Mwene Likina, "Pelela", and many other merchants established trading posts in other areas of Mbundaland. The Portuguese traders established themselves with endless expeditions that were sent to replenish the requisite merchandise; from the hinterland of the Bié Plateau and from points farther afield on the Atlantic coastline where the Portuguese had already installed themselves as unscrupulous conquerors and colonialists, after fierce wars of opposition to Portuguese colonialism.


As time went by, the Portuguese traders and their pombeiros experienced the resistance of the Mbunda led by their Monarch, King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova also called Kathzima Mishambo (the Extinguisher of Flames) against Portuguese colonialism and its avarice.[1b] Notwithstanding the flourishing commerce with the Portuguese traders, the Mbunda remained firmly opposed to the loss of their sovereignty through colonization. King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova and his subjects were well aware of the approaching Portuguese authoritarianism, of which their fellow African compatriots to the west, south-west, to the north, north-west and along the coastline had not been able to keep off their territories despite stiff armed resistance.


From their experience with the Portuguese and knowing the experience of others, King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova and his Mbunda knew that they would probably have to shed blood in armed opposition to the relentless on-march of Portuguese colonialism in order to retain their self-rule.


The Portuguese colonial administrative officials had the practice of holding as hostages, wives of those Mbunda villagers who could not afford to pay the poll tax. This act and other brutality shocked the Mbunda. They beat the tax collectors to death, took their arms and went on a rampage, beating the Portuguese traders and burning the trading posts. Small traders shops were equally looted and burnt; their wives were taken as part of the loot and were 'married' by their captors. Some traders managed to escape to Kangamba administrative centre, where the Portuguese had first established themselves as colonial rulers of the Mbundaland. The settlement was named after Mwene Kangamba, the Mbunda local chief whom the Portuguese colonial officials found in that area when they first came and built their colonial centre there. This episode was followed by a war of reprisals against the Mbunda waged by the Portuguese colonial masters and their supporting forces.


Interaction with the Portuguese

The surviving Portuguese traders and Portuguese colonists were greatly alarmed by this situation and hastened to bring the Kingdom of Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova "Kathzima Mishambo" under their colonization and tight control. Portuguese officials accompanied by armed soldiers and escorts were dispatched to set up forts in various areas of Mbundaland. Subsequent to the establishment of these fortified administrative centres, the Portuguese colonialists introduced a controversial poll tax throughout the endangered Kingdom of Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova "Kathzima Mishambo". The Mbunda had never paid any tribute to a foreign power, save for their own sovereign rulers and the subordinate royals in their Kingdom.

Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova and his subjects realized that their Kingdom had been penetrated by a malignant race and a malevolent system which desired the usurpation of their freedom and the occupation of their motherland. The Portuguese colonists, for their part, were cognizant of the fact that even though the Mbunda Monarchs detested colonialism, especially Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova Kathzima Mishambo, they could assert their authority by undertaking strategies which would undermine coordinated Mbunda opposition to Portuguese rule. Since Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova would be bound to play major role in any future armed revolt against Portuguese colonialism, the Portuguese colonists discreetly set about finding an amenable Mbunda royal who would support Portuguese ambitions. The Mbunda system of traditional rule had been such that sovereign rule of the entire kingdom was vested in the King who had to come from the central matrilineal line of the royal hierarchy. This somewhat limited the number of aspiring royals to the central throne. At the same time there was an effective, decentralized system of traditional rule in the numerous areas and localities which composed Mbunda country. Here numerous princes and princesses fulfilled their roles as chiefs and chieftesses of the people under their jurisdiction. This system of traditional rule had been one of the fundamental factors which had contributed to the relative stability and consolidation of the Mbunda national state ever since the era of the renowned founder Mwene Yambayamba Kapanda.


The Portuguese colonists decided to make a preemptive move against this opposition to their rule. They privately collaborated with one of the Portuguese merchants in Lwati, where Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova had his Kalyamba palace, to summon the Mbunda king on their behalf. The Portuguese merchant nicknamed Kamuku and the Portuguese troops were waiting for the Monarch. The white commander of the Portuguese troops, who was nicknamed "Kahombo", politely, but forcefully, told Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova that the Portuguese Governor demanded an audience with the King and had dispatched his troops to escort the "Great King" for that very purpose. The Mbunda Monarch calmly replied that the commander should make it clear to the Governor that, as he was the sovereign ruler of the Mbunda country, he had the right to counter-demand that the governor should instead travel to the Mbunda country since he was the one who wished to have an audience with the Monarch. For his own part Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova had no desire whatsoever to see the governor in far away Luanda.


The Portuguese commander and his subordinates insisted that they could not go back without the "Great King" because the governor simply demanded to have an audience with him and it was within his right and power to do so and, besides, his troops were available to give the "Great King" safe conduct to the governor.


While the polemics between Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova and his Portuguese opponents were going on, the Mbunda found out that their sovereign was under duress from the Portuguese. As a tactical manoeuvre the king appeared to have agreed to go along with the Portuguese demands that he be escorted to see the governor. In actual fact, he did not intend to succumb to Portuguese pressure nor to capitulate lamely without shedding blood for blood. Within earshot of his courtiers Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova Kathzima Mishambo (the Extinguisher of Flames) instructed his nephew Munamwene Kazungo Shanda that after he had been taken away by the Portuguese troops, Shanda should take the King's special loaded gun with magical powers and fire it at the midday sun. The King told his nephew and the courtiers that when the esoteric ritual had been carried out as directed he would then become invisible to the Portuguese troops who would be escorting him and he could make his way back to the Kalyamba palace headquarters in Lwati. Little did Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova Kathzima Mishambo know that his nephew was an ambitious traitor and would not follow the king's instructions. Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova, his Mwata wa Mwene Shwana Mbambale, his two personal physicians and special aides, Mwata Kambalameko and Mwata Vitumbi, some important courtiers as well as a number of his bodyguards were kidnapped and taken away in 1914 by Portuguese colonial troops mounted on horseback.


Fighting the Portuguese

After abduction of their King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova, the Mbunda waged a fierce armed campaigns in defending their homeland. Technology however, aided the Portuguese forces in gaining an upper hand in the war as they had a constant supply of gunpowder for their guns. Without the knowledge to make gunpowder, the Mbunda eventually found their muzzle-loaders useless and increasingly relied on their bows and arrows as well as a few other traditional arms which were suited for close contact warfare. The Portuguese firepower took a heavy toll of the Mbunda, some of whom started to throw their muzzle-loaders in the rivers for lack of gunpowder. The Portuguese eventually dislodged the Mbunda Kingdom extending Angolan territory over Mbundaland.[3]







[1a,b] René Pélissier, Les Guerres Grises: Résistance et revoltes en Angola (1845–1941), Montamets(Orgeval: Éditions Pélisier, 1977


[2] The history and cultural life of the Mbunda speaking peoples - Cheke Cultural Writers Association - Google Books. Books.google.com (2001-10-31). Retrieved on 2013-08-09.


    [3] Robert Papstein, 1994, The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers Association, ISBN 99 820 3006X


    Further reading

    • Robert Papstein, 1994, The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers Association, ISBN 99 820 3006X
    • René Pélissier, Les Guerres Grises: Résistance et revoltes en Angola (1845–1941), Montamets(Orgeval: Éditions Pélisier, 1977









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    King Mwene Mbandu Lyondthzi Kapova I.jpg
    King Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova
    21st King of Mbundaland
    Seated on his throne during the 19th Century, up to beginning of the 20th Century before his abduction by the Portuguese colonialists, endowed in Mbunda Royal Insignia of: 1. Mande: the end of a cowrie shell worn suspended from the neck; signifies royalty. 2. Lukano: The royal bracelet. 3. Mufuka wa Shefu: Eland's tail flys witch signifying majesty and dignity. 4. Litanda (Chitwamo): The throne--successor and continuity of chieftainship. Missing Mbunda Royal Insignia on the image are: 1. Kalutambo (Mulamu wa Mwene): Chief's walking stick which signifies Authority. 2. Mukwale: ceremonial double-edged sword which signifies power. 3.Chimbuya: ceremonial ax; also a sign of power. 4. Chilongo: Crown (headgear).
    Reign 1800s - 1914
    Predecessor Mwene Katavola II Musangu
    Successor Mwene Kathzungo Shanda
    Born Lyondthzi
    Died 1914
    Unknown (Abducted by Portuguese colonialists)
    Burial ?
    Sons & Daughters

    1). Prince Sempyeka,

    2). Prince Mumbamba,

    3). Prince Limbwambwa Kalyangu,

    4). Prince Ndeletu Kashweka,

    5). Malali Kazungo,

    6). Libingi Kachungwa.

    Nephews & Nieces His sister Vamwene  Kameya Miyeji children were:
    1). Litemba Vukolo,
    2). Kathzungo Shanda,
    3). Fwelu Vithzinga,
    4). Luneta Nguvu,
    5). Chinoya Thungwanga,
    6). Machayi Ngambo,
    7). Lyonde Viyela.
    Full names    Mbandu
    Mbunda Mbandu
    House Kalyamba located in the valley of Lunjweva and Lwati rivers
    Dynasty Mbandu
    Mother Vamwene Vukolo Ngimbu Kanchungwa


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