History of Katanga

- Lunda: A State founded in the second half of the 16th century, by the election by Boungou Chiefs of one of them as King. There are approximately 15 million Lunda living in Katanga and in Lunda and Moxico.

GLOSSARY: Mwant Yav: Supreme Chief (Grand Chef), also translated Emperor

QUALIFICATIONS AND TITLES: Head of the Family: HIM The Mwant-a-Yv (Emperor) of Lunda (Musumba)
In an In Memoriam obituary in La Libre Belgique of 29 June 2004, the late Moïse Tshombe was styled Imperial Lunda Prince.

SUCCESSION: patrilinear

HEAD OF THE FAMILY: HIM ...., 28th Mwant-a-Yv (Emperor) of Lunda since 31/1/2005, born Benjamin Kahumba Tshombe, lawyer in Lubumbashi and in Kinshasa, °c1948

MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY: Brother of 25th Mwant-a-Yv Muteb Mushid II, 26th Mwant Yav Mbumb II Muteb, 27th Mwant Yav Kawel II and of the present 28th Mwant Yav:
1. HE Moïse Tshombe Kapend, plane hijacked and jailed in Algeria 6/1967, exiled to Spain 1966 and sentenced to death in absentia 1967, Prime Min of the Democratic Republic of Congo 7/1964-10/1965, exiled to Europe 1963-1964, President of Katanga 8/1960-4/1961, President of Conakat political party 1959, Member of the Advisory Provisional Council of Katanga 1951, Belgian Army Officer, educ mission schools, °1919, +Algeria 1969. Father of:
2.1 HE Isabelle Tshombe, Min
2.2 André Tshombe, arrested 7 or 8/5/2005

Mwant Mwakou 2nd half of 16th century. Father of:
Konde. Father of 3 children among whom 1 daughter and successor:
Louedji (Luej), titled Swana Mulunda (Mother of the Lunda People), conquered the Bateke, X (among several husbands) Ilounga Shibinda (Chibinda), brother of Kalala Ilounga (1st Mulopwe of the Baluba). Mother of:
Mwant Lousindji Naweej I. Father of:
Yamvo or Yao Naweji 1660-1675, the fist to be titled Mwant Yav or Mwant-a-Yv, enlarged the kingdom to Zambeze, Kasai and Katanga (today Shaba)
Mwant Naweej II, +1852
Mwant Yav Mbumb 1874-1883
Mwant Yav Yamvo, recognized by the Belgians as Paramount Chief (Grand Chef)
Mwant Yav Muteb, 21st Mwant-a-Yv of Lunda 1887-1920
Kaumbw Diur, 22nd Mwant-a-Yv of Lunda 1920-1951
Naweej III, 23rd Mwant-a-Yv of Lunda 1951-1963, born Ditend Mbakw
Mushid II a Kamin, 24th Mwant-a-Yv of Lunda 1963-1965, born Gaston. Grandson of Mwant Yav Mbumb
Muteb Mushid II, 25th Mwant-a-Yv of Lunda 1965-1973, born David Yav Tshombe. Son of Joseph Kapend Tshombe, merchant, by the sister of Mushid II a Kamin and brother of:
Mbumb II Muteb alias Mbumba Muteba, 26th Mwant-a-Yv of Lunda 27/11/1973-1983, born Daniel Muteb Tshombe, renamed Muteb Dipang Tshombe 1971, installed 12-13/8/1974. Brother of:

HIM Kawel I Mwin Mangand Tshombe Kabwit Isoj Thomas, 27th Mwant-a-Yv, Emperor of the Lunda 1983-28/1/2005, born Tshombé Kabwit Isoj Thomas, MP 1977-2005, imprisoned in Belgium 1968-1970, +Musumba, Katanga 28/1/2005, X 5 wives. Father of 33 children and elder brother of:
...., 28th Mwant-a-Yv (Emperor) of Lunda since 31/1/2005

Language: Cilunda, Kiluba (Bantu)

Neighboring Peoples: Yaka, Suku, Chokwe, Pende, Lwalwa, Luluwa, Luba, Lwena, Salampasu

Types of Art: Although it is impossible to isolate specific examples of Lunda art, their political activity in the region and their patronage of artists living in neighboring ethnic groups influenced the artistic styles found throughout the region. It is believed that all objects historically linked to the Lunda were originally carved by neighbors, including Chokwe, Luba, Ding, and Lwena.

History: Lunda history is intricately tied to the peoples living throughout the entire region of south central Congo (Zaire), western Zambia, and northern Angola. From the early 17th century until the late 19th century when the Chokwe took over regional power, the Lunda empire was the dominant political and military force in this area of Africa. A political union with the neighboring Luba peoples dates back to a royal wedding between Lweji, daughter of a Lunda land chief, and Cibinda Ilunga, son of the first Luba king, Kalala Ilunga. Following this union many dissatisfied clans left the centralized Lunda area and colonized new areas of central Africa, extending the Lunda empire enormously. Lunda influence remained considerable from Lake Tanganyika almost to the Atlantic Ocean, until Chokwe and then colonial interventions diminished their power.

Economy: The economic pursuits of Lunda peoples are dictated by the region in which they live. Those who live along the rivers and ponds which are common in southern Congo (Zaire) are fishermen. Women farm maize, millet, yams, sorghum, squash, beans, sweet potatoes, palm oil trees, and tobacco. Since the 17th century trade between the Lunda and the Shaba province to the east has played an important role in regional economics. During the height of Lunda influence their traders played an important role in the slave and ivory trade that moved goods and people from central Africa to the coasts for international export. Hunting plays an important social and ritual role.
Political Systems: The head of the Lunda is entitled Mwaat Yaav and, together with a council of royal dignitaries, was at one time responsible for overseeing political decisions for the entire kingdom. Localized politics were presided over by land chiefs, who wielded a great deal of religious power, and by administrators appointed by the royal court. The majority of the Lunda kingdom was ruled indirectly with traditional leaders in individual regions given the opportunity to make local decisions, as long as proper tribute was paid to the Lunda overlords. It is believed that the Lunda may have at one time been patrilineal, but as they conquered and incorporated various ethnic groups that were matrilineal, their political system transformed to reflect a preference for matrilineal descent.

Religion: Nzambi is recognized as the supreme creator god, and appeals are never made directly to him. Instead, ancestor spirits, who are responsible for doing both good and bad, are called upon to fulfill individual and community requests at all major community functions. Divination plays an important role in maintaining a system of balance in the community, determining which spirits require appeasement and when such activities should occur. Basket divination and rubbing oracles are the most common forms of divination among the Lunda. Trees are planted in a sacred grove during chiefly succession rites to represent the ancestors of the current chief.


BRIEF HISTORY: Founded in 1585, the Kingdom split into 2 lineages: Kasongo Luba and Kabongo Luba in 1889.

SUCCESSION: patrilinear

Brother of Kalala Ilounga:
1 Ilounga Shibinda, X Louedji, titled Swana Mulunda (Mother of the Lunda People), Queen of Lunda

Kalala Ilounga 1585-..... Son of Mbidi Kiluwe and brother in law and murderer of Kongolo (a godly figure venerated as a python)
Ilounga Liou
Kounwimbou Ngombe end 18th century, enlarged the Kingdom to Lake Tanganyika
Ilounga Kabale c1850-c1870



par Ilunga Kimilundu Wafika Tharcisse et Numbi Twite Mulopwe Albert


Dans les pages qui suivent, nous tâcherons de présenter, en grandes lignes, l’essentiel de l’histoire de l’Empire luba.
Ce n’est pas un travail d'un ou deux individus, mais une synthèse de la confrontation des traditions orales et des études historiques de certains auteurs étrangers qui ont eu l’initiative de recueillir des informations sur les événements avant que ne s’éteignent et que ne soient enterrés les derniers historiens traditionnels, et avec eux, toutes les documentations en leur possession.

En fait, beaucoup de chercheurs étrangers se sont donnés corps et âme pour recueillir renseignements et traditions afin d’établir, autant que possible, l’histoire du Peuple muluba. Parmi les auteurs que nous avons pu consulter, nous pouvons citer, entre autres, le R. Pasteur Burton (L’Ame Luba) et Mr Verhulpen (Baluba et Balubaïsés). Ce sont des études très intéressantes et instructives.

Cependant, comme l’écrivait un professeur de l’Université de Liège: « Les vérités historiques sont des vérités approximatives et essentiellement relatives, appelées à varier avec le progrès de la connaissance ». Ces œuvres et beaucoup d’autres ne manquaient pas de présenter certaines lacunes et parfois quelques erreurs.
Nous avons confronté mis en parallèle ces études les unes avec les autres et essayé de combler les vides ou oublis afin de pouvoir un tant soit peu refaire le gros de l'histoire avec un peu plus de précision.
Outre cette visée historique, notre souci majeur est d'interpréter les traditions ancestrales par l’ESPRIT LUBA ou la FOI en ses traditions. En effet, l’historien étranger traduit les faits tel qu’il les entend; il interprète les pensées selon sa culture et selon sa foi.

C’est ainsi que nous avons estimé fondamental de présenter à la génération future des réalités véritables, sans tenir compte des sentiments ni d’ordre culturel, ni d’ordre moral ou religieux.

Chapitre I: Généralités

1 - Aspect géographique

Les Baluba occupent aujourd’hui à peu près tout le Nord ou plus de la moitié du Katanga ; soit les territoires de Kabongo, Kamina, Kaniama, Bukama, Malemba, Manono, Kabalo, Mitwaba, Pweto, et même au-delà. C’est une vaste et belle région qui s’étend sur le bassin supérieur du fleuve Lwalaba et ses grands affluents, dont la Lubilanji, la Lomami, la Lovoi et la Lubudi.
C'est une région au climat tropical avec deux saisons : la saison humide qui débute en octobre jusqu’en avril ; et la saison sèche qui part du mois de mai jusqu’au mois de septembre.
On y trouve de vastes étendues de savanes herbeuses à l’ouest du territoire, et le reste est couvert de savanes boisées et des forêts luxuriantes. Cette végétation était le lieu de vie de troupeaux d’animaux de toutes sortes : des éléphants, des hippopotames, de grosses et petites antilopes, des singes, etc. Le fleuve, les rivières, les lacs Kisale, Bupemba et Tanganyika regorgent des poissons de toutes espèces.

2 - Origine des Baluba

Connaît-on une origine au Peuple Muluba ? Puisqu’il est de règle, pour écrire l’histoire d’un peuple, de commencer par ses origines. La tradition orale luba n’a laissé aucune trace à ce sujet.
Les livres d’histoire sur le Congo décrivent les temps des immigrations et de l’occupation successive de l’Afrique centrale par les Pygmées, les semis-bantous et Les Bantous. L’on dit que ces derniers viennent du nord… Les Baluba font parti des peuples Bantous. Mais de par leur culture, l’on pourrait déduire qu’ils viennent du nord-est.
Les tentatives de Mr Verhulpen, dans son livre «Les Baluba et les Balubaïsés» qui cite d’autres auteurs, n’ont pas abouti aux résultats convaincants sur les origines des Baluba.

Il y a certainement, dans cet ouvrage, l’origine de la dynastie de l’Empire Luba. Car l’ancêtre mâle de la famille impériale n’est pas originaire du peuple Muluba. C’est un étranger venu d’un pays lointain (de l’est). D’où le terme BALUBA qui signifie les perdus. Ceux qu’on appelait Baluba ce sont des princes envahisseurs et leur suite qui conquirent les territoires et soumirent les tribus qui habitaient de part et d’autre du fleuve Lwalaba et au-delà, à partir de la rivière Lubilanji jusqu’au lac Tanganyika.

La population actuelle parle le Kiluba. Cette langue n’est pas parlée de la même manière dans tous les territoires cités plus haut. Certains mots ne sont pas prononcés de la même façon partout ; le ton diffère d’une zone à l’autre. Les gens se comprennent bien et savent distinguer, par le langage, des personnes qui appartiennent à telle ou telle région du buluba. Ce sont des différences dialectales.

Il est facile d’expliquer que les termes « Baluba » et « Kiluba» ne sont entrés dans le langage de ce peuple qu’après l’instauration de l’empire; ils y sont introduits par les étrangers (peuples vaincus ou des territoires limitrophes).
En fait, avant l’arrivée des rois (ou des princes) les gens vivaient par groupes familiaux ou claniques dont le chef était l'aîné (de ces clans) ou celui que les membres des familles désignaient comme tel.

Plusieurs clans pouvaient s’unir, soit par alliance d’amitié, soit par le mariage, et formaient ainsi un ou de nombreux villages avec des terres bien limitées. D’autres régions se constituaient par des conquêtes: il y avait des hommes envieux qui savaient manipuler les autres pour les soumettre à leur pouvoir, ou qui attaquaient les voisins afin de s’accaparer de leurs terres. Les terres ou les régions ainsi formées portaient soit le nom du chef du clan fondateur, soit celui d’un cours d’eau, soit quelque chose ayant une caractéristique frappante, par exemple : olivier sauvage (Umpafu), colline, etc. Et l’on désignait les habitants par ce nom précédé d’un déterminatif d’appartenance «bene» ou les préfixes «mu-ba». Par exemple: «Bene Kabongo», «Bene Nsamba», «Bene Kisale» ou « Basale», «Bene Lwalaba» ou «Balaba»… La langue que parlait le groupe de personnes prenait la même appellation: «Ils parlent «Kine-Kabondo», «Kine-Lwalaba» ou «Kyalaba», «Kine-Kalundwe», etc.
Lorsque l’on disait d’un individu qu’il venait de chez les «Baluba», l’on voulait désigner la région qu’habitaient les «Balopwe». C’est par la suite de conquêtes que les étrangers ont vulgarisé ce terme pour désigner ce Peuple des conquérants et les appeler : «Les Baluba».

3 - Comment vivaient les Baluba?

Comme il est décrit précédemment, les Baluba vivaient par groupes claniques dans des villages qu’ils construisaient à proximité d’un cours d’eau. L’on distingue quatre sortes de constructions :
- «Ndaku»: maison du chef de famille (du mari);
- «Mbala»: cuisine du mari. D’où le terme « Mwine-Mbala » qui désigne un homme ou toute autre personne du sexe masculin;
«Mukunko»: logis (en même temps cuisine) de la femme. Mwine-mukunko désigne toute personne de sexe féminin;
«Kamwaka»: maisonnette construite à l'extérieur de la cour résidentielle pour la femme à l’état menstruel qui était condamnée à vivre isolée (loin des hommes).
Les Baluba vivaient des produits de la chasse, des champs, de la pêche et d’élevage.
Les travaux agricoles consistaient en la culture des produits vivriers tels que le mil (disparu), le sorgho, le manioc, le maïs, la patate douce, l’arachide, la courge, les ignames. Outre ces produits, certains se faisaient de petits lopins de tabac.
La chasse se faisait de diverses manières :
- la chasse individuelle à l’arc et à flèches empoisonnées (bulembe);
- la chasse collective qui comprenait le feu de brousse auquel tout le monde participait : hommes, femmes, enfants, avec toutes sortes d’armes;
- et la chasse à la coure (battue) où prenaient part les chiens et les mâles du village sans distinction d’âge.
On employait encore toute sorte de pièges, des trappes et des collets.
La pêche se faisait au moyen des nasses (bisulu), des filets (makonde), des harpons (manda) et des hameçons (malobo) fabriqués avec des tigettes de palmiers (bukombo).
On élevait des poules et des canards, des chèvres et des moutons.
Outre ces travaux indispensables pour la subsistance, les Baluba s’adonnaient volontiers à des activités d’ordre économique qui consistaient en divers artisanats : les gens exerçaient plusieurs métiers selon la spécialité (busendwe) de chacun, homme et femme :
- ceux qui travaillaient le bois fabriquaient des mortiers et des pilons pour divers travaux ménagers ; des manches des différents outils (hache, houes,…), des pirogues ; des instruments de musique tels que les tambours, tam-tam et quelques objets d’art.
- les forgerons fondaient des minerais de fer et de cuivre et obtenaient le fer avec lequel ils fabriquaient des houes, des haches, des couteaux et des armes (lances et flèches); et le bronze dont ils faisaient des croisettes qui servaient comme objets de valeur et pour la fabrication des parures;
- les vanniers, avec les fibres des plantes, fabriquaient différents objets pour usages diversifiés: avec les espèces de papyrus (ngungu), on faisait des nattes et des tamis, avec les genres de rotins (nkodi), des cannes à sucre-sans sucre - (malenge) et des papyrus on tressait des vans (lubenji) et des paniers de différentes formes (bitenge);
- les potiers (lubumba) produisaient des pots en argile et des récipients de formes et des grandeurs diverses (bisuku ne milondo).
- d’autres s’adonnaient au travail des peaux pour l’habillement -les tanneurs.
Tous ces produits artisanaux se vendaient par le système de troc.

4 - Culture et art luba

Les Baluba sont plus connus comme un peuple guerrier que comme artiste. Ils n’ont pas laissé beaucoup d’œuvres d’art. Cependant, bien que l’art ne fût pas leur fort, tout ce qu’ils fabriquaient l'était avec beaucoup de talent; c’est qu’on y mettait du coeur, tels que les tamis (musalo), les nattes (kyata), les oreillers en bois (musao), les vases, etc ; toutes ces choses étaient ornées avec goût. La ceinture à peau d’éléphant (makeka) était un vrai bijou et comptait parmi les objets de valeur.
Malgré leur esprit guerrier, les Baluba avaient un esprit attaché à la vie familiale et sociale. Ils appréciaient la compagnie des autres et avoir une famille large. D’où leur enthousiasme dans l’accueil et la solidarité.
Ils étaient ordonnés et tenaient beaucoup à l’organisation politique et administrative, une rigueur sacrée dans l’observance des mœurs, des us et coutumes. Cette fermeté fut un ferment de la conservation de la tradition et de l’histoire. Les tabous en furent un moyen très efficace.

Le respect de la personnalité, la fierté de la liberté et de la noblesse étaient leur point fort. De là vient la distance respectueuse entre l’homme et la femme, entre un autochtone et un étranger. La femme devait garder une attitude de respect, d'égard envers l’homme ; pendant la période de menstruation, elle devait rester en dehors de la cour résidentielle.
Les Baluba possédaient une culture très développée dans le parler. Le langage très nuancé, très subtil, des expressions rimées et intelligentes, des fables et des proverbes constituent un grand héritage fort apprécié dans la littérature africaine. Le code employé dans la communication au moyen des tam-tams était un art d’une stratégie non négligeable. Par exemple: «Meso ku-mbadi ku-mbadi, ne muyombo i bantu» (regarde bien, il y a du monde).

Le peuple muluba avait une méthodologie très remarquable dans la formation des enfants. Par des récitatifs chantonnés le soir autour du feu, on apprenait à observer et à connaître la nature : les noms des oiseaux et des animaux, les noms des arbres et rivières, etc. Par exemple : « Kasha kasha nkyabadile po toni dikumi , kimbale toni dikumi » . Il était question de donner sans hésitation, les noms de dix oiseaux. On demandait ainsi de citer différemment dix arbres, dix rivières, etc. Par les fables et les contes, on apprenait les comportements et la manière d’être : sagesse, prudence, courage, etc. Par des causeries répétées sur l’histoire de la famille, de la région, des personnages importants, etc, l’on inculquait en profondeur la tradition ou l’histoire qu’on voulait transmettre de père en fils.

Les rites et les cérémonies religieuses et des autres circonstances distinguaient le Muluba des autres peuples. Par exemple, les Baluba pratiquaient la circoncision (mukanda, disao). Cette circonstance qui devait durer un temps assez long (plus de 3 trois), donnait lieu à l’initiation des jeunes gens à toutes les situations de la vie courante de l’homme. Une circonstance spéciale était également réservée à l’initiation des jeunes filles (butanda).

5 : Religions et croyances chez les Baluba

Les Baluba croyaient en seul Dieu qu’ils appelaient « Vidye » ce qui veut dire « Seigneur-Dieu». On le glorifiait en le proclamant:

1.Comme Père Créateur : « Vidye-Shakapanga » ; on Lui attribue la création de la terre et de ce qui existe dans le firmament: Panga-panga, wapangile ngulu ne minonga » (Créateur qui créa monts et cours d’eau) ; « Kafula moba » (qui forgea les soleils, astres).
2. Comme Fils attendu par sa mère «Banze»: Vidye, Kungwa-Banze (na Banze ou wa Banze) ;
3. Comme celui qui reçoit en partage (des dons): « Vidye, Kalemba-ka-Maweji».
Dans beaucoup de circonstances, on Le louait en s’écriant: «Vidye-Kalombo», Kalombo ke balombwele, bashele kebeye» (c’est Lui qui a montré sa puissance, les autres (les hommes) ne font qu’imiter).
On ne lui construisait pas des temples pour les cultes mais, il existait des lieux où l’esprit du Seigneur-Dieu s’est manifesté et installé. C’étaient des lieux sacrés où seuls les prêtres étaient permis de se rendre pour L’invoquer et consulter ou recevoir des oracles. On appelait ces lieux soit:

- «Ku-Mukishi wa Vidye». Le terme Mukishi désigne une «Force mystique»
- «Ku-Butobo», du verbe «Kutoba» qui signifie prier le Seigneur en implorant sa grâce, tout en l’exaltant et solliciter l’oracle. Le prêtre s’appelait «Kitobo kya Vidye».
Outre cette croyance fondamentale en Dieu-Tout-Puissant, les Baluba croyaient en la vie de l’au-delà ; d’où la croyance à l'intervention des morts. Ils étaient sûrs qu’après la mort, l’homme continuait à vivre dans un lieu non loin de Dieu. Ce lieu s’appelait «Kalunga». Les morts auxquels on ne reprochait aucun mal commis de leur vivant allaient dans le «Kalunga-Nyembo », et les malfaiteurs (notamment les sorciers) allaient dans le Kalunga-ka-Musono» ( musono qui signifie infection, panari).
Les Baluba croyaient que les parents et frères défunts étaient appelés auprès du Seigneur «Twaile kutala dyuba, Kalunga-Nyembo tumanya mukenji), ces gens restaient en contact intime et permanent avec les vivants. C’est ainsi, croyant que «Vidye» était difficilement abordable, ils trouvaient facile de recourir aux morts, leurs frères et les invoquaient.
Et afin que cette relation entre les vivants et les morts ne se relâche pas et que ces derniers ne tombent pas dans l’oubli, les Baluba croyaient à la réincarnation, en termes luba « kulonda dilo ». Dès qu’une femme portait un enfant, il lui arrivera (nécessairement) de voir en rêve une des connaissances défuntes lui signaler sa « venue » auprès d’elle. C’est ainsi que l’enfant qui naîtra portera le nom de la personne qui s’était présentée. Si il n’y a pas de « mort » qui se présente l’enfant sera nommé «kyabuntu»: cadeau ou portera alors un nom quelconque.
La foi, l’espérance, et la fidélité dans l’observation des règles aidèrent ces hommes à vivre et à garder leur religion jusqu’aux jours que le Seigneur-Dieu avait fixés, c’est-à-dire à l’introduction des choses nouvelles.

Chapitre II : Fondation de l’Empire

1 - Nkongolo Mwamba, Fondateur

Les origines de l’Empire Luba se fondent sur plusieurs versions traditionnelles selon les régions où sont passés les fondateurs de ce vaste territoire. Toutefois, tous les Baluba attribuent la fondation de l’Empire à Nkongolo Mwamba, homme fort d’un esprit perspicace et ambitieux.

L’ancêtre de Nkongolo Mwamba était originaire des Bayembe ou Basonge du nord appelés encore les « Bakalanga ». Il se surnommait «Kimung’wa Bakalanga», ce qui signifie «Hyène de Bakalanga». Le père de Nkongolo s’appelerait Kahatwa Kazadi ou Muleya Monga ; aurait-il changé de nom après immigration ou intronisation? Se serait-il surnommé Kimung’wa Bakalanga comme son père? C'est une possibilité courante donc envisageable.

Kahatwa ou Muleya avait deux femmes : Mwamba appelée aussi Ndayi et Kaseya, toutes deux issues des Baluba. (Ici l’on peut supposer que le père de Nkongolo se serait déjà installé dans la région des Baluba).
La femme Mwamba ou Ndayi eut trois enfants, un fils qui, avant sa naissance devait s’appeler Nkumwimba, il fut nommé Nkongolo en raison de son teint clair, et de par sa mère on le nomma Nkongolo Mwamba; et deux filles Mabela et Bulanda, appelées aussi d’après le nom maternel, Mabela Ndayi et Bulanda Ndayi. Kaseya eut une seule fille, Nsungu, appelée aussi Nsungu-wa-Kaseya du nom de sa mère.

On raconte qu’un jour, le jeune Nkongolo vit quelques fourmis noires (minyeu) qui transportaient des termites, il demanda à ses parents: «Comment ces quelques fourmis peuvent-elles vaincre les termites qui sont si nombreuses?» Son père répondit que « c’est parce que les fourmis travaillent en bandes et qu’elles sont sans merci». «Moi aussi, je veux travailler en bande et, comme elles, je serai sans merci», décida le jeune Nkongolo. C’est ainsi qu’il groupera autour de lui une bande de jeunes gens et se mettra à terrasser les gens et à les assujettir à son pouvoir. Il fut si tyrannique que la population n’en pouvant plus, finit par le chasser.
Il semble que Nkongolo Mwamba commença sa première conquête, pour devenir chef, dans la région de Mutombo-Mukulu, chez les Bene-Kalundwe. L’on dit qu’une certaine Bondo Lumbale ou Tshimbale, selon la prononciation de la contrée, était cheffesse de Bene Kalundwe à l’époque où Nkongolo arriva sur le territoire.

Bondo Lumbale ou Tshimbale serait-elle une prêtresse de Tshifinga, «Mukishi» de cette région? (voir plus loin le sens de mukishi). Il paraît que Tshifinga aurait accepté et reconnu Nkongolo comme chef parce qu’il était le plus fort et accompagné de beaucoup de guerriers. C’est ainsi que Bondo Tshimbale lui aurait remis ses pouvoirs en le prenant comme époux. Nkongolo Mwamba intensifia son pouvoir et régna sur tous les groupes de la région ouest de Lomami.

Apprenant que les gens de l’est de la Lomami étaient plus riches que ceux de la région qu’il occupait ; richesse qui consistait en sel, huile de palme et huile de mpafu (olivier sauvage), Nkongolo vient donc conquérir tout l’est de la Lomami. Il traversa même le fleuve Lwalaba jusqu’au lac Kisale. Puis il revint à la rive gauche du fleuve et s’installa à Mwibele. Il ne retourna plus chez les Bene Kalundwe qui restèrent totalement indépendants de lui.

2 - Le portrait de Nkongolo Mwamba

Dans toutes les histoires des peuples ou des nations, les grands hommes, forts et puissants ont toujours été considérés comme des hommes de génie ou des génies tout court. De même chez les Baluba, Nkongolo Mwamba a été considéré comme un homme légendaire et un génie. Légendaire par ses origines brumeuses et entourées de mystère ; légendaire par la façon dont il a pu conquérir des vastes territoires et unifier des tribus jadis dispersées qui devinrent un seul peuple.
Comme l’histoire dit que Nkongolo Mwamba sentit sa vocation de fondateur d’empire au spectacle d’une colonne de fourmis qui avait vaincu et dépouillé une masse de termites, Nkongolo fut, en effet, un Chef d’une cruauté tyrannique. Il soumit son peuple à d’immenses travaux notamment de faire détourner le cours de la Lomami. Il lui arriva de faire couper le nez, les oreilles, les mains, les seins de ses sujets. Cette cruauté comme on le verra plus loin, l’emmena à faire enterrer sa mère vivante pour un simple rire.

Autres traits de son caractère farouche, on raconte qu’un jour il arracha, de leurs mères, les enfants de 3 à 9 ans et les fit placer à une certaine distance de celles-ci. Puis les enfants furent séparés pour voir s'ils se dirigeraient vers une autre mère que la leur. Mais, tous choisirent leur mère et Nkongolo décréta que tout enfant devrait être considéré comme capable de jugement à l’instar d’une grande personne.

Il a gardé sa brutalité et son mépris de la vie humaine : il ne se fiait à personne, subjuguait tout le monde. Voyant que les hommes se laissaient souvent influencer par leurs femmes au point que leur pouvoir s’en trouvait affaibli, il décida de ne pas se marier en dehors de sa propre famille. C’est ainsi qu’il épousa sa demi-sœur Nsungu-wa-Kaseya.
Sa vie légendaire, il l’a emportée jusque dans sa mort. En effet, l’histoire rapporte que lorsqu’on lui trancha la tête, celle-ci ayant été placée sur une petite monticule, elle avait disparu le lendemain emportée par les termites. Ses contemporains en conclurent que Nkongolo s’était enterré tout seul.

3 - L’intervention de Vidye

Avant l’avènement de Nkongolo Mwamba, ou avant qu’il ne s’installe à Mwibele, il existait aux environs du lac Boya (à Kabongo) un lieu «Mukishi wa Mpanga Maloba». C’était un lieu sacré où Vidye s’était manifesté et installé. Un homme nommé Nyindo et sa femme Zwibi étaient les protecteurs attitrés de ce lieu. L’homme n’avait pas été choisi comme prêtre (Kitobo), donc, il ne pouvait pas ou n’avait pas le droit d’invoquer ou de consulter Vidye au nom des autres. Il avait tout simplement la garde des lieux saints.

Le couple avait un fils, Kalui. Ce dernier, mécontent de voir ses parents adorer et vénérer Vidye qui ne les prenait pas à son service, se rendit sur les lieux afin de demander à Mpanga Maloba de se décider de choisir un individu comme Kitobo; il avait probablement l’espoir de voir le choix tomber sur lui ou sur son père. Vidye l’écouta mais, ni lui, ni son père ne fut nommé Kitobo; Vidye se choisit quelqu’un d’autre qui se fit appeler Mijibu wa Kalenge.

Lorsque Nkongolo Mwamba s’installa à Mwibele, Mijibu était son conseiller spirituel. C’est ainsi qu’un jour, Mijibu fit appeler Nkongolo et lui tint ce langage: «Le Bulopwe », ce qui veut dire le pouvoir royal, s’avance vers Boya. Tu ne pourras jamais être souverain, car tu es le fils d’un roturier. Mais si tu veux te faire un nom et une belle situation, il te suffit de bien accueillir et respecter le nouveau chef. Si par contre tu lui résistes, tu mourras.

Nkongolo fut très surpris et inquiet en même temps en entendant les paroles de son conseiller. Il décida, en plus de Mijibu, de supprimer le futur chef sans tarder, bien qu’il ait assuré à Mijibu qu’il respecterait ses conseils.

Chapitre III Bulopwe ou le pouvoir royal

1 - L’arrivée de Mbidi Kiluwe

A l’époque où Nkongolo Mwamba faisait ses conquêtes de régions de l’ouest du Lwalaba, beaucoup plus à l’Est, vivait un chef qui se disait Roi de Bupemba. Il s’appelait ILUNGA KILUWE et se surnommait SANGO WA MPEMBA, MWENGA WA NGALABA (est-ce le même homme?). Sa capitale, Membe, était située, probablement sur la rivière Moba. Certains prétendent qu’il venait du Tanganyika.

ILUNGA KILUWE avait deux fils: MBIDI KILUWE et Ndala, et une fille, MWANANA. Il aimait beaucoup cette dernière, et comme il se sentit vieillir, il eut voulu que sa fille lui succéda. Mais, ses sujets décidèrent que Mbidi Kiluwe serait leur chef et firent nettement comprendre à la fille qu’ils ne voulaient pas d’elle comme souveraine. Cela créa une certaine aversion entre ses deux frères et elle.
La tradition ou la légende raconte que cette fille, Mwanana avait un lion apprivoisé. Un jour, Mbidi Kiluwe jouait avec l’animal, celui-ci s’échappa. La sœur, furieuse et le coeur plein de jalousie, dit à son frère que si il ne réussissait pas à lui ramener son favori, elle demanderait à son père de le tuer.

Ainsi, Mbidi Kiluwe emmena ses femmes et ses esclaves; il laissa à son fils aîné (ou son frère), Bombwe Mbidi, la garde de ses propriétés. Ils se mirent en route pour suivre le lion en suivant ses empreintes jusqu’à l’autre côté du Lwalaba. Après quoi, ils perdirent sa trace dans les plaines de Kabanza.
Mbidi Kiluwe trouva du gibier en abondance sur les rives de la Lovoi, il commença à chasser le long de ces rives jusqu’à Kyankodi. Il fut maître partout où il passait; mais ses femmes et ses esclaves eurent peur dans cette région inconnue. Il leur ordonna de camper au confluent de Kyankodi, tandis que lui, accompagné de son fils chargé de porter ses armes, continua sa route afin d’explorer la contrée.

2 - Rencontre entre Nkongolo et Mbidi

Mbidi Kiluwe et son fils suivirent la rivière Kyankodi jusqu’à sa source. Comme celle-ci prend naissance sur les mêmes hauteurs que la Lukuvu et la Luvidjo, ils descendirent cette dernière jusqu’à ce qu’un jour ils rencontrent deux belles filles qui relevaient une nasse dans les marais de la Munza.
La nasse était trop lourde pour les jeunes filles. Mbidi Kiluwe leur cria de ne rien craindre et s’avança vers elles. Il ramena la nasse vers le bord de la rivière et continua sa route. Mais pour les deux filles, ce fut le coup de foudre. Elles rentrèrent au village et racontèrent leur rencontre avec le bel étranger à peau noire, si fort, si agile à leur frère. Nkongolo soupçonna que l’étranger ne pouvait être que le chef dont il craignait l’arrivée, il lança ses guerriers à sa recherche, avec ordre de le tuer et de lui rapporter sa tête.

Mais un chasseur aussi subtil que Mbidi n’allait pas se laisser prendre par surprise. De son côté, il avait soupçonné que les filles parleraient de lui à leur frère, il se tint sur ses gardes. Il entendit venir les guerriers et grimpa dans un arbre ; il les vit le chercher partout, mais en vain. Ils rentrèrent pour annoncer qu’ils n’avaient pas vu l’étranger.

Ce que la force n’avait pas pu faire, l’amour allait le réussir. Mabela et Bulanda parvinrent à convaincre leur frère pour qu’il ne tue pas l’étranger avant d’avoir su quel individu il était. Elles rentrèrent sur les lieux et se mirent à la recherche de Mbidi Kiluwe. Ne l’ayant pas trouvé et exténuée, elles s’approchèrent d’une source pour se désaltérer, elles aperçurent l’homme dont l’image se reflétait dans l’eau. Elles le supplièrent de descendre et de les accompagner jusqu’à la maison de leur frère. Il accepta et envoya son fils lui ramener ses femmes et ses esclaves.

On fit à Mbidi Kiluwe une réception amicale. Il était si adroit, si fort et si souple que Nkongolo pensa: «Avant de le tuer, je veux me rendre compte s’il ne peut pas m’être utile». Tandis que de son côté, Mbidi Kiluwe prit soin de cacher sa personnalité sous un masque d’indifférence polie.

Mais lorsque le fils de Mbidi revint accompagné de la suite de l’inconnu, Nkongolo alla trouva Mijibu le prêtre, et lui dit: «Qui est cet étranger qui est arrivé chez nous ? Comment dois-je le traiter ? Quand les gens de sa suite le salue, il ne répond pas. Quand ils s’approchent de lui, il reste assis et quand on lui présente la nourriture, il refuse de la manger en public, il ordonne de la porter dans un endroit obscur où il peut manger sans être vu».

Mijibu lui répondit: «Réjouis-toi, car le pouvoir royal (bulopwe) va être établi parmi nous. Traite l’étranger avec grand respect et fais lui construire des cases avec enclos de roseaux. Tue des esclaves et répands leur sang dans l’enclos, car c’est alors seulement qu’un chef peut vivre en paix».
Nkongolo s’était gardé jusque là de toucher à l’étranger parce qu’il voulait satisfaire sa curiosité, mais, à présent, il craignait l’escorte armée de l’étranger. Il ne fit rien de ce que Kitobo lui avait recommandé. Mais, Muleya, le père de Nkongolo, se réjoui ouvertement et prépara pour les nouveaux arrivés huttes et enclos nécessaires. C’est ainsi que Mbidi Kiluwe avait pu s’établir au village de Nkongolo.

3 - Rivalité entre les deux hommes

Mbidi Kiluwe prit pour femmes Mabela et Bulanda, en dépit de ses sentiments ombrageux, Nkongolo donna la bénédiction aux unions avec ses sœurs. Mais la situation resta tendu au bord du lac Boya : Nkongolo ne pouvait pas se résoudre à jouer le rôle d’un subordonné. Il décida de harceler son rival afin de le mettre mal à l’aise et le forcer ainsi à décamper ainsi il pourrait rentrer chez lui.

Sans répit, il commença à insulter Mbidi Kiluwe, se moquant ouvertement du vide (buzole) laissé à la mâchoire inférieure par l’absence de deux incisives. Ce dernier, de son côté, habitué à la courtoisie et à la déférence de son milieu ne pouvait plus supporter la grossièreté de Nkongolo, il commença à le bafouer devant ses sujets: «Tu mâches des olives (mpafu) devant tout le monde alors que tu dis que tu es chef ; comme un esclave, tu t’assieds par terre, les jambes croisées». (En fait, Nkongolo ne savait pas adopter l’attitude qu’exigeait l’autorité des chefs devant leurs subordonnés).
Les relations entre les deux hommes devenaient de plus en plus tendues, invivables jusqu’au jour où Mijibu, prétendant se trouver sous l’influence des esprits, comme cela lui arrivait de temps en temps, se mit à parcourir le village en murmurant des prophéties; il réussit ainsi à souffler à l’oreille de Mbidi kiluwe: «Si tu tiens à la vie, rejoins-moi hors de l’enclos demain matin au chant de coq». Fidèle au rendez-vous, Mbidi Kiluwe apprit que Nkongolo le tournait en ridicule devant ses propres esclaves pour l’obliger à déguerpir. Il cherchait le moyen de le tuer s’il ne partait pas.

Mbidi Kiluwe indigné, fit appeler Mabela et Bulanda et, leur remettant à chacune une flèche façonnée de manière bizarre , leur dit: «Vous serez bientôt mère de mes enfants, mais il est impossible pour moi de les voir ici. Si toutefois, ils désirent plus tard, être reconnus par moi, qu’ils me rejoignent à Membe et me présentent ces flèches».
Puis après avoir servi à Nkongolo une sévère réprimande devant le village entier, il rassembla son petit monde et retourna dans son pays. Il ne revint plus jamais dans la région. Il avait confié ses enfants à naître aux bons soins du vieux Mijibu.
Une autre version raconte que, quoique ayant donné ses sœurs à Mbidi Kiluwe, Nkongolo était resté en relations intimes avec elles. C’est pourquoi avant de partir, Mbidi Kiluwe aurait déclaré à son rival: «Si les enfants qui seront de deux femmes sont bronzés, ils sont à toi, s’ils sont noirs, ils sont à moi».
Rentré chez lui, Mbidi Kiluwe apprit la mort de son père et il trouva le peuple qui l’attendait pour le proclamer souverain. Sa sœur Mwanana, en l’absence de son frère, craignant de demeurer dans un milieu hostile, avait réuni une escorte pour rejoindre Mbidi Kiluwe, mais ayant perdu sa trace aux environ de Lovoi, et poursuivant son voyage, avait atteint la région de Barunda où elle devint une des femmes du chef.

Chapitre IV : Le Royaume Luba

§1 : Kalala Ilunga

Après le départ de Mbidi Kiluwe, quelques temps plus tard, Bulanda eut un fils, tout noir ; elle l’appela Ilunga, comme son grand-père (Ilunga Kiluwe, père de Mbidi). Peu de temps après, Mabela donna le jour à des jumeaux, un garçon et une fille, Kisula et Nshimbi.
Kisula devint une sorte de géant, mais avait un esprit lent. Tandis que Ilunga était agile et très intelligent, généreux vis-à-vis des amis mais intraitable pour ses ennemis. Il devint rapidement le meilleur coureur, sauteur, tireur d’élite et meilleur danseur de la cour.

Grâce à l’aide de son neveu Ilunga, la réputation et les conquêtes de Nkongolo Mwamba s’étendirent au loin et il finit par assujettir pratiquement tout le pays des Baluba : certains habitants le furent par la force, d’autres par la diplomatie et par la ruse dont les Bene Katunda peuple très habile quand ils s’agissait de lancer les «mitobolo» (légère hache de combat).
La renommée de Ilunga était telle qu'elle lui valut bientôt le titre de Kalala, le Chef des armées. Il soumit à son commandement des tribus jusqu’aux régions lointaines de Kalebwe et Songi et réussit à y implanter sa légendaire réputation. Au pays des Baluba, il plaçait à la tête de chaque groupe de famille (clan) un chef, instituant ainsi le système de chefferie qui reste toujours en vigueur aujourd’hui.

2 - Rupture entre Kalala et Nkongolo

A cette époque, on se livrait beaucoup à un jeu avec les noyaux d’olives (menga), l’équivalent de jeu de «billes». En jouant avec son oncle, Kalala Ilunga parvenait toujours à l'emporter. Un jour, la vieille Mwamba, mère de Nkongolo, s’approcha des joueurs, elle fit la remarque à son fils : « Ils t’a pris tes noyaux, après cela il prendra tes clans (Chefferie)». Nkongolo, furieux de cette remarque, ordonna à ses guerriers d’enterrer la vieille jusqu’au cou et il lui: «Mère, je ne permets à personne de se moquer de moi impunément. Si tu ricanes encore à mes dépens, je t’enterrerais vivante».

La vieille Mwamba croyant à une plaisanterie se mit à rire aux éclats, ce sur quoi son fils s’empara d’une houe et l’enterra de ses propres mains. D’où cette expression restée courante dans la littérature orale luba : «Wasepa kisadi, kyasepele Ina-Nkongolo».
Mais la prédiction de sa mère ne pouvait pas être enterrée avec son corps. Elle résonnait toujours dans la mémoire de Nkongolo Mwamba et fit naître en lui une tenace jalousie vis-à-vis de son neveu jusqu’à ce qu’il formât le projet de l’éliminer, et cela d’une façon si dramatique et si spectaculaire que cette mort aurait établi, une fois pour toutes son autorité et sa suprématie.
Comme dans le cadre des Bene-Katunda, il commença par employer la flatterie : «Que tu danses gracieusement, Ilunga : le royaume tout entier devrait venir t’admirer. Etablissons un grand concours et tu pourras montrer ton adresse aux gens». Puis en secret, on creusa un puits dans la plaine N-E du lac Boya et le fond de la fosse fut garni des pieux et des lances aiguisées. Enfin, on recouvrit le tout de baguettes légères et des nattes.

Le grand jour arriva et la population s’assembla autour de l’endroit aménagé. Kalala avait un batteur de tambour professionnel (mungedi) nommé Kapya (Kahia) qui accompagnait et rythmait ses danses.
Lorsque la danse commença, Kapya remarqua une légère dépression au centre de l’arène et soupçonna Nkongolo d’avoir tramé un complot contre son neveu. Il ne dit rien, mais il résolut de sauver son ami. Chaque fois que Kalala s’approchait du centre, Kapya l’avertissait en code qu’il y avait un danger « uja ushinkila, panshi padi bwine nkala).
A ces avertissements, Kalala soupçonna qu’un piège lui avait été tendu et brandissant, d’un geste prompt sa lance de danse, il la jeta avec force au centre de l’arène. Traversant la natte de part en part, la lance disparut dans la fosse. Et sans hésiter, Ilunga qui avait compris courut et sauta au-dessus de la foule, il s’enfuit vers le Lwalaba, après avoir pris la flèche que son père avait laissée à sa mère.

Au Lwalaba, il y avait un passeur, Kalala lui ordonna de le faire traverser sans retard et de ne pas faire traverser un homme bronzé qui le poursuivait sous peine d’être décapité dès qu’il reviendrait. Ce qui fut fait.
Nkongolo, furieux d’avoir raté son coup et ne trouvant pas la pirogue (en effet, le passeur l’avait fait dériver par le courant), voulut tenter de traverser le fleuve sur des radeaux faits de tiges sèches des roseaux, il n’y parvint pas. Ayant compris le manège du batteur qui avait averti Kalala Ilunga du danger qu’il courait, Nkongolo le fit grimper dans un arbre et lui ordonna de battre le tambour pour rappeler Kalala. Kapya battit son tam tam en vain jusqu’au moment où, exténué, il tomba et succomba (probablement tué). Après des vaines tentatives de poursuivre Kalala Ilunga, Nkongolo s’en retourna chez lui.

3 - La mort de Nkongolo

Nkongolo avait beaucoup entendu parler, entre autres de la bouche de Mbidi Kiluwe, des grandes peuplades de Membe et compris de quelle force pouvait disposer son ancien rival, pour se dire que Kalala Ilunga reviendrait à la tête d’une armée afin de se venger. Il alla trouver le vieux Mijibu pour lui demander conseil. Mais ce dernier lui dit : « Tu as agi stupidement en voulant détruire le Bulopwe ; maintenant tu perdras la vie ».
Nkongolo, plein d’amertume et d’angoisse se retira accompagné de Mabela et de Bulanda dans les cavernes de la colline de Kayi, dans la région de Bene Kanyoka ; il y vécut caché, confiant en la loyauté de ses sœurs. Mais ces dernières avaient d’autres idées en tête : au moment de partir, elles avaient laissé des consignes au lac Boya, afin que Kalala puisse être informé, dès son retour, du lieu de leur cachette.

Les cavernes avaient plusieurs recoins secrets, mais l’entrée était unique et fort étroite. Chaque jour Nkongolo grimpait au sommet de la colline afin de se chauffer au soleil et sans doute aussi pour surveiller les alentours afin de guetter l’arrivée de l’ennemi. Pendant ce temps, les femmes allaient chercher à manger, et chaque jour, elles rapportaient avec elles des fagots de bois en disant à Nkongolo que c’est pour se chauffer et pour préparer la nourriture en cas de siège.
Un jour enfin, Mabela aperçut l’avant-garde de Kalala à travers la forêt. Elle parvint à l’avertir et à lui donner des instructions nécessaires : il ne fallait pas venir encercler la grotte mais attendre qu’elles aient bouché l’entrée de la grotte au moment où Nkongolo ferait sa sortie matinale et le surprendre dehors.
Les guerriers de Kalala suivirent à la lettre les instructions données par les femmes. Surpris au sommet de la colline, Nkongolo voulant regagner sa retraite trouva l’entrée de la colline barricadée il comprit qu’il avait été trahi par ses femmes-sœurs. Il fut capturé et décapité.

Les guerriers n’avaient pas directement rapporté la tête de Nkongolo à son neveu Kalala. L’on ne peut dire avec précision les raisons pour lesquelles ils l’avaient abandonnée sur une monticule, et lorsqu’ils revinrent pour la chercher, ils ne la trouvèrent plus : une termitière l’avait engloutie.
Légende ou vraie histoire, l’on raconte que Nkongolo avait eu deux fils de sa sœur (demi-sœur) Nsungu-wa-Kaseya : Bunda Mukaya et Mwine Ndayi. Ceux-ci, dit-on, firent à leur père des funérailles royales : on l’enterra dans le lit de la Lomami que Nkongolo avait détournée. Une autre version dit que ce sont Kalala Ilunga et ses guerriers qui l’enterrèrent après l’avoir décapité.
Il est vrai que l’histoire de Nkongolo Mwamba est recouverte de beaucoup de légendes et de diverses versions, selon que les auteurs (étrangers) ont pu la recueillir ou la comprendre de leurs interlocuteurs ou de leurs traducteurs.

4 - Kalala Ilunga: Mulopwe

Après sa victoire sur son oncle, Kalala Ilunga prit-il forcément le pouvoir comme souverain des Baluba ? C’est une version qui semble pratiquement plausible que certains ont rapportée.
Cependant, il y a lieu de croire que Kalala Ilunga, homme avisé et intelligent avait hérité du tempérament de sang royal de père Mbidi Kiluwe qui, pour assujettir n’employait la force des armes qu’en cas de nécessité. D’où, dans une autre version, l’on raconte que, pour la succession de Nkongolo Mwamba, la population décida qu’un de ses enfants devait être sacré roi.
Après avoir écarté Bunda et sa sœur Nsungu pour raison de consanguinité, l’on obligea à Kalala et à Kisula de se battre en duel. Kisula qui était un géant, au moment où il allait l’emporter sur Kalala, sa sœur Nshimbi qui avait une grande affection pour ce dernier vint à la rescousse de Kalala qui frappa à mort son adversaire. C’est ainsi que Kisula vaincu, Kalala Ilunga fut proclamé successeur de Nkongolo et fut investi Mulopwe des Baluba (ayant rapporté les insignes royaux de son père Mbidi Kiluwe). Il s’établit à Munza et prit le nom de Mwine Munza.

C’est à partir de cette époque que le nouveau Mulopwe doit se construire son village à un autre endroit que celui qu’occupait son prédécesseur. L’ancien village est alors confié à une femme, en général la sœur de l’ancien souverain. Cette dernière devient cheffesse de ce village mais doit payer le tribut au nouveau roi.
Et à la mort du Mulopwe, il fut décidé que le pouvoir devrait désormais revenir à son fils aîné. Cependant les frères de ce dernier chercheraient à le détrôner et se font une guerre sans merci. Cette lutte ne prend fin qu’à la mort des protagonistes, c’est alors que le vainqueur, resté seul, pourra régner sans problème. C’est pourquoi le fils aîné du souverain doit chercher refuge et protection et aussi renfort dans le village de sa mère, ses oncles et ses cousins du côté maternel sont ses alliés les plus sûrs, il en est de même pour les autres enfants du suzerain.
Kalala assujettit les populations riveraines du Lwalaba dont faisaient partie les Bene-Kayumba, Mulongo, etc. Il envoya son fils Kazadi soumettre les Bene Kisamba, tributaires des ancêtres de Nkongolo, dans les régions des Bene Kalundwe qui refusaient de le reconnaître comme Mulopwe. Ils furent battus par Kazadi. Ce dernier tombera malheureusement malade et mourra dans la région de Kisamba.

Kalala Ilunga est le premier Mulopwe de l’empire luba ; il avait apporté (de son père Mbidi Kiluwe) les insignes royaux et il fut intronisé selon les normes requises : il fut sacré et le dikubi (cachet en peau de chat sauvage: nzuji) contenant l’argile blanche (mpemba) étaient les éléments principaux de l’investiture du Chef. Aussi les hommes forts qui avaient des ambitions de pouvoir devaient-ils se rendre kwipata pour se procurer ces Insignes.

5 - De Kalala à la décadence

La généalogie des empereurs luba se présente comme suit de Kalala Ilunga à la décadence de l’Empire.

1. Kalala Ilunga, fils de Mbidi Kiluwe et neveu de Nkongolo Mwamba
2. Ilunga wa Luhefu, fils de Kalala Ilunga, il s’installa à Bisonge. Il n’entreprit pas de guerre, mais fut un mauvais pour ses sujets. Il fut empoisonné par son fils Mwine-Kabanze. Un autre fils de Kalala, Ilunga Kibinda, se rendit chez les Aruund y épousa la princesse Ruwej, il devint souverain des Lunda ;
3. Kasongo Mwine Kabanze, fils de Ilunga wa Luhefu, s’établit à Kibanza. Il mit au monde beaucoup d’enfants, mais eut aussi beaucoup de malheurs en famille, tous ses enfants moururent, la plupart dans des conditions dramatiques, un seul survécut.
4. Kasongo Kabundulu, fils de Mwine Kabanze, le seul qui resta en vie, n’avait pas de frères à combattre, il s’établit à Katundu.
5. Ngoy-a-Sanza, fils de Kasongo Kabundulu, résida à Kapulu, son frère Kalenga Makasa avait été tué par un buffle.
6. Mwine Nkombe Ndayi, fils de Ngoy-a-Sanza, s’établit à Nkombe. Il devint très vieux au grand désespoir de ses fils qui décidèrent de l’empoisonner, mais il mourut foudroyé, il laissa deux fils : Kadilo et Maloba
7. Kadilo Sokela Bota, fils de Mwine Nkombe, s’installa à Budi. Il fut très bon et très entreprenant : il conquit plusieurs régions au-delà de la Lomami. (Il faut noter qu’à la mort du souverain, certaines seigneuries refusaient d’obéir au nouveau souverain ; il fallait les y forcer). Kadilo mourut peu après cette campagne.
8. Kenkenya, fils de Kadilo s’établit à Bwilu. Il combattit ses deux frères Kasongo Kahombo et Tomba, mais il mourut peu après et laissa quatre fils.
9. Ilunga Nsungu succéda à son père Kenkenya et s’établit à Lubala. Il combattit ses frères Wakahata et Muketo, le troisième Kasongo Ngole mourut de maladie. Ilunga Nsungu tenta de soumettre les Bene Kalundwe, mais il fut battu par Kanonge, chef de Mutombo Mukulu. Il fit des expéditions réussies entre le Lwalaba et le lac Tanganyika d’où il reçut des tributs et les hommages notamment de Mambwe Mukulu. Ilunga Nsungu avait cinq fils.
10. Nkumwimba Ngombe succéda à son père Ilunga Nsungu, il résida à Budumbe. Il battit ses deux frères, le troisième renonça au titre de chef et le quatrième mourut en bas âge. Nkumwimba Ngombe fut un grand guerrier et un grand organisateur. Il envoya partout des émissaires chargés de surveiller ses tributaires ; il fit des conquêtes à l’ouest et à l’est du Lwalaba et même jusqu’au Tanganyika. Il soumit à son autorité des populations des régions de Lubudi, de Kinda, du Lwalaba, des lacs Kabwe et Upemba. Il reçut tribut des populations entre le Lwalaba et le Tanganyika. Sous son règne, Buki étendit l’empire des Baluba vers le nord (Territoire de Kongolo, de Kasongo et de Maniema). C’est sous le règne de Nkumwimba Ngombe que l’empire luba atteignit son apogée.
11. Ndayi Mushinga, fils de Nkumwimba Ngombe, n’eut pas le temps de construire un village car, après une année de règne, il fut battu et tué par son frère Ilunga Kabale.
12. Ilunga Kabale, après avoir vaincu son frère Ndayi Mushinga, combattit et tua encore deux autres frères. Il se fixa, de force chez Bene Dyombo. Selon certaines traditions, Ilunga Kabale fut neutralisé par son fils Kitamba.
13. Maloba Konkola, fils aîné de Ilunga Kabale, lui succéda, mais trois mois après, il fut battu et décapité par son frère Kitamba.
14. Kitamba prit le pouvoir, il battit encore un frère, mais un an après, lui aussi fut tué par son frère Kasongo Kalombo, cinquième fils de Ilunga Kabale.
15. Kasongo Kalombo, fils de Ilunga Kabale, succéda à Kitamba. Il tenta de combattre Ndela, un forgeron qui s’était enrichi dans la région de Munza grâce aux mines de fer. Il fut blessé et se retira à Kasolo. Ndela se fit nommer chef des Bene Lububu. Kasongo Kalombo après s’être procuré des fusils à silex provenant d’Angola, revint dans la région et battit Ndela. De retour à Budi, son fusil éclata et lui enleva la moitié de la main gauche, il mourut des suites de sa blessure.
16. Ndayi Mande, frère de Kasongo Kalombo lui succéda, combattu par son frère Kasong’wa nyembo, il s’enfuit chez les Lunda où il acheta des armes et des munitions et recruta des partisans. A son retour, il battit son frère Umpafu à Kudyanga, mais il ne réussit pas à prendre le dessus sur Kasong’wa Nyembo, ce dernier parvint à l’éliminer.
17. Kasong’wa Nyembo qui avait pris le pouvoir de Ndayi Mande eut affaire à son frère Kabongo avec qui il engagea une guerre qui dura des années et qui coûta beaucoup en vies humaines et en richesse à la population.

Chapitre V: Bombwe Mbidi et le royaume de Kinkondja

1 - Voyage de Bombwe Mbidi

Pour les raisons que nous connaissons, Mbidi Kiluwe avait quitté le royaume de son père pour effectuer un long voyage qui le mena jusqu’au-delà du fleuve Lwalaba: il devait ramener le lion de Mwanana qu’il avait laissé échapper de sa cage alors qu’il jouait avec.
Avant son départ, deux faits importants sont à retenir : premièrement, son père ayant vieilli avait souhaité que sa fille Mwanana qu’il chérissait tant lui succéda, mais la population ne l’avait pas accepté et avait décrété que Mbidi Kiluwe deviendra son souverain. Deuxièmement, Mbidi Kiluwe avait confié la garde de ses biens et ses propriétés à son frère Bombwe Mbidi.
C’est probablement à la mort de Ilunga Kiluwe en raison du problème de la succession que Bombwe Mbidi se décida également d’entreprendre le long voyage pour suivre Mbidi Kiluwe et le ramener sur leurs terres.

Bombwe Mbidi, une fois arrivé dans la région du Kisale, ne traversa pas le fleuve. Durant son séjour dans cette région, il fit la connaissance d’une jeune fille appelée Bwina qu’il prit pour femme. Mais comme il n’avait pas trouvé son frère Mbidi Kiluwe, il prit la décision de rentrer au pays, laissant Bwina, sa femme, enceinte et lui demanda que le fils, une fois né, le suive chez lui.

2 - Fondation du Royaume

Bwina mit au monde un fils qu’on appela Kapolo waba Mbwina. Devenu grand, Kapolo se rendit chez son père d’où il revint avec des insignes de Chef. Il épousa une femme de Kakenza et s’établit dans cette localité. Il eut un fils qu’on nomma Longwa.
Bien que Kapolo, rentré de la région de son père Bombwe Mbidi avec des insignes de chef, ne fut pas pris comme tel. Son fils Longwa, devenu un homme, en chassant, rencontra une jeune femme nommée Bumbwa. Celle-ci le présenta à son père Kapanda, chef de la région de Kisale. Longwa épousa Bumbwa puis retourna chez son père Kapolo à Kakenza. Il lui demanda s’il pouvait s’installer chez Kapanda, dans la région de Kisale où gibier et poisson abondaient.

Kapolo accompagné d’un groupe de gens venus avec lui de la contrée de son père Bombwe Mbidi, suivit Longwa et vint s’installer chez Kapanda, dans la région de Kisale. Un jour, au cours d’une querelle entre les deux familles, Kapolo tuaKapanda, proclama et investit son fils Longwa comme chef de Kisale. Longwa fut ainsi le fondateur du royaume de Kinkondja.
Nkumwimba Ngombe, dixième empereur des Baluba, en conquérant et soumettant les populations des régions Kinda, de Lubudi, du Lwalaba et des lacs Kabwe et Upemba, incorpora en même temps le royaume de Kinkondja dans le grand empire des Baluba.
Chapitre VI : Les royaumes luba fondés dans d’autres territoires que ceux des Baluba Buki, frère de Ilunga Kabale, avec l’aide des autres membres, dirigea des expéditions militaires contre les Bahemba et les Babangobango du Nord de Kongolo. Il soumit les gens de Kuvu et de Niemba, les Basonge du Maniema et les Wagenia du Fleuve.
Ilunga Mwevu, parent de Biki, fonda et organisa une grande seigneurie, celle de Wazula, sous l’autorité de Buki. Quand Ilunga Mwevu mourut, son fils Kahambo lui succéda et continua son œuvre. Kekenia, fils de Buki, succéda aussi à son père. Ainsi les seigneuries de Maniema restèrent sous l’autorité des chefs baluba jusqu’à l’arrivée des Européens qui les divisèrent en plusieurs chefferies.

Chapitre VII: Histoire de Zibangandu

Qu’on ne soit pas trop surpris de trouver conté ici l’histoire d’un tout petit territoire dans ce vaste empire, alors que des seigneuries importantes ne sont pas citées. Les événements qui s’étaient passés dans cette région ont souverainement marqué les esprits des dignitaires d’une Famille Impériale et ont laissé des souvenirs inoubliables dans les annales d’un Royaume.

1 - Cadre géographique de la région

Zibangandu est un tout petit territoire qui se trouve entre la chefferie de Kabondo (N-E et Est) et la Chefferie Kasong’wa Nyembo (N-O et Ouest) et les Bene Bukwamadi (Sud). Il est à quelques 75 km sur la route de Bukama.
Il comptait cinq villages au temps de la colonisation: Nsalela, Kalamba, Kisulo, Kalombo et Kimilundu. Ce dernier fut le plus important et le plus ancien : il était protégé par une palissade qu’on appelle « Mpembwe » (les autres disent « nsakwa »). Ce petit territoire était devenu autonome suite à une série d’événements.

1 - Manifestation divine ou Mukishi wa Monga na Umba

Il est difficile de situer la période à laquelle l’événement eut lieu. La tradition orale rapporte l’historique comme suit:
Un chasseur, nommé Nzadi, errait dans la région de Zibangandu à la recherche de quelques gros gibiers (Buffles, antilopes cheval), sa sœur l’accompagnait dans cette aventure. Un jour celle-ci était allée à la recherche des ignames sauvages lorsqu’elle entendit une voix qui l’interpella et lui dit: «N’aies pas peur, va dire à ton frère qu’il se vêtisse des peaux de «tolwe»; qu’il prenne un bâton de «Nswashi » et vienne me trouver».

Il faut signaler que «tolwe» est une belle antilope d’une peau brun-jaune, qui vit dans les savanes herbeuses, elle est de la famille des impala. Quant à nswashi, c’est un arbre sauvage d’un tronc bien solide qui peut atteindre plus ou moins dix mètres de hauteur. Avec ses jeunes tiges, on peut faire des bâtons assez droits.

Le chasseur Nzadi fit comme cela lui avait été recommandé, il se vêtit des peaux de tolwe, il prit le bâton nswashi à la main et se rendit sur le lieu qui lui avait été indiqué. C’est là qu’il rencontra Vidye, Dieu des ancêtres. De cet ordre donné de prendre avec lui un bâton, les gens ont commencé à dire cette anecdote: «Ku Zibangandu-a-kakombo, kadi kakombo bakamwela : (Zibangandu où il faut prendre son bâton, sans bâton on te rejette).
Le Seigneur dit alors à Nzadi: «va maintenant auprès du chef de cette région, annonce-lui ma venue et ma présence sur son territoire, et qu’il vienne me voir à son tour.

Comme Nzadi était étranger dans cette région, il ne connaissait pas exactement qui était le chef, ni où il habitait. Il alla trouver Mwine Yimba, une grande notabilité et propriétaire des terres (Yimba) qui s’appelait Mwila Mpishi. Il lui raconta l’événement et lui rapporta l’invitation de Vidye. Mwine Yimba dit au chasseur : « C’est dommage, moi, je ne peux pas y aller car je bégaie ».
Nzadi alla trouver un autre seigneur de terre du nom de Kazadi Myanda. Il lui répéta l’histoire et l’invita à aller rencontrer Vidye. Ce notable lui répondit qu’il était également dans l’impossibilité de s’y rendre, « car, dit-il, je suis atteint d’une hernie. Allons plutôt chez le chef de la région, puisque c’est à lui que revient cet honneur ». Ils allèrent chez le chef Mpandankusu qui avait sa résidence à Kimilundu. Nzadi lui apprit, avec pleins détails, tous les faits de ce grand événement et l’invitation du Seigneur-Dieu. Le chef Dya-Mpanda se trouva embarrassé et déclara : « je regrette que je ne puisse mériter cet honneur, car moi aussi, je suis impur, j’ai la lèpre, donc, je ne peux me présenter devant Vidye ».

C’est ainsi qu’aucun des dignitaires de Zibangandu n’avait pu aller à la rencontre du Seigneur-Dieu. Alors le chef Mpandankasu envoya auprès de Vidye, un ami de Kazadi Myanda, le sieur Numbi-a-Mpombo, comme délégué. Ce dernier accepta l’offre, non sans quelque appréhension, en effet, personne n’était sûr du sort qui était réservé à celui qui répondrait à l’invitation. Il y alla quand même en lieu et place du chef, rendre hommage à Vidye.

3 - Conséquence de cet avènement

Après la rencontre de l’envoyé du chef avec Vidye, celui-ci dit alors à Numbi-a-Mpombo: «Puisque le chef n’a pas voulu venir auprès de moi, je te nomme, toi, maître de cette région. Va dire à Mpandankusu qu’il te remette les insignes de Chef (mikanda ou ceintures sacrées) et qu’il soit parrain de ton investiture».

Cette nouvelle émanant de Vidye contraria le chef Mpandankusu qui fut touché jusqu’à l’indignation. Malgré tout, il dut se soumettre, car personne ne pouvait s’opposer à l’autorité et à la force divines. A partir de ce jour, un étranger régna sur le territoire de Zibangandu : Numbi-a-Mpombo, ami de Kazadi Myanda était originaire de la chefferie Umpungu, de la localité de Mpushila.

Comme signalé plus haut, Zibangandu était devenu autonome après l’installation du Mukishi wa Monga na Umba (c’est le nom donné à ce lieu sacré où s’est manifesté et montré l’Esprit de Dieu -Vidye). En fait, ce territoire dépendait de Dipata (cour et autorité royales). Mpandankasu venait de Kwipata lorsqu’il régna sur ce territoire. Il payait ses tributs directement à la Cour. Quand Numbi-a-Mpombo prit le pouvoir, il cessa toute dépendance à l’autorité impériale ; il ne payait plus de tributs du tout.
En constatant cette insoumission à la cour royale, l’on convoya une délégation à Zibangandu pour voir et essayer de remettre de l’ordre dans cette partie de l’empire. Mais lorsque les membres de la délégation arrivèrent dans la région, ils furent confondus et perdirent leur chemin. Ils s’en retournèrent à la cour sans avoir rencontré les responsables. A la cour l’on ne désarma pas. L’on essaya une autre délégation dont, parmi les membres figurait un personnage important dénommé Kibanda. Encore une fois sur place, tous les envoyés devinrent aveugles, à l’exception de Kibanda qui fut épargné afin qu’il puisse porter témoignage de ce qui s’était passé sur les terres de Monga na Umba.
A partir de ce jour, les Bene Pata cessèrent toute relation avec Zibangandu ; et un interdit fut imposé au grand -Roi qui est resté jusqu’à ce jour : l’on doit le couvrir entièrement ou bander ses yeux afin qu’il ne puisse pas voir cette région de malheur. Toute chose quelle qu’elle soit, don ou tribut, en provenance de Zibangandu, devait être exclu de la cour du roi (voire de la localité) sous peine de mort pour ce dernier.

Chapitre VIII: La décadence de l’Empire Luba

1 - Conflits entre Kasongo-a-Nyembo et Kabongo

A l’arrivée des Européens, vers 1892, Kasongo-a-Nyembo était en guerre avec Kabongo, le seul frère qui restait (à éliminer). Afin de pouvoir le vaincre, Kasongo-a-Nyembo s’allia aux forces de l’expédition le Marinel qui se rendait chez M’Siri, Chef des Bayeke. L’expédition combattit Kabongo, qui de son côté, s’allia aux Batetela, soldats de la force publique révoltés. Kabongo et ses alliés furent battus. Ils s’enfuirent et allèrent s’installer à Mulenda, mais n’abandonnèrent pas la lutte pour autant.

Après le départ de l’expédition, Ils revinrent pour attaquer Kasongo-a-Nyembo à Nsamba. Ce dernier s’enfuit et se réfugia à Kabinda où il y avait un poste colonial et où il resta cinq ans. Toute la région comprise entre la Lomami et la Lovoi fut pillée par les Batetela et Kabongo. Ils furent battus par Mr Malfeyt près des sources de la Lomami à Kakipango. Kabongo retourna s’installer à Lubyayi (sa mère venait de cette partie du territoire) et Kasongo-a-Nyembo, revenu de Kabinda s’installa à Nsamba.

2 - Division de l’Empire

Lorsque les européens prirent le pouvoir en mains, ils déclarèrent indépendantes plusieurs seigneuries et les appelèrent Chefferies; ainsi naquirent les Bene Kalundwe, Bene Kanyoka, Bene Lwalaba, Bene Nsamba (kinda), Bene Kabondo, etc. Ils divisèrent le reste de l’empire en deux parties : Kabongo reçut la partie nord et Kasongo-a-Nyembo la partie sud. Les deux chefferies prirent les dénominations de Kabongo et Kasongo-a-Nyembo.
L’insoumission du Chef Kasongo-a-Nyembo à l’autorité coloniale provoquera sa relégation à Buta dans la Republique de Boyoma. Il laissa la gestion de l’empire à son fils aîné Ilunga Umpafu Nkumwimba. Ce dernier fut remplacé par son frère Kisuku; à la mort de Kisuku, Ndayi Emannuel, alors infirmier à Kabalo (sa mère était de Kabalo), dernier fils de Kasongo-a-Nyembo le remplaça de là est né le système rotatif entre les trois familles pour ce qui est de la gestion et de la succession à la tête de la chefferie Kasongo-a-Nyembo).


Dans l’esprit Luba, il faut savoir que la tradition ancestrale constituait un ensemble cohérent d’histoire, de mœurs et de religion. Le Bulopwe ou le pouvoir royal a constitué l’unité des Baluba. Le tout était religieusement conservé et tenu avec le plus profond respect pour être enfin, transmis de père en fils, et de génération en génération avec une fidélité rigoureuse.
L’on a compris, dès le début de l’histoire, qu’un homme Nkongolo Mwamba) a voulu imposer son pouvoir aux gens, dicter sa domination et s’octroyer, de son propre Chef, le Bulopwe. Mais Vidye (le Seigneur-Dieu) est intervenu. Par l’intermédiaire de son Kitobo, Il a réagi et décidé d’organiser les choses selon sa volonté.
C’est ainsi que l’on remarquera, dans l’histoire de l’empire luba, que tout le cheminement du Bulopwe a été marqué par la présence divine (de Vidye). C’est-à-dire, par l’entremise du Butobo qui était la manifestation divine ou la présence de l’Esprit de Dieu, Kitobo (prêtre et prophète) était l’intermédiaire entre Vidye et les hommes. D’où du commencement de l’empire jusqu’à la fin, il y a à retenir trois étapes :

1.Du premier Butobo, Vidye Mpanga-Maloba (Créateur de la terre) refuse le Bulopwe à Nkongolo Mwamba. Il accepte Mbidi Kiluwe qui emmène avec lui le Bulopwe. C’est ainsi que, dans l’histoire, il n’y a que les Bene Kalundwe qui considèrent Nkongolo Mwamba comme leur Mulopwe (il y a lieu de comprendre cela quand on lit attentivement le début de son histoire). Tout semble bien se passer jusqu’au moment où commencent les hostilités entre les deux frères Kasongo-a-Nyembo et Kabongo.

2. Au moment où Kasongo-a-Nyembo, fuyant son frère Kabongo, vient s’installer à Nsamba, il trouvera Vidye Mpanga ne Banze (Créateur avec une femme-mère), Vidye aura-t-il décidé de la scission de l’Empire ?

3. Dans l’histoire de Zibangandu où Vidye Monga na Umba aura octroyé l’autonomie à ce petit territoire, on sent déjà l’effritement du pouvoir royal ; c’est le commencement de la fin.

Il y a lieu de remarquer également que dans la tradition Luba, certaines choses n’ont pas toujours été à la portée de tout le monde quand il s’agissait de compréhension ou d’interprétation. C’est comme disent les Bene Zibangandu: «Wa ku Vidye ntumbo, binenwa ku Vidye komvu», c’est-à-dire que Dieu a voilé certaines vérités à la compréhension de n’importe qui.

- Banya Mweho: Chiefdom in the Lubunda, Katanga

Babemba, Baholoholo, Bahonga, Balamba, Baluba, Balunda, Bango Bango, Basanga, Bashila, Basonge, Batabwa, Baushi, Bayeke, Bena-Kanioka (Kanyoka, Batshioko, Balungu), Benga-Mitumba, Waruwa, Batembo, Batwa


Language: Ciluba (central Bantu)

Neighboring Peoples: Chokwe, Ndembu, Kaonde, Bemba, Tabwa, Hemba, Songye, Lunda

Types of Art: The iconographic representation of women in Luba sculpture is widespread and correlates to the important role of women in Luba society. The Luba are best known for their stools, divination bowls (mboko), beautifully carved bow stands, and memory boards (lukasa).

History: The relentless expansion of Luba empire can be traced as far back as 1500, when it emerged from the Upemba depression which is still the heartland of the Luba. Eastward expansion to Lake Tanganyika intensified under the leadership of Ilungu Sungu between 1780 and 1810. This was followed by north and southeast expansion until 1840 under Kumwimbe Ngombe and then to the northwest and northeast from 1840 to 1870 under Ilunga Kabale. The empire began to diminish after his death in 1870 as Arab slave traders and European invaders challenged notions of Luba supremacy in the region contributing to the decline of Luba power. The legacy of the great empire is still recognizable in the region today, where local customs and art styles often reflect a strong Luba influence.

Economy: During the height of its reign, the Luba empire operated on a complex system of tributes which acted to redistribute wealth throughout the region. The ruling class had a virtual monopoly on trade items such as salt, copper, and iron ore, which allowed them to continue their dominance. Most citizens of the empire relied on slash and burn farming for subsistence. This was supplemented with fishing and hunting. The importance of hunting was reinforced by social institutions, which celebrated the fortunes of good hunters.

Political Systems: The Luba empire was characterized by centralized authority vested in a sacred king (mulopwe). This king enforced his power through the control of subordinate regional leaders who normally inherited their status based on their positions within various patriclans. The mulopwe's power was reinforced by a royal diviner who was responsible for formally initiating him into his royal position. Numerous institutions existed to counterbalance the absolute power of the king. The best known of these institutions is the Bambudye society, whose members are responsible for remembering the history of the kingdom and whose interpretations of history could often influence the actions of active rulers.

Religion: The primary religion was based on veneration of the ancestors and involved paying tribute to the spirits. The Luba royalty incorporated religious elements into the justification for their rule. Like the monarchies of western Europe, the position of the Luba king was seen as divinely inspired and directly correlated with the genesis myth for the people. As such, the investiture of the king's power was represented in a complex coronation ritual involving religious confirmation from a diviner.

Lubas - Selon la tradition, leur empire est fondé en 1585 par Kalala Ilunga qui crée une puissante fédération militaire qui s’étend d’ouest en est du fleuve Zaïre au lac Tanganyika et atteint le Shaba méridional. À la fin du 17e siècle, l'un de ses successeurs, Kumwinbu Ngombe, étend le territoire jusqu'au lac Tanganyika. L'histoire du royaume se caractérise par d'intenses querelles de pouvoir et des luttes fratricides. Au 19e siècle, il devient la proie de ses voisins (Tshokwe, Tetela, Bayeke). Autre version : l’empire des Baluba date probablement des débuts du 16e siècle lorsque des groupes Songe, conduits par un héros semi mythique, Kongolo, parviennent dans la région du Katanga central. A la fin du 16e siècle, Kongolo est tué par Ilunga Mbidi, fils de l’une de ses soeurs et d’un chasseur. Des luttes fratricides marquent les débuts du royaume Luba jusqu’à son apogée située à la fin du 17e siècle sous le règne de Kumwimbu Ngombe qui étend les frontières de son royaume jusqu’à la rive occidentale du lac Tanganyika.

D’origine divine, le roi exerce son pouvoir de façon absolue et possède des pouvoirs surnaturels. Les chefs du lignage royal, garants de la continuité du pouvoir, possèdent des sceptres, des haches, des lits, des appuie – nuques et des tabourets sculptés de têtes féminines. Ce tabouret permet au roi de ne pas "toucher" le sol car il est soutenu par une femme. La femme est un thème privilégié puisque Vilye est le premier esprit féminin, fondatrice du clan et garante de la lignée et de la fertilité ; mais aussi le devin utilise le mboko, figure féminine assise ou accroupie qu’il secoue dans un bol ; le sorcier utilise aussi la fille de l’esprit ou kabila…. L’art luba a une grande influence sur ses voisins.
chaise caryatide luba

Groupe ethnique de plus de 7 millions de personnes du sud de la République démocratique du Congo et du Congo méridional, les Luba représentent la plus grande ethnie du Congo, avec 18% de sa population. A l’origine de la colonisation, ils habitent la savane qui succède à la forêt équatoriale, dans une large zone allant de l'extrême sud de la province du Kivu méridional, jusqu'au sud du Kasaï oriental, en passant par le nord et le sud Katanga. Ils vivent de la chasse, de la cueillette, d'une petite agriculture de clairière (manioc, maïs) et de la pêche dans le Congo et la Lualaba (cours supérieur du Congo, jusqu'à Kisangani). Le terme Baluba s'applique à de nombreuses tribus qui, en dépit de différentes origines, ont en commun de parler des langues bantoues (notamment le tshiluba) et une même organisation de type féodal. Leurs relations avec l'Égypte antique sont prouvées par la découverte d'une statuette égyptienne de basse époque en pays basongo.

Au cours du 16e et du 17e siècle, certaines chefferies sont regroupées en royaumes. Le plus étendu est fondé par Kongolo, chef Basongo, vers 1585. Les grands souverains Baluba prétendent descendre de lui et possèdent de ce fait un caractère sacré. Au 17e siècle, l'unité du royaume Baluba s'effondre ; des royaumes rivaux se succèdent et des rivalités tribales se perpétuent de nos jours opposant régulièrement les Baluba aux autres peuples du sud du Katanga. Les Baluba sont en général patrilinéaires bien que les Baluba-Hemba aient tendance à être matrilinéaires. Ils pratiquent une religion animiste et le culte des morts. Les rites funéraires revêtent une importance particulière car les défunts constituent le monde des esprits, qu'il convient d'apaiser par des danses sacrées. Les formations étatiques sont très nombreuses avant la colonisation. Ces royaumes possèdent des caractéristiques communes : la succession au trône se fait en descendance matrilinéaire et donne lieu à une élection ou une compétition des concurrents qui dégénèrent parfois en querelles fratricides. Certains écrits d'européens révèlent le faste de la cour des souverains et la rigueur du cérémonial.

De tels royaumes fondent leur richesse sur un commerce très actif. Dans les régions forestières, les fleuves permettent des échanges par relais: les produits de la côte passent de main en main et remontent sur des centaines, voire des milliers de kilomètres; ceux de l'intérieur effectuent le chemin inverse. À partir du 16e siècle, les produits importés d'Europe et surtout d'Amérique sont implantés à l'intérieur du continent : la culture du manioc, du tabac, du maïs se développe dans une grande partie de l'Afrique centrale. Dans les zones de savane, le commerce se fait par caravanes, avec l'ouest puis avec l'est du continent. À partir du 16e siècle, la traite des esclaves ravage l'ensemble du pays, entraînant des razzias meurtrières, des guerres incessantes entre tribus et entre royaumes, et finalement la dislocation de ces systèmes étatiques. Après 1860, la traite atlantique disparaît mais elle est relayée par la traite orientale et australe, sous l'impulsion des Swahilis. Cette traite arabe, qui perdure jusqu'à la fin du 19e siècle, provoque des migrations de populations (Lubas) qui expliquent la présence de minorités musulmanes dans l'est du pays.

Au 19e siècle, de nouveaux royaumes se constituent sous la houlette des «princes marchands». Msiri, originaire du Tanganyika, s'enrichit dans le commerce de l'ivoire, du cuivre et des esclaves, au Katanga, vers 1850. Puis il entreprend de se tailler un véritable empire, nommé le Garangaze. Vers 1880, son pouvoir s'étend sur tout le sud de la République démocratique du Congo actuelle.

Marchand originaire de Zanzibar, Tippo-Tip connaît un itinéraire semblable, à l'ouest du lac Tanganyika, dans les années 1860. Son État devient solide et prospère grâce au commerce mais aussi à la création de grandes plantations et d'un réseau routier menant vers la côte. D'autres États se constituent à la même époque : le royaume zande, fondé à la fin du 18e siècle ou au début du 19e sur le plateau de l'Oubangui et jusqu'à l'Uélé ; le royaume mangbetu, fondé par Nabiembali en 1815, dans la pointe nord-est de la République démocratique du Congo actuelle.

Le royaume de Msiri représente un curieux épisode dans l’histoire de l’actuel Katanga. Né vers 1830, Msiri appartient à la grande tribu des Wa Nyamwezi, dans l’ouest du Tanganyika, qui a acquis une place prépondérante dans le commerce avec les Arabes de la côte est. Fils d’un chef de caravane qui a senti l’importance économique d’une région où se trouvent en abondance l’ivoire, le cuivre et les esclaves, Msiri obtient de son père, vers 1858, l’autorisation de rester avec quelques dizaines de guerriers Nyamwezi qui seront appelés Bayeke (chasseurs d’éléphants) dans ce qui deviendra le Katanga. Il s’impose alors aux chefs du voisinage grâce aux fusils de ses guerriers Bayeke et devient bientôt suffisamment fort pour battre le Kazembe et ainsi le couper du Mwata Yavo. Vers 1869, Main apprend la mort de son père. Il refuse de lui succéder et se proclame mwami (roi) du Garengaze. Il installe à Bunkeya sa capitale. Fondé par un caravanier parfaitement informé des courants commerciaux, le royaume de Msiri se développe rapidement. Il met en place des fondeurs Bayeke qui introduisent la fabrication des fils de cuivre au lieu des lingots. Le Kazembe lui barrant la route du lac Nyassa, Msiri fait passer ses caravanes d’esclaves, d’ivoire et de cuivre par le lac Tanganyika au niveau d’Ujiji, et surtout il ouvre une importante route commerciale vers l’Angola. Mais ce puissant empire d’une aristocratie militaire étrangère, s’effrite rapidement et la décadence est déjà sensible lorsque Msiri sera tué, le 20 décembre 1891, par le capitaine belge Bodson (voir plus loin).

M'Siri, Grand Chef Africain de la région du Tanganika fait un jour partie d'une expédition qui retourne sur les traces des lingots de cuivre découverts peu de temps avant l'arrivée des européens dans une région appelée Katanga, du nom du roi des mines. Le Chef Katanga autorise fort inconsciemment M'Siri à s'établir à Lutipule, embryon d'un futur Empire. Par sa bravoure, M'Siri obtient la fille de Katanga en mariage. Peu de temps après, décède Katanga. M'Siri, accusé de sa mort, ne doit son salut qu'à l'intervention du roi Panda qui l'accueille comme un fils et le nomme son successeur. Ses victoires sur les Baluba le font régner sur un empire bientôt appelé Katanga par les blancs.

Le Marinel, officier belge commandant l'expédition de l'État Indépendant du Congo, arrive à Bunkeya, capitale de M'Siri le 18-04-1891, et se fait détruire par ruse son dépôt de munitions. Celui-ci devient sénile, sanguinaire et pervers. C'est la terreur ! Les mines sont désertées, les chefs se dérobent. Le Marinel est rejoint, le 14-12-1891 par le capitaine Stairs, canadien d'origine. M'Siri le rencontre et prend la fuite à cause de ses actes.
Il est rattrapé, se défend et est abattu par le capitaine belge Bodson, abattu à son tour le 20-12-1891 par un fils de M'Siri. L'anarchie prend fin, le calme revient et le fils se soumet à l'État.

Avancée dans le territoire de la Rhodésie, le sud du Katanga (Shaba) excite, dès sa découverte, la convoitise de ses colonies voisines. La découverte d'objets très anciens dont on ignore l'origine permet de penser que les gisements aurifères sont connus, si pas exploités depuis longtemps. La demande en cuivre se fait de plus en plus pressante. Les colons miniers n'attendent pas la notification officielle des frontières pour entreprendre une exploitation chaotique et multinationale. Sans possibilité de contrôle des frontières, Léopold II crée, par une habile manœuvre, une société d'exploitation qui délivre contre finances des concessions et des droits à termes. C'est la Compagnie du Katanga. L'argent récolté sert au financement d'expéditions géographiques et géologiques menées par des ingénieurs dont le nom reste célèbre au Katanga devenue province du Congo, tel que : Jules Cornet, Lucien Bia, Émile Franqui. Une carte précise des gisements leur est due.

Msiri's Kingdom

M'SIRI was born around 1830 as the son of Mazwiri-Kalasa, an Arabized Wanyanwezi chief, near Tabora in Unyamwezi country. Mazwiri-Kalasa was engaged in the East African caravan trade between the copper-producing stretches of what is presently referred to as Katanga and the East Coast. M'siri established the blood brotherhood with many chiefs necessary to enter the caravan trade and got control of a good share of the Katanga trade. Accumulated amounts of copper and ivory, as well as slaves, enabled him to obtain rifles and powder, and to purchase women (to be married to his men). His arsenal of rifles allowed him to undertake his own slave-raiding expeditions, and in the end M'siri founded his own Kingdom (c. 1856) based on the export of copper, ivory and slaves and the import of rifles and gunpowder; his wealth gave him the edge over competitors.
He stopped the southward expansion of the BALUBA; at c. 1868 Msiri was in control of what is Katanga to the east of the Lualaba. M'siri established his capital at BOUNKEYA, with a population of over 10,000. Copper was mainly traded on a caravan route leading west to Bihe "Angola", the other route M'siri's Kingdom depended upon lead eastward via Udjidji or Karema and his native Tabora toward Zanzibar.

Just before the arrival of the Belgian expeditions (April 1891 : Lemarinel, Oct. 1891 : Delcommune) the Basanga, inhabitants of the main copper producing areas, revolted. M'siri was killed on Dec. 20th by a member of the Stairs expedition; M'siri's Kingdom was replaced by the Bayeke kingdom of Garenganze which came to be called KATANGA; M'siri's capital Bounkeya reverted to a small village.

Msiri's Kingdom in 1880

Msiri's origins and rise to power

From Tabora to Katanga
Msiri was a Nyamwezi (also known as 'Yeke' or 'Bayeke') from Tabora in Tanzania and a trader, like his father Kalasa, involved in the copper, ivory and slave trade controlled by the Sultan of Zanzibar and his Arab and Swahili agents. The main trade route went to Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika and then to Lake Mweru and Katanga.

Around 1850 Msiri was sent by his father to Katanga to barter for ivory and copper with a certain Wasanga chief, who was frequently under attack by a Lunda chief. Msiri had guns, the Lunda chief didn't and Msiri easily beat him, earning the Wasanga chief's gratitude. The next year Msiri returned to Katanga with a large entourage and effectively took over the chieftainship, getting himself named as successor. There is also a story that Msiri killed the chief's real heir whom he was supposed to be guarding.

Military power
Msiri realised access to guns was the key to power, and in Katanga, he had copper and ivory resources to trade for them. He formed a militia and started to conquer his neighbours. He also married into the Luba royal family, starting his practice of using wives as spies. He depended on the east coast trade for his guns and gunpowder, which passed through the territory of his rivals and thus supplies were expensive and unreliable. Instead he turned to the west coast, sending his nephew Molenga to the Ovimbundu and Portuguese traders around Benguela in Angola, and a trader there called Coimbra became his supplier. The Luba people to his north-west had controlled the west coast trade, but Msiri took it over and halted their southwards expansion.

Msiri now had the power and influence to be able to form alliances as more of an equal with warlords such as Tippu Tip, who controlled the eastern Congo from Lake Tanganyika up to what is now Uganda in the north-east, and the Nyamwezi leader Mirambo who controlled the land route between Lake Tanganyika and the coast, and he sought to emulate them. Msiri achieved what other tribes and the Portuguese had tried without as much success, which was to trade across the continent, with both coasts.

By the time of David Livingstone's visit to Mwata Kazembe VIII in 1867, Msiri had taken control of most of the Mwata's territory and trade on the west bank of the Luapula River. Tippu Tip wanted revenge on Kazembe for killing six of his men, and he formed an alliance with Msiri to attack and kill Mwata Kazembe VIII in 1870, and Msiri subsequently influenced the appointment of his successors. Msiri's control of south-east Katanga and its copper resources was consolidated.

Msiri's strategy

Msiri's favourite wife, the Portuguese-Angolan Maria de Fonseca, who died a grisly death at the hand of Msiri's adopted son and successor.In a region and age dominated by armed traders, Msiri was very successful. His control of the trade routes between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean took ruthlessness and arms (and over his neighbours, Msiri had what would be called in the west ‘superior military technology’). But it also took a strategic eye, and the guile and persuasion required to form alliances with hundred of other tribes, rulers and traders. He did this through his wives, who numbered more than 500. He took a wife from the village of each subordinate chief, making the chief think this gave him an advocate at Msiri's court, but the wife was used to spy on the chief instead and to obtain information about his dealings and loyalty.The wife could also be used as a hostage in case of any rebellion by that chief.

Msiri also cemented alliances with other powerful trading partners through marriage. His favourite wife was said to be Maria de Fonseca, sister of his Portuguese-Angolan trading partner Coimbra. Msiri married one of his own daughters to Tippu Tip.

In 1884, wishing to gain some advice on how to deal with the approaching European colonial powers, he invited a Scottish missionary, Frederick Stanley Arnot, whom he had heard was in Angola, to come to his capital at Bunkeya, 180 km west of the Luapula River. In 1886 Arnot arrived and was the first white person to settle in Katanga. After three years he went back to Britain to recruit more missionaries, including Charles Swan and Dan Crawford. Thus, the first missionaries in Katanga did not decide to go there at their own initiative. Msiri's strategy worked, the missionaries' advice prevented him being taken in by the first British and Belgian expeditions (see below). It is also possible that Msiri had the idea to hold the missionaries hostage in case of any war with the Europeans, in the same way that he held hostage the women of subject tribes.

The scramble for Katanga and killing of Msiri

British Expeditions (Sharpe and Thomson) 1890
Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC) and Belgian King Leopold II’s Congo Free State (CFS) both wanted to sign treaties with Msiri to fulfil their colonial ambitions and competed to do so. Some of Msiri's subordinate chiefs and trading competitors took the opportunity of the arrival of new powers in the region to start rebellions against his authority. In November 1890 Alfred Sharpe arrived in Bunkeya from Nyasaland on behalf of the BSAC and the British Commissioner in Central Africa/Nyasaland, Sir Harry Johnston with a mineral rights concession and a British Protectorate treaty for signature. The explorer Joseph Thomson was sent by the BSAC to meet up with and reinforce Sharpe's mission in Bunkeya, but its route was blocked by a smallpox epidemic and could not continue. Arnot was still in Britain but Charles Swan and Dan Crawford were present. Msiri and his officials could not read English and Sharpe described the agreement favourably, but Arnot had advised Msiri to have any treaties translated, and Swan now gave the same advice. For this the missionaries were later criticised by the British, because when the treaty's real contents were revealed to Msiri, enraged, he sent Sharpe away empty-handed. Sharpe was sure Msiri would not sign away his sovereignty to any other power, and he advised Johnston to wait until he was 'out of the way'. For more detail, see the article on Alfred Sharpe.

Belgian Expeditions (Le Marinel and Delcommune), 1891
On 18 April 1891 Leopold sent an expedition of about 350 men led by Paul Le Marinel. He obtained a brief letter signed by Msiri and witnessed by Swan (and probably drafted by him), that Msiri would accept CFS agents in his territory. It did not mention agreeing to the CFS flag being hoisted nor to recognising Leopold's sovereignty, and its lack of precision was probably designed to keep Leopold at bay, so a few months later the Delcommune Expedition followed up to try to achieve those objectives, but again Msiri refused. Expecting that the BSAC would try again with Thomson, Leopold resolved to take stronger action with his third expedition of 1891.

The Stairs Expedition and the killing of Msiri
On December 14 1891 the armed Stairs Expedition of the CFS with 400 troops and porters arrived in Bunkeya, led by Canadian-born British mercenary, Captain W. G. Stairs, ordered by Leopold to raise the CFS flag and claim Katanga by force if necessary. Negotiations commenced and Msiri indicated he may agree to a treaty if supplied with gunpowder.

According to the Stairs Expedition's doctor Joseph Moloney and third officer Christian de Bonchamps, with negotiations at stalemate, Msiri reacted to an ultimatum and to Stairs flying the CFS flag without his consent, by departing in the night to a fortified village at Munema on the outskirts of Bunkeya. The next day, December 20, 1891, Stairs sent his second-in-command, Belgian Lieutenant Omer Bodson with de Bonchamps and 100 askaris to arrest Msiri. Despite de Bonchamps' concerns about the danger, Bodson went into Munema with a dozen men and confronted Msiri in front of about 300 of his warriors. Msiri said nothing but in anger started to draw the sword which had been a gift from Stairs. Bodson drew his revolver and shot Msiri three times, killing him. A fight erupted, Bodson was shot and mortally wounded by one of Msiri's men, dying later.

The oral history of the Garanganze people contains some contradictions about the incident. In one story, Msiri speared Bodson to death and was shot by other members of the expedition.

The fate of Msiri's head
In an article published in Paris in 1892, de Bonchamps revealed that having carried Msiri's body back to their camp, the expedition cut off his head and hoisted it on a pole as a 'barbaric lesson' to the Garanganze. Moloney's book is silent on the subject. Dan Crawford was at a Belgian outpost 40 km away and, relying on a Garanganze report, he wrote that after shooting Msiri, 'Bodson' cut off his head and shouted "I have killed a tiger! Vive le Roi!". Garanganze oral history says that the body returned to them by Stairs for burial was headless, and that the expedition kept it. One account says that it cursed and killed everyone who carried it and eventually, this included Stairs himself, who died of malaria six months later on the return journey, and it was alleged he had with him Msiri's head in a can of kerosene. The history of Msiri's successors says that the head was buried under a hill of stones in Zambia, but it also says Msiri's successor 'caught and killed all the Europeans on the expedition'.

In 1998 Congolese artist Tshibumba Kanda Matulu said:

“ In all truth, we don't know where this head went. Is it in Europe, in some Museum, in the house of Leopold II, or with whom? Up to this day, we don't know".”

Katanga after Msiri

The expedition's askaris massacred many of Msiri's people that day at Munema, and the population dispersed. On condition they signed CFS treaties, Stairs installed Msiri's adopted son as chief in his place but of a much reduced area, and restored the Wasanga chieftainships which Msiri had overthrown 30 years before. The Stairs Expedition left after seven weeks when another CFS expedition (the Bia Expedition) arrived from north. It was too small to maintain effective control, and moved to eastern Katanga. Left without any CFS troops to keep the peace, disorder and instability occupied the vacuum left by Msiri for some time as the chiefs fought among themselves, and Dan Crawford moved to Lake Mweru and set up a mission to which many Garanganze moved to escape the strife.

The British accepted the Congo Free State's possession of Katanga (the administration of which Leopold vested in the Compagnie du Katanga) and an Anglo-Belgian agreement was signed in 1894. The slave trade from south-east Katanga to Lake Tanganyika declined, though in the Congo Free State slavery as practiced by King Leopold II's agents did not end until after the country was taken over by the Belgian state in 1908. Some of the Garanganze people returned to Bunkeya and continued the Garanganze chieftaincy which, despite internal exile for some years continues to this day, using the name 'Mwami Mwenda' after Msiri's first name, ruling a population of about 20,000.

Summing up Msiri: Brutal Tyrant or Warrior King?

Cruel punishments

Msiri's boma (compound) at Bunkeya. The objects on top of the four poles, below which some of Msiri's warriors are gathered, are heads of his enemies. More skulls are on the stakes forming the stockade. Msiri was said to punish his enemies and other miscreants by mutilation (cutting off ears), burial up to the neck and being left to starve, or being shut up in a hut to be eaten by a pack of starving dogs. Execution by beheading was certainly carried out, as witnessed by the heads placed on poles, like those of enemies of the British monarchs at the Tower of London 200 years previously. Ironically the Stairs expedition meted out the same treatment to Msiri himself (and Leopold's regime in the Congo Free State hung heads and bodies of villagers on fences as a warning to others of what happened to those who did not fulfil their rubber quota).

Msiri's capital Bunkeya and surrounding villages had a population estimated at 60,000-80,000 in 1891. A year after Msiri's death, it was 10-20,000. In that part of Africa people disperse into the bush when threatened. For instance, David Livingstone reported twenty years earlier that Mwata Kazembe VIII Chinkonkole Kafuti so tyrannised his people that many had moved away, and he could muster scarcely 1000 men. Continuing the contrast with Msiri, when the assassins sent by Msiri and Tippu Tib advanced on his boma, Chinkonkole Kafuti’s people did not warn him, but let him be taken by surprise.

Contrasting viewpoints

From a European source:

“ There can be little doubt, judging from various contemporary accounts, that his rule was arbitrary, vindictive, cruel, and despotic. He was a warlord who enslaved his neighbours and whose capital was surrounded by palisades on which hung the skulls of his enemies.”

Msiri's successors as chiefs:

“ Msiri was fearless in battle and magnanimous in time of peace. His generosity and loyalty to the Yeke people made him a beloved monarch, whose legend was passed down in the oral tradition of story telling, later kept alive through written accounts and Yeke traditional songs.”

These quotations illustrate the different perspectives of colonisers and colonised.

Arnot's description of Msiri
Of the contemporary written accounts of Msiri, all were by or based on accounts of people in the pay of either Leopold or the BSAC, the only exception being Arnot and his missionary colleagues, the closest there were to neutral observers. Arnot referred to Msiri as "a thorough gentleman," and established a working relationship with him, with a certain amount of mutual respect. Msiri gave Arnot land to build his own hut, a small clinic, a church, and a school. When Arnot returned to London he recruited three more missionaries to go to Msiri in Bunkeya.

Arnot's diaries say of living in Bunkeya:

“ ... the quietness and peace that reigns is remarkable. The fear of Msidi is great. He is sharp and severe in his government, though I see or hear of nothing in the way of torture or cruelty . . . executions are common, but death is inflicted at once ... [the cases] have been those of actual crime . . .”

The Stairs Expedition's reports
A political quotations website offers these as the last words of Omer Bodson:

“ I don't mind dying now that I've killed Msiri. Thank God my death will not be in vain. I've delivered Africa from one of her most detestable tyrants.
— Omer Bodson, dying words to Military Doctor Moloney.”

Moloney, the Stairs Expedition’s doctor, wrote up his account on his return to London in 1892. British public opinion was beginning to favour more ethical rule in the British Empire, influenced by the writings of people such as Livingstone. Moloney noted that Msiri had his 'apologists' in London. King Leopold had to legitimise his Congo Free State's claim to Katanga under the Berlin Conference's Principle of Effectivity, so a justification for the killing of Msiri was required. The Stairs Expedition's reports were used in Europe to emphasise self-defence as the reason for his death, coupled with the claim he was a bloodthirsty tyrant. Moloney's quotation of Bodson's dramatic dying words helped in this respect.

The question remains as to whether Msiri was being described as a bloodthirsty tyrant to the same extent before he was killed, when his signature to a treaty was being assiduously courted by the imperial powers.


1. Msiri's Empire

The meeting between black and white in the Katanga region provides one example of the relationship between the European invaders and the pre-existing African authorities. The Katanga is the lip of the Congo basin, a lip that descends very gradually. Between the Congo Zambezi watershed and the central forested regions of the Congo basin, there are hundreds of miles of open bush country, inhabited by a very substantial proportion of the Congo's total population.

To the Europeans the Katanga seemed a very isolated region, since it was not accessible by the river routes by which the Congo was first opened up; a long series of falls on the Lualaba cut it off from the navigable reaches of the Congo. The obvious routes from the coast were from Zanzibar across Lake Tanganyika, from Benguela by way of the Bihe highlands, and from the south by way of Shire and Nyasa. Congo State agents who had penetrated the Kasai region fairly easily by way of the river and had secured the recognition of the authority of the Independent State there, could only move on to the Katanga by a long overland trek which was considerably more difficult to organise.

Msiri of Bunkeya, although a newcomer to the Katanga, was the strong ruler of a centralised state.' His father, Kalasa, was a Nyamwezi trader who often visited the Katanga to buy copper, and eventually left his son Msiri there with a little group of Bayeke, to act as his permanent agent. Gradually Msiri gained control of the whole region from the Lualaba to Lake Moero and the Luapula, and from the Luvua to the Congo Zambezi watershed; thus an area the size of Great Britain came under his rule. Msiri's 'Negro cosmopolitan state' was the latest of a long series of conquest states going back at least to the sixteenth century. These states had traded with native west cost African States since the early seventeenth century, and with Mozambique since the mid eighteenth century. (But excavations around Lake Kisale have shown that even before any of these Luba Lunda states had existed, copper was worked and glass beads imported as early as the eighth century.)

Early European reports had suggested that the Katanga was a land of promise, rich in copper and gold. Livingstone was remembered around Lake Moero as 'the Englishman who had no toes',' but he had not penetrated as far as the mines. However, from Kazembe he had reported that a month's journey to the west of where he was the people of the Katanga were smelting copper ore; they produced bars which weighed anything from fifty to a hundred pounds, he said, and used copper wire to make bracelets. Like Livingstone, Cameron did not reach the Katanga mines. But he saw the copper crosses which served as money in the Katanga, and heard that gold had been found in the Katanga copper. Although the Africans did not value the gold, preferring 'the red copper to the white', Cameron found a Portuguese firm at Benguela which was buying all the Katanga copper it could in order to extract the gold.

Cameron heard something of the trade in copper and slaves which was carried on at Msiri's court, and knew of Msiri's widespread trade contacts:

I have no doubt that many of Mshiri's men have visited both coasts, and that a message might be sent by these people from Benguella to Zanzibar.

Msiri's capital at Bunkeya was a meeting place for traders 'from Zanzibar, from Uganda, from the Zambesi, from Angola, and from the Congo basin'. Msiri had ivory, salt, slaves, copper, and iron to offer. Since his empire was held together by force, the firearms which he obtained from Arab and Portuguese traders were essential to its continued existence.

One of the things which most impressed European visitors was the number of skulls which decorated the palisades of Bunkeya, or were hung up on the trees 'like hats on pegs, on every available arm'.' The skulls were not only those of enemy warriors but also of Msiri's subjects, for the death penalty was easily incurred under Msiri's regime. The slightest suspicion of treason was enough to send a man to his death, while Msiri was not content with the traditional punishment of cutting off the hand of a thief, or of tearing out the eyes of an adulterer. 'I stab them in the heart', he said, 'because the hand never stole anything yet, it is the heart who is the thief.' And again, 'The real eyes are in the heart, and death is the only true blindness.

Europeans were also astonished by the number of wives in Msiri's harem; there seem to have been at least 500 of them, who 'stream in on [Msiri] with well cooked dainties, for do they not all vie with each other to capture the Chief's citadel, his stomach?' Some were hostages as well as wives, sisters or daughters of some of Msiri's governors, brought to Bunkeya to answer for the loyalty of their relatives. But Msiri's chief pride was his half caste Portuguese wife, Maria da Fonseca, for a 'white wife' won him considerable prestige. Her father was a Portuguese officer, and her brother a slave trader who did business with Msiri. Maria da Fonseca was proud of her pale skin, which gave her precedence over all Msiri's other wives; her dying charge to an English missionary was that her white skin was to be buried in a white coffin.

The first Europeans to visit Msiri's capital were the German explorers Reichard and Bohm of the east coast expedition organised by the German committee of the African International Association. They arrived at Bunkeya in January 1884 and were well received by Msiri, but his temper changed when Reichard set out southwards on an exploratory expedition. Msiri probably feared that Reichard intended to make an alliance with one of his enemies. Bohm died in the Katanga, and Reichard, who returned through a hostile Bunkeya, had considerable difficulty in retracing his steps eastwards.

A few months later two other Europeans reached the Katanga; they were the Portuguese explorers Capello and Ivens, who had set out on a Government mission to travel from Angola to Mozambique. They hoped to discover a trade route between her two colonies which would provide Portugal with a sufficient basis for her claims to a corridor across the continent.' Both reached Msiri's empire, but only Ivens travelled to Bunkeya and his stay there was brief He soon rejoined Capello at Tenke and the two Portuguese continued their way eastwards towards the Indian Ocean.

2. The Garenganze Evangelical Mission

More than a year passed before another European arrived at Msiri's capital. Then in 1886 Msiri heard that a solitary white man was approaching Bunkeya from the west and desired to take up residence at his court. The news was welcome, for at this time Msiri was looking for a chance to undermine the influence of the Arabs at Bunkeya. He had been forced to cooperate with them in order to obtain ammunition, but he feared their power and desired their wealth. He was hoping to obtain increased supplies of guns and powder from Europeans in the west, in order to be able to assert his independence so far as the Arabs were concerned. Thus Msiri planned to welcome the European whose arrival was announced, and to grant him permission to settle as a move in the diplomatic game against the Arabs.

Frederick Stanley Arnot was the European who was approaching Bunkeya, quite unaware of the part which was being cast for him in advance by Msiri. He was a Scot, and his interest in central Africa had first been aroused by his countryman Livingstone. As a child he had decided that his life work would be to follow up what Livingstone had begun. Arnot had been brought up among the Plymouth Brethren and, true to their traditions, he refused to join an organised missionary society. With a friend he set out for central Africa with little equipment, small resources, and no guarantee of further supplies. In South Africa his friend left him, and Arnot's first missionary journey from Durban up to the Zambezi and across to the west coast at Benguela was made alone. His original objective had been the high land to the north of the Zambezi, and he was still determined to settle in this region, since he believed that his trek through a country of scattered population and his long stay in the Barotse valley had demonstrated that the essentials for a successful mission in central Africa were a healthy plateau and a dense population. Msiri's fame attracted him to the Katanga, for he had heard reports of a powerful monarchical state, well populated territory, large copper mines and rich agricultural land. He learned that Msiri was ready to welcome Europeans to his court, and was full of hope that a mission would be successful:
I met a company from the chief Msidi, of Garenganze ... sent with a letter to the King's brother in law ... a half-caste, who read to me the letter . . . which contained an earnest request that white men might come to Garenganze. . . . Of course it was as traders that he wanted white men, but I felt I had something even better than good trade, which, if Msidi could only comprehend, he would gladly receive.

It seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So Arnot set out again, this time westwards, towards the Katanga. When still hundreds of miles from Bunkeya, he found that Msiri's name served as a passport, for the Africans feared that 'if we interfere with this white man, who is travelling to Msidi, he will some day come and cut off our heads'. In February 1886 Arnot arrived at Bunkeya. He had to wait for ten days until Msiri 'had called for his diviners to discover if my heart was as white as my skin'. Their verdict was favourable, and Msiri received Arnot warmly, offered him the choice of a site on which to build, and promised him the royal protection.

Arnot spent two years as the only European at Bunkeya. In a highly centralised state where the primary preoccupation of the ruler was his own prestige, his only possible policy was to dance attendance on Msiri. The Katanga provides the single example in the Congo State of missionaries going to the chief's court and fitting completely into the existing pattern of life there. But his chances of gaining converts to Christianity were slender; Msiri was too powerful, and too intolerant of any rival claims on the loyalty of his subjects. Arnot gathered together a little group of children, a few of the unwanted captives of the Arab slavers,' but that was all. After two years Arnot was relieved by Swan and Faulkner, and for another two years these latter lived at Msiri's court, cut off from all European contacts. Msiri was glad to have them there, and would cheerfully discuss the existence of God over breakfast, but the Sunday services were unpopular; the people found all manner of excuses for absence and less than a dozen usually attended them. Swan and Faulkner kept a little school going, and dispensed medicines with some success. At times Msiri showed great faith in their medical powers. 'No more death!' he had exclaimed when he first saw their imposing array of bottles. But the chief was very changeable, and sometimes became suspicious of the missionaries' intentions, insisting that both Maria da Fonseca and Swan must take a dose of medicine before he would do so himself 'It is just another proof that the African missionary must not make too much of the seeming favourableness of chiefs,' commented Swan.

Altogether the missionaries' situation was very unsatisfactory. They felt themselves powerless to attack the social evils at Bunkeya; with the chief as their protector, they could not effectively object to the devastation of the countryside nor to the murder of an individual when these crimes were perpetrated at Msiri's pleasure, they could not denounce the capture of neighbouring tribesmen and their sale as slaves to the Arabs when this increased Msiri's wealth, nor could they condemn the widespread polygamy when Msiri was the chief offender. The English vice-consul Sharpe, who visited Bunkeya in 1890, commented on the servility of their attitude:

The missionaries (Swan and Faulkner) treat Msidi as a great King, do nothing without first asking his permission, are at his beck and call, almost his slaves: he sends for them continually for trivial things, and they meekly submit. They dared not come to see me on my arrival for several days, because Msidi told them not to come! They live like natives, on corn porridge and occasionally stinking meat.

In November 1890 Swan and Faulkner were joined by Lane, Thompson and Crawford, missionary reinforcements sent in by Arnot from the west coast. Again Msiri was glad to see the little group of Plymouth Brethren arrive. Their presence at Bunkeya added to his prestige, for they 'gave in to all his capriciousness" and he could treat them as his 'white slaves'. Besides, they provided him with private secretaries? But although the missionaries were Msiri's favourites, the King's .uncertain temper made the court atmosphere one of constant tension and fear, and the time spent there showed little positive result from the point of view of evangelism. Frequently there were storms of anger because the missionaries refused to give Msiri powder. On the outbreak of a local revolt against his authority the Chief suggested that if the missionaries taught him more of the European 'war wisdom', it would be the means of saving many lives; he could hardly understand why a request couched in such tactful terms was refused. Wit his anger would blow over again as quickly as it had arisen.

The Plymouth Brethren at Bunkeya were in constant competition with the Arabs, who were always on the watch to lower their stock with Msiri. On many subjects chief among them polygamy and slavery the views of Arabs and Europeans were diametrically opposed. Whenever possible, the Arabs would ridicule the ideas and behaviour of the missionaries before Msiri. Crawford wrote:

Muruturutu laughed at me in disdainful Board School fashion for reading out the Bible from left to right: it obviously offended his academical susceptibilities as much as seeing a native pretending to read a book upside down. . . . The Arab himself sees worlds of meaning in this sharp contrast of the two adverse races beginning to write at the opposite sides of a sheet of paper, and certain it is, that the gulf cutting off the Arab from the European is 'as far as the East is from the West'.

The Arabs could hold the Europeans up to ridicule not only for their method of writing and for their failure to supply

Msiri with powder, but also for their lack of possessions. The Brethren were anxious not to trade upon their prestige as Europeans more than they could help, and so kept as close as possible to the living standards of the people among whom they worked. They were horrified at the idea that the missionary should offer material advantages to all who would accept his teaching. But Crawford noted the result:

Arriving, as we do, almost empty?handed, Mushidi despises us for our own impecuniosity. In harsh and unembellished terms he insists that we are no 'whites' at all.'

And Swan wrote that after five years in Bunkeya:

Many of the natives scarcely know our object in living among them ... the great majority seem to think we have some personal interest in living among them.

One of the suggestions was that the missionaries must be fugitives from justice, forced to leave their own country because of their misdeeds?

3. The British South Africa Company and the Katanga

The Plymouth Brethren were not the only Englishmen interested in the Katanga. In 1885 this region had nominally been included within the boundaries of the Congo State, but for several years nothing had been done by the State authorities towards the 'effective occupation' required by the Berlin Act. It was the only part of the Congo where British missionaries had taken up residence before the State agents had done so. Elsewhere, although missionaries might have surveyed the Congo waterways before the State explorers, their actual settlement had followed the foundation of State and trading posts. But in the Katanga, there was the possibility that the presence of British missionaries at Bunkeya might have some influence on its political future. There was no doubt that some English circles were interested in the region, and in 1888 certain sections of the British Press were arguing that unoccupied parts of the Congo State could lawfully be taken over by any Power which had ambitions there.

When Arnot arrived back in England in 1888, the picture that he painted of the Katanga was an attractive one. Since his two years at Bunkeya had not been successful from the point of view of evangelism, he tended to present hopes for the future rather than a description of present achievements to his audiences, and to paint a rose-colored picture of the setting of the work in the hope of attracting funds and volunteers for his mission in the Katanga. Arnot stressed the friendliness of Msiri; he was 'most agreeable, indeed ... a thorough gentleman'. In his enthusiastic description of the Katanga, he emphasised the beauty of the country, the peace and order, which reigned in Msiri's empire, and the healthy climate suitable for Europeans, while he spoke in passing of the copper deposits of the region. Arnot addressed himself chiefly to the missionary minded public during his lectures all over England and Scotland, but he was also noticed by the smaller circle of geographers and philanthropists whose influence contributed so much to the British interest in east Africa, and became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.'

The general impression which Arnot left in England was that the Katanga was a most desirable part of central Africa. It was a region where philanthropy could go hand in hand with profit, because of the rich mineral resources known to exist there. But there was no driving force behind this feeling, and Arnot made no attempt to agitate for British occupation. The real enthusiasm and initiative came from Cecil Rhodes, who believed that the British South Africa Company could very profitably extend its sphere of operations northwards as far as the Katanga. His first representative to reach the Katanga at the end of 1890 was the geologist Joseph Thomson; however, smallpox and famine turned him back before he reached Bunkeya. The second was on his way even before the first had failed. This was Alfred Sharpe, one of the vice consuls of Harry Johnston in Nyasaland; he arrived at Bunkeya in November 1890, a few days in advance of Lane, Thompson and Crawford.

Unfortunately for Sharpe's purpose, Msiri had a fixed idea that visitors who came from the east were likely to bring disaster. He received Sharpe with a marked lack of enthusiasm, and poured scorn on the presents which he offered. A second interview, however, seemed to begin better, and Sharpe was hopeful of success. The missionary Swan was acting as his interpreter, and Sharpe suggested to him that Msiri should simply be told that the British wanted to be his friends. He hoped that the chief could thus be persuaded to put his mark to a treaty handing over his territory to the British South Africa Company, without full knowledge of what he was doing. Then Swan was to add his name as a witness. Sharpe's fellow countryman, however, strongly disagreed with this way of treating Msiri, and insisted on reading out the whole treaty to the Chief. As Sharpe had feared, Msiri firmly refused to sign the treaty once he knew what it was all about. Sharpe barely escaped from Bunkeya with his life, so irritated was the chief. The vice consul had expected more help from the English missionaries at Bunkeya, and reported crossly to Johnston:

Msidi would have no interview with me without Mr. Swan being present: this was a nuisance. On speaking to Msidi about treaties and concessions, he refused utterly said Mr. Arnot had told him to have nothing to do with anyone who wanted him to sign papers, and that it meant giving away his country.... These missionaries do a great deal of harm when they take upon themselves to advise native chiefs, as their advice is according to their own narrow views.

All Sharpe could do was to leave the treaty with Swan, who promised to produce it for Msiri to sign should the chief change his mind.

Msiri was perfectly capable of distinguishing between Englishmen who came as missionaries to his court and enhanced its prestige while doing nothing to disturb its life, and those who came hoping to persuade him to cede his sovereignty. It was only later, when threatened by the Belgians from the north, that he showed signs of recalling Sharpe, and thus 'proposed the oldest and simplest of black tactics namely, the exploiting of one white nation against the other'.

4. Occupation of the Katanga by the newly created "Congo State"

The claims of the British South Africa Company in the Katanga were discussed in the British Press in the spring of 1891. These claims rested on a threefold basis the residence of British subjects at Bunkeya, the expeditions of the company's agents and the treaties which they were alleged to have made, and the fact that although the Katanga was nominally included within the boundaries of the Congo Independent State, the State officials had as yet done nothing about visiting the region.

When Germany had recognised the Association Internationale du Congo in November 1884, neither the Katanga nor the Kasai had been included within its boundaries, since in virtue of the work of German explorers Germany considered that she could put forward claims to both these regions. The recognition of the Association by both France and Portugal in February 1885 had included the Katanga and the Kasai, however, since neither of these Powers had territorial ambitions there, and later Germany also agreed to recognise the extended boundaries. When in August 1885 the Powers were notified of the territorial limits of the Congo Independent State, there were no objections to the inclusion of the Katanga within those limits. But once Leopold II had established his claims to the Katanga, the King had done nothing about the region for several years; other tasks had seemed more urgent, and he had not been able to spare either the men or the money for an expedition to the south eastern corner of his immense African territory.

But when the Katanga was threatened by the British South Africa Company, effective occupation of the region became urgent. Already in 1888 Leopold II had shown his alarm at the idea put forward in the British Press that unoccupied parts of the Congo State territory could be taken over by anyone who chose to occupy them effectively.' He was even more alarmed when the British South Africa Company was constituted in the autumn of 1889, and The Times suggested that there was no reason why the three big British African companies the Royal Niger Company, the British East Africa Company and the British South Africa Company should not meet each other 'in the heart of the dark continent'. British map makers began to present the Katanga either as a kind of no man's land, or else as coming quite clearly within the British sphere of influence. There were rumours that the British South Africa Company had actually concluded a treaty with Msiri.

In fact, the British Foreign Office had no intention of pushing the British South Africa Company's claims to the Katanga.' However, Leopold II was determined to keep the Katanga within the borders of the Congo Independent State, and the activities of the company's agents seemed to him to constitute a very real threat to his sovereignty. While the King learned with relief from the British Government in the summer of 1891 that Thomson had not reached Bunkeya he was very anxious for the speedy success of the Belgian expeditions which had already set out, fearing that they might be outstripped by another of Rhodes' emissaries.

The first idea was an expedition to the Katanga undertaken jointly by the State and the Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l'Industrie, but Leopold finally decided on two separate expeditions. Paul Le Marinel, who in 1889 had been placed in charge of the State post recently established at Lusambo, was ordered to leave for Bunkeya, set up a State post there and obtain from Msiri the recognition of the flag of the Congo State. At the same time Alexandre Delcommune set out from Europe at the head of an expedition of the Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l'Industrie, but his mission was political as well as commercial.

It was not long before two more Belgian expeditions left for the Katanga; they were organised by the Compagnie du Katanga. Leopold II had been impressed by the achievements of the British chartered companies, and his creation of the Compagnie du Katanga on similar lines was part of his answer to the threat from the British South Africa Company. The Compagnie was constituted in the spring of 1891 to open up the Katanga and to carry out the administrative duties assigned to it there by the Congo State. In return it was granted a third of the State lands in the region, with a ninety nine year concession for the exploitation of mineral wealth there; it was also given a twenty year right of preference for the exploitation of all minerals which it discovered in the lands reserved to the State. Shares in the Compagnie du Katanga were held by the State, by the Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l'Industrie, and by English interests for the latter had been encouraged in the hope of ending agitation in England for British annexation of the Katanga.

The company immediately took charge of the work begun by Delcommune, and sent out two more expeditions, one under the Englishman William Grant Stairs and the other led by the Belgian Lucien Bia. The leaders of these two expeditions were commissioned by the Congo State to act on its behalf in negotiations with local chiefs, and in securing the recognition of the State flag in the Katanga. Leopold said that if they found that the British South Africa Company had already been successful in making a treaty with Msiri, they were to press on and secure identical treaties with African chiefs in unoccupied land within the British sphere of influence.' In the last resort this would give the King a bargaining point with which he hoped to secure the Katanga.

Le Marinel had left Lusambo in December 1890 and arrived at Bunkeya in April 1891, accompanied by the Belgians Descamps, Legat and Verdick and about 300 African soldiers and porters. He found three English missionaries thereSwan, Lane and Crawford?who on his arrival resolved to take up a position of strict neutrality should trouble break out between Msiri and Le Marinel. But all went smoothly; Msiri received Le Marinel well and informed him that 'he, liked white men very much'. However, although he allowed Le Marinel to leave Verdick and Legat to establish a post, Msiri refused altogether to accept the Congo State flag. The missionaries were favourably impressed by the behaviour of this first Belgian contingent; Crawford wrote:

Since the first day they have been here, all their dealings with the Chief have been most judicious. They seem disposed, even resolved, to settle peacefully in the country.

Legat and Verdick settled down on the banks of the Lofoi, a tributary of the Lufira, about two days' march from Bunkeya, since Msiri had not wanted the State post any closer to his capital. Legat was soon on good terms with his African neighbour; Delcommune, who arrived at Bunkeya in October, described him as 'the type par excellence of that rare category of European which adopts not only the habits of the natives but also their way of cooking and their laissez-aller'. Legat learned Bantu languages easily, and was popular among the Africans.' Msiri was constantly sending messengers to the State post to ask for alcohol or powder, or later for armed assistance against the Basanga.

For by the time that Delcommune arrived at Bunkeya there was trouble in Msiri's empire. Whereas Le Marinel had reported peace, plenty and order in the Katanga, the later expeditions found that the Basanga had revolted against Msiri's despotic rule, and that there was civil war, anarchy and famine in the land. Msiri had lost the energy of his youth, his prestige was diminishing rapidly, and his supplies of powder were running out. The Basanga were quick to realise that the arrival of Europeans heralded the end of Msiri's power, and that he would no longer be able to punish disobedience by wholesale slaughter, as had been his custom for so long. The situation at Bunkeya grew tense, and Lane and Crawford careful to stress their neutral position between Msiri and the Basanga - decided to move away to a site on the Lofoi a little distance from the post commanded by Legat.

Delcommune had no success with Msiri, for the Chief completely refused to make his submission to the Congo State and accept the State flag. 'I am the master here', he declared, 'and so long as I live the Kingdom of Garenganja shall have no other.' Msiri was extremely angry to learn that, having failed in his purpose at Bunkeya, Delcommune intended to move southward into the country of the rebel Katanga and Tenke, for he feared that the Belgians would make an alliance with the Basanga. It was at this point that it occurred to Msiri that he might be able to play off one set of Europeans against the other, just as earlier he had endeavoured to use the missionaries to offset Arab influence at his court. His obvious move seemed to be to recall the British, so he dictated to Crawford a letter intended for Sharpe and dispatched it at once.

This letter to Sharpe was intercepted by Stairs, who at the end of 1891 was approaching Bunkeya from the cast, in the service of the Compagnie du Katanga. The doctor Moloney, who accompanied Stairs' expedition, reported that they had been well received everywhere between Tanganyika and Bunkeya:

In no case did Captain Stairs encounter the smallest reluctance to accept the Congo flag. Indeed, the expedition was universally hailed as an unexpected deliverance from Msiri; and the native bands, composed almost entirely of drums, used to sound in our honour until one's head ached with the noise.

Msiri at first welcomed Stairs' expedition since, as it was led by an Englishman, he naturally concluded that it was a British vanguard sent in reply to his letter to Sharpe. When he discovered his mistake, he refused outright to hoist the State flag as Stairs required. Msiri insisted that he was ready to accept the British flag, but not that of the State. Stairs, however, was determined to take no refusal, and to 'put a stop to Msiri's little games'. He was determined to show none of the complaisance of the Plymouth Brethren, believing that:

The English missionaries were responsible for the mistaken way in which Msiri though about white men; they had shown weakness and patience, and he thought all whites were the same.

It was not long before Msiri discovered that he was dealing with a very different type of Englishman in Stairs, and he grew alarmed. After a stormy interview on December 17, Msiri left Bunkeya for the village of his half-caste wife, Maria da Fonseca. On the 19th he met Stairs again; after Stairs had plied him with arguments for over three hours, the Chief still refused to accept the Congo State flag, and wanted to adjourn the discussion until the following day. Stairs, however, had lost patience, and sent some of his own men to hoist the State flag on a little hill which dominated the capital. Thoroughly alarmed, Msiri fled to the village of his first wife, an hour's journey from Bunkeya.

The following day Stairs sent Captain Bodson and the Marquis de Bonchamps to summon Msiri back again. When they reached the village, Bodson and a dozen soldiers entered the Chief's hut, while De Bonchamps waited outside with hundred others, ready to move forward if there were signs of trouble. It is difficult to know exactly what occurred inside the hut, since there are considerable discrepancies between the eyewitness account given by one of Bodson's men and that of one of Msiri's sons, who was standing near his father. It seems that Msiri refused to return and meet Stairs again, and that there was a violent argument. Msiri threatened Bodson, who drew his revolver and killed the King. In turn he was mortally wounded by Msiri's bodyguard.' Moloney records that later Bodson whispered to him: 'Doctor, I don't mind dying, now that I have killed Msiri,' and that he said to Stairs: 'Thank God, my death will not be in vain. I have delivered Africa from one of her most detestable tyrants.'

The old prophecy that disaster would come upon Msiri's empire from the east had been fulfilled. There was no attempt to attack the Europeans and avenge Msiri's death. His own people, the Bayeke, were afraid, while those of other tribes appeared glad enough to be released from a tyrannical rule, which had grown more onerous as Msiri aged. Stairs wrote to Arnot:

The country is now quiet and breaths freely since relieved from the brutal tyranny of Msiri. No more heads will be stuck on poles, ears cut off, or people buried alive, if I can help it ... all the country is joyful over the death of Msiri.

Indeed, the coup d'etat could only be successful because Msiri had already lost the loyalty of many of the minor chiefs on whom the smooth running of his empire depended. Revolt and guerrilla warfare had broken out between the time of Le Marinel's visit and those of Delcommune and Stairs, and created a climate in which European rule could be established easily.

Stairs at once set about reorganising the country. He chose Mukandavantu to succeed Msiri; the son thus replaced his father not by hereditary right or tribal choice, but as a State nominee. Two hundred or so prisoners at Bunkeya, formerly condemned by Msiri to death, were dispersed to their homes. Envoys were dispatched to all the chiefs of the neighbourhood, to demand their recognition of the Congo State authority and their acceptance of the State flag. There were no objections, and Belgian authority was soon acknowledged within a radius of fifty miles from Bunkeya.' But there were many difficulties for the expedition; Stairs himself was ill, and the famine grew worse as the days went by. Not until the end of January 1892, when Bia arrived from the west, was Stairs' expedition able to leave the famine stricken land. Hunger and dysentery accounted for a large proportion of its members, and Stairs himself died before reaching the coast.

At Bunkeya the famine grew still worse. The Europeans were very strictly rationed, and the plight of the Africans was pitiful. One of the members of the Bia expedition wrote:

The plight of the Africans is as horrible as anything that can be imagined. What frightful scenes we have lived through during these two months. Unfortunate creatures mere skeletons have lingered outside our tents to beseech us for food or wandered around our camp in search of unmentionable garbage. Each morning we found corpses in the huts, and how many more of the poor creatures died far away! Dysentery was an inevitable consequence of this infernal regime, and each day corpses became more and more numerous.

Bia and Cornet left on a prospecting expedition, and in February 1892 reached the far famed copper mine of Kambove; here Cornet picked up the first specimens of Katanga copper to be brought back direct to Europe. On their return, Bia decided that it was impossible to stay longer at Bunkeya. In any case, their work there was done; Msiri's successor and the neighbouring chiefs had signed treaties acknowledging the sovereignty of the Congo State, and the first geographical survey had been made. So three Europeans moved to Kipuna, on the Lufira, fifteen miles or so from the State post where Legat was in charge, while Bia and Francqui continued the work of the Delcommune expedition by travelling on to Lake Moero and then to the south of Lake Bangweolo, everywhere taking possession of the country on behalf of the Congo State. Bia himself died before he returned to Kipuna. In August Cornet continued his geographical work and gained a good impression of the immense copper deposits of the Katanga. Finally the expedition regained Lusambo en route for Belgium; while in the Katanga it had lost its leader Bia and four fifths of its African personnel.

There remained two groups of Europeans in the Katanga, the Belgians of the State post on the Lofoi, and the British missionaries of the Garenganze Evangelical Mission. Legat and Verdick were still awaiting the return of Le Marinel with reinforcements and supplies; in the meantime they were distributing among the Katanga villages the stock of handkerchief sized State flags which one of the Belgian expeditions had brought.' The missionaries, too, were waiting for reinforcements. It seemed to them that they stood far more chance of being successful in their work, now that they had been freed from their complete dependence upon Msiri. According to Crawford, the time had come 'not for evacuation, but rather for occupancy of this country in the real sense'.

There were still many difficulties, however, for the situation was very troubled. Crawford had rightly foreseen that 'when Msiri's course is run and his iron rod removed from the necks of this people ... then shall every man's hand be against his fellow'. State rule could only prevent disorder in a limited area, for Legat and Verdick had been left with a force of African soldiers far too small to be really effective. As Verdick noted, 'the Katanga had completely lost the precarious political unity which Msiri's rule had succeeded in maintaining, and all the little chiefdoms considered themselves totally independent, while the Basanga in particular became hostile towards the State post'. Bunkeya had lost its position as a capital, and the population had scattered. Arab slave raiding went completely unchecked. Crawford even reported that the State officers thought it quite possible that they would be ordered to evacuate the Katanga altogether, should it seem that gold was not so readily obtainable there as had been expected. It was a great relief to the missionaries as well as to Legat and Verdick when at the end of 1893 the arrival of a State caravan from Luluabourg was announced, for this indicated that the State Government intended to maintain its position. Legat went on leave, and Lieutenant Brasseur replaced him as chief of the State post. Not until the following autumn, when two more Europeans arrived, was Verdick able to leave.

But it was during this troubled period, which followed Msiri's death that the mission of the Plymouth Brethren first began to enjoy any real popularity in the Katanga. The old order had broken down, but the new authority, which was to replace Msiri was not yet established. Already before the chief's death, after the coming of Sharpe and Le Marinel, the dozen or so Africans at Arnot's weekly meeting had been replaced by 'the Lord ... sending numbers of people every morning'.' But after Msiri's rule was over, the situation was one in which Africans turned naturally to the missionaries as the one bridge between the old and the new; Crawford recorded that 'thousands have listened . . . many Word of Life'.

The personality of Dan Crawford himself left a considerable impression upon the work of the Brethren in the Katanga. He was only twenty years old when he reached Bunkeya, and with the enthusiasm of youth he set out to attain his somewhat extreme ideal of a missionary. It seemed to him that material poverty and a direct dependence upon God for supplies, without any reliance upon human agency, were both an essential mark of the missionary, and also a means of living closer to the people among whom he settled. An enthusiastic, impulsive and single?hearted missionary, he was careless of his own life and health. His one aim was to endeavour to experience African life from the inside, to live with the people to whom he had come, sharing their thoughts, their hopes, their fears. His life in Africa was one long essay in 'thinking black'. (He gave this title, Thinking Black, to the book which he wrote in 1911 - 12 on his first furlough in England, after twenty two years without a break in central Africa.) He was indeed remarkably successful in winning a response from the Africans to whom he gave himself, aided as he was by his outstanding linguistic gifts, and by the continuity of his stay in the Katanga throughout the unsettled years of the later part of Msiri's reign, and of the early period of European rule.

It was to a large extent Crawford's powers of leadership and his attempt to identify himself with the Africans, which gathered around the station on the Lofoi a great crowd of . . seemed to drink in the adherents who had lost any sense of security since the break up of the old order. There were few outward attractions to draw them there, for the Plymouth Brethren deliberately kept their living standards lower than those of many other missionaries, and the people were certainly not encouraged to adopt an attitude of dependence. Crawford and Thompson were most unwilling to accept the position and prestige of chiefs. Crawford wrote:

We find the stupid and mischievous notion has got currency that since Msiri's death we are the Chiefs of the Country, and this compels us to disabuse their minds of any such idea, although many insist on wronging us in this matter.'

In Msiri's time 'chief was chief, and missionary was missionary', but after his death it was to the missionaries that the Africans turned for some kind of stable rule, and in their new position Crawford saw 'new danger, as well as new privilege'. But however much he regretted the necessity, Crawford saw that he had to accept social responsibility for the people who came flocking round him, and he lived up to the name he was given 'Konga Vantu', Gatherer of the People. After a time he moved with them all to Luanza, on the northern shore of Lake Moero, announcing that tribal differences were to be forgotten, and that if the people came with him it must be as a new and unified group going forward into a new life.3 Luanza became a self contained, self governing and Self supporting mission village. Later other Plymouth Brethren returned to Mwena, near Bunkeya, while some settled at Koni Hill to the south cast of Msiri's former capital.

Meanwhile Brasseur, who had taken charge of the State post on the Lofoi late in 1893, had been endeavouring to restore law and order in the Katanga. Gradually he extended the authority of the Congo State; a successful surprise attack upon a group of Basanga who were defying the State authorities meant, according to Verdick, that 'our authority was recognised by many chiefs who before then had never come near the State post'. The next step was to defeat the Arab raider Simba on Lake Moero. Brasseur also did his best to encourage agriculture:

To avoid the return of famine which resulted either from lack of foresight or from war, as in Msiri's time, I introduced the cultivation of rice and wheat, and already more than forty chiefs have received seed. After the harvest, they give me a part of their grain, and this is returned to them the following year, so that the cultivation increases annually. All European vegetables do well here. I have also planted palms, and lemons and apple trees.... I have introduced long tailed sheep and brought from the south a kind of goat which is much better than that of these parts.'

In the autumn of 1894 two more Europeans arrived, while Verdick returned to Belgium but came back again in 1897. During his absence Brasseur organised the exploration of the country between the Lualaba and the Luapula. Since he received complaints from the Africans about the Arab Shiwala, who was raiding the tribes on the banks of the Lufira from Lake Bangweolo, Brasseur decided on a punitive expedition. On Verdick's return he set out; they were successful in driving Shiwala across the Luapula to British territory, although Brasseur died in the attack. Verdick succeeded him and continued with the same kind of work. There was still trouble with the Basanga; Verdick attributed this to the fact that they disliked State interference with their slave trading. In the summer of 1898 he set out to visit the chief Kalunkumi, who had not presented himself at the State post since Brasseur's death, but he found when he arrived that Kalunkumi and his subjects had fled, abandoning their villages and their crops. Verdick reported that:

He made his subjects believe that we are insatiable, although in fact we ask for nothing or almost nothing. We were content with what Kalunkumi chose to bring us - or rather send, for he seldom came near our post. Perhaps he sent us a dozen tusks of ivory in all, although he collected thousands every year.... We only asked his submission, and that of his subjects, to the State laws.

Verdick added that Kalunkumi's unreasonable flight was his undoing, and that he died of 'an illness brought on by fear and anxiety'. Several times Verdick mentions a desire to continue slave trading as the reason for which Africans 'would prefer the white man to stay at his post and not come around to enquire what is going on in their neighbourhoods', and says that this factor sufficed to explain the 'blind hostility' which he sometimes found and which 'makes everyone run away from us.

As a result of the expeditions of Stairs and Bia, the right of the Congo State to the Katanga could by the European standards of the day no longer be disputed. For the next few years two or three Europeans at a time had occupied the State post on the Lofoi, had endeavoured to pacify the country and stimulate agriculture, besides repulsing the Arab raiders who from time to time harassed the African tribes, and doing something to decrease the slave trading carried on by Africans as well as Arabs. At this time it was impossible to do more. Having secured its right to the region beyond any doubt, the Congo State had few men to spare for occupying it, while the Compagnie du Katanga could do little towards the development of the country so long as the division of lands between the State and the Company, according to the agreement of 1891, had not been worked out in detail. It was not until the early twentieth century that there was a positive development policy in the Katanga.

Occupation of Katanga

1883 1894

When Leopold revised the frontiers of the Free State so as to bring within them a large territory at its south eastern corner which he had not previously claimed, it was more for the sake of elbow room than any other reason. He had no more idea at the time than anybody else that he was acquiring one of the richest mineral areas in the world.

Katanga took its name from a small village, situated not far from the site of the modem city of Elizabethville, where from time immemorial the natives had mined copper. It was a country so remote and inaccessible that until the end of the eighteenth century no European had ever visited it. For hundreds of years all that was known in the outside world was that somewhere in the mysterious interior of Africa copper was produced and that it reached the coast in the form of ingots, or of the more characteristic St Andrew's cross, which was widely used as currency. In the sixteenth century the metal was already being exported to Europe from Angola and the mouth of the Congo.

The first definite information about Katanga came from the Portuguese explorer, Francisco de Lacerda. In the year 1798, when he was Governor of Mozambique, de Lacerda reported that two years earlier a Goanese trader had visited a chief called Cazembe, south of Lake Mweru, who 'possessed copper and gold mines and was at war with another chief whose land produced latao (yellow copper)', A few years later two Portuguese travellers coming from the west to visit Cazembe crossed Katanga on the way and observed 'in a place called Catanga rocks on the tops of hills which appear green and from which copper is extracted ... and made into bars'. (Verbeken and Walraet, La Premiere Traversee du Katanga en 1806 Institut Royal Colonial Belge, 1953)

Fifty years later, when travelling from the Zambezi towards Angola, Livingstone came across pieces of copper 'in the form of a St Andrew's cross which are sometimes offered as payment'. In 1859 when in the neighbourhood of Lake Nyasa, which he had just discovered, he met caravans from the country of Cazembe and Katanga carrying copper, ivory and malachite; and in 1867 he wrote from the village of Cazembe to Lord Clarendon at the Foreign Office: 'About a month's march from here, towards the west, the natives of Katanga melting down malachite obtain large ingots which have the form of a capital L Throughout the region these can be seen varying in weight from 50 to 100 Ibs. and the natives draw them to make bracelets which they wear on their arms and ankles. Gold is also found in Katanga and samples have been offered to the Sultan of Zanzibar.'

The great explorer was evidently haunted by this Eldorado. It was perhaps the desire to pierce its mystery which made him refuse, after being rescued by Stanley, to return to civilization, and to set off once more into the great unknown. He was on his way to Katanga when he met his death in 1873. From Chitambo, in the marshy country south of Lake Bangwelo, where he died, it was only a few days' march to the River Lualaba which forms the eastern boundary of Katanga.

The next traveller in time to mention Katanga was Lieutenant Verney Cameron, R.N., In 1874, during his three years' crossing of the continent from east to west, Cameron found that ingots in the shape of a St Andrews cross and weighing two or three pounds were used as money west of Lake Tanganyika. Near the source of the Lomami river he saw slaves exchanged for copper and concluded that it came from Katanga where it was to be found 'in considerable quantities'.

The first expedition to set out with the specific object of exploring the region was organized by the German branch of the Association Internationale Africaine, and partly financed by LeopoId. It was led by Dr Paul Reichard, with a scientist called Bohm as second in command. The party left Pala, on Lake Tanganyika, where the Belgians had already established a base, on 1st September 1883, and on 20th January entered Bunkeya. This was the capital of Msiri, the ruling chief. Msiri was not a native of the country, but a trader from East Africa who had carved himself a kingdom and made himself rich by raiding his neighbours and selling them into slavery. In accordance with the custom of African despots he decorated his Palace with the heads of his victims.

Msiri at first received the visitors politely, but soon turned hostile: and after Bohm had died of fever, Reichard was forced to make a fighting retreat. He reached Pala at the end of November 1884, without food, or goods, or ammunition, and having abandoned the notes and samples collected by his companion. In the same year two Portuguese travellers had the same kind of experience and were lucky to escape with their lives.

Msiri's next European visitor was the Scottish missionary, Frederick Stanley Arnot, who arrived at Bunkeya in February 1886. Surprisingly he was allowed to remain and to establish his mission on a near by hill. A year later he was joined by two colleagues, Swan and Faulkner. Returning to England to collect funds he published a book in which he described the native method of mining copper.
(Garenganze or Seven Years' Pioneer Mission Work in Central Africa - Carenganze was the native name for Msiri's Kingdom).

They dig small round pits, seldom deeper than ten or thirty feet. They have no lateral galleries and when a pit becomes too deep they abandon it and open another.

The malachite was broken up and melted in primitive charcoal furnaces made of clay taken from ant hills. The liquid metal fell into containers and after cooling was removed to be refined in smaller furnaces. The whole proceeding was supervised by witchdoctors and conducted with religious ritual; but under Msiri's sanguinary rule production greatly declined and by the end of the century it had practically ceased.

Arnot's book attracted much attention, since he was the first European to spend any time in Katanga or give accurate information on the country.

One of the people who found it particularly interesting was Cecil Rhodes, now at the height of his fame as multi millionaire, Prime Minister of Cape Colony, and founder of the British South Africa Company. Formed earlier in the year principally to gain control of and develop what is now Northern Rhodesia, the company received its Royal Charter on 29th October 1889, and with it the approval of the British Government to occupy all territory north of the Zambezi.

Rhodes, however, did not limit his ambition to Rhodesia, whose Copper Belt had not yet been discovered. His eyes were on Katanga, where there was known to be copper and it was thought there might be gold too. It did not bother him that Katanga was claimed by the Congo Free State. Germany and France might have signed treaties recognizing this claim, but Britain had never done so. In any event Katanga was not yet occupied by the Belgians and in such cases possession was nine points of the law: or 'first come first served'. So at least Rhodes argued, and the attitude of the Press showed that he was strongly supported in England.

Thus it was that when three new missionaries recruited by Arnot arrived at Bunkeya in November 1890, they found staying in the mission an Englishman, Alfred Sharpe. sent by Rhodes as his emissary to Msiri. Sharpe's instructions were to persuade the chief to sign a treaty placing himself and his territory under the protection of the Chartered Company. Unfortunately for him and for Rhodes, Arnot, who was still away, had before his departure warned Msiri to have nothing to do with any strangers. Doubtless he was thinking of Popish competitors who might turn up during his absence and steal the potentate's favour. He could not foresee that the first new arrival would be a Protestant, and an English one at that, and would be turned away on his own advice. When he got back he tried to rectify the error; but by then it was too late. Alfred Sharpe had withdrawn, 'frustrated and defeated' as an English journalist wrote, not only by the suspicions unwittingly aroused against him by Arnot, but also by his failure to impress Msiri. The chief considered the presents brought by Sharpe inadequate and was contemptuous of his caravan.

Meanwhile Leopold was increasingly anxious about the threat to his possessions. Two years before, he had written to warn Thys about British designs on the Free State:

The theory advanced by certain English newspapers is that any part of the State not occupied can be taken by anyone who occupies it. We have therefore a capital interest in dispatching, as soon as we can, powerful expeditions to our northern and southern frontiers under penalty of losing everything.

With so much else to do and its resources already stretched to the limit, it was only natural that there should be a delay in occupying the farthest outposts of the Free State. But with the British making an obvious bid for Katanga, no more time could be lost. Orders were sent to Captain Le Marinel, commanding a military post at Lusambo, on the River Sankuru, to proceed with all speed to Bunkeya, hoist the Free State's flag blue with a gold star and oblige Msiri to recognize it.

Accompanied by two Belgian officers and a sergeant, 180 negro soldiers and 150 porters, Le Marinel left Lusambo just before Christmas on his 800 mile march. Making record time the expedition reached Bunkeya on 18th April 1891. Its reception by Msiri was cool, but not overtly hostile. Before the position could be consolidated, however, a disaster occurred: the store of arms and ammunition blew up. Le Marinel then decided he must return to obtain replacements. Withdrawing the whole column from Bunkeya, he installed a lieutenant and fifty men in a camp on the River Lofoi, some twenty five miles away, and with the rest set off for Lusambo.

His labours had not been entirely wasted, since he carried in his pocket a letter to the Governor General at Boma, signed by Msiri, and witnessed by the English missionary, Swan, conveying the following message written in English:

“I have received a full explanation on the subject of the Congo Free State and am happy to have its agents established in my country. They have given me a fine present with which I am much pleased”.

Your obedient servant,
Chief of Garenganze or Katanga

One such expedition was as much as Leopold could afford in view of the critical financial situation of the Free State, but he was not content with that. He therefore appealed for help to Albert Thys, whose Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et I'Industrie, and its various subsidiaries, were already active in opening up the country. Thys responded immediately by organizing an expedition under the command of Alexandre Delcommune. He also formed, in agreement with the King, a new company called the Compagnie du Katanga. Part of the capital was subscribed by an English group and a proportion of the shares allotted to the Free State. This enabled two further expeditions to be mounted. One of them was commanded by a Belgian, Lucien Bia, and the other by an Englishman, Captain William Grant Stairs, who had been Stanley's assistant on the Emin Pasha relief expedition. Subsequently the Compagnie du Katanga also assumed responsibility for the Delcommune expedition.

The latter arrived at Bunkeya on 6th October 1891. Two interviews with Msiri were inconclusive; the crafty old rascal was giving nothing away. To impress his visitors, several dozen human heads, some quite fresh, were displayed in a heap beside the throne where he received them. After resting for three weeks the Belgians withdrew to the Lofoi, where they found the party left behind by Le Marinel safe and sound. Delcommune then continued his journey southward, passing through country whose chiefs were in revolt against Msiri and which had recently been decimated by famine. By the time the expedition arrived at Mushima, on the frontier of Rhodesia, its original strength of 650 men had been reduced by death and disease to 250.

Rather than retrace his steps, Delcommune decided to build canoes and sail them down the River Lualaba. Two months were spent on this task before the flotilla was ready to launch. Frequently rapids made it necessary to carry the canoes along the bank, after a path had, first been cut. At the end of six weeks further progress by water was stopped by a series of cataracts guarded on both sides by mountains. The canoes were then abandoned and a course set for Bunkeya, where the remnants of the party eventually arrived.

Meanwhile there had been a dramatic change in the situation. The second expedition of the Compagnie du Katanga had started from Dar es Salaam, on the Indian Ocean. With its English commander, Captain Stairs, were: a Belgian, Captain Bodson; a Frenchman, the Marquis de Bonchamps; an Irishman, Dr J. A. Maloney; and the latter's English servant, Thomas Robinson. Following the old slave route and crossing Lake Tanganyika, the caravan made good progress and on 20th December 1891 reached Bunkeya. There the travellers found a serious state of affairs. 'The famine is such', wrote Stairs, 'that if one offered a treasure one could not buy provisions; there are none. No more firewood either and the water is execrable. The English missionaries are terrorized by Msiri.'

At their first meeting Stairs taxed the chief with his crimes and gave him a thorough dressing down. The next day, hearing that Msiri had fled to a neighbouring village, he sent Bodson and Bonchamps to bring him back. They found Msiri in a truculent mood surrounded by his warriors. The interview was heated and at a certain moment Bodson seems to have lost his head. Drawing his revolver he shot the chief dead and was immediately struck down by the warriors. Mortally wounded, he died the next day. On learning this news Stairs ran up the flag and took possession of the village in the name of the Free State. It was thus that the King of Katanga's long reign of terror came to its deserved end.

The death of Msiri did not end the troubles of the expedition. Famine and the general disorder of the country soon made its position critical. Bonchamps and Robinson went sick, followed by Stairs. Left alone to look after them, with supplies of food unprocurable, Maloney was almost at the end of his tether when on 30th January 1892 news was brought to him that a caravan was approaching from the west. This was the Compagnie du Katanga's third expedition, led by a Belgian officer, Commandant Bia. Four other Belgians made up his staff, including a doctor and a young geologist, Jules Cornet.

It was decided that Bia should take over Stairs's mission, while the Englishman and his companions returned to their base. Only one of them, Maloney, could walk; the others had to be carried in hammocks. Three months later they reached the coast, having followed the Zambezi. Bonchamps and Robinson recovered, but Stairs died on the day that the ship that was to take him home entered port.

Famine and dysentery, from which his men were dying like flies, soon drove Bia from Bunkeya. After establishing a new camp at Kipuna, twenty five miles to the west, he set off with one companion, Emile Francqui, to accomplish the purpose of his mission: that was to make treaties with all the chiefs and proclaim the sovereignty of the Free State. Their journey lasted for six months and took them for hundreds of miles through unexplored country. As a result of prolonged marches through swamps, Bia fell gravely ill and had to be carried. He had left orders for the rest of the party to rendezvous with him at Tenke, twenty five miles to the south of the modern town of Jadotville, and found them there when he arrived with Francqui early in July.

Meanwhile Jules Cornet, after recovering from serious illness, had already made important geological discoveries and was anxious to continue his explorations. Although Bia's condition was rapidly deteriorating, he insisted that the doctor should go to Cornet on the grounds that the life of the young scientist was now more important to the success of the expedition than his own. In thirty five days, between 8th August and 12th September 1892, Cornet discovered some of the most important mineral deposits in Katanga, and learnt enough to be convinced of their immense richness.

After crossing the Lubumbashi river, a few miles from where Elizabethville stands today, Cornet and his companion were approaching the minefield of Kipushi, on the Rhodesian frontier, when a message arrived recalling them urgently to Tenke. They hastily returned to the base only to find that their leader had died a few days earlier. Six months later the survivors of the expedition it had lost over 500 men arrived back at Lusambo.

The results obtained from all these efforts were decisive. In three years the greater part of Katanga had been explored, its mineral wealth established and many of the most important deposits located. Above all, the Free State had proved its claim to the territory which henceforth was not disputed. In a treaty signed on 12th May 1894 the British Government recognized the frontier with Rhodesia, which has remained substantially unchanged to the present day.

The occupation of Katanga was the work of not more than a dozen whites, of whom four Bodson, Stairs, Bia and Hakansson lost their lives. Only a summary account has been given here, but enough perhaps to suggest that it was a heroic achievement, from which even the most ardent anti colonialist would surely, at this date, not withhold his admiration.

After the occupation of Katanga there remained only one region whose possession was still disputed. Since 1870 the Arab slavers coming up from Zanzibar had established themselves firmly between Lake Tanganyika and the River Lualaba. The proclamation of the Free State did not affect them: they continued their human traffic and defied anyone to stop them. The time had now come to deal with this problem.

As a preliminary step two armed camps were created, one at Basoko, on the Congo below Stanley Falls, and the other at Lusambo on the River Sankuru, which could serve as bases for future military operations. The first clash occurred on 9th April 1892, when Rumaliza, Sultan of Ujiji, on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, attacked a military post set up by the Anti Slavery Society and commanded by two Belgian officers. This was the start of a two years' war, which ended in the complete defeat of the Arabs, their expulsion from all the territory of the Free State, and the abolition of the slave trade.

The Government troops consisted of Congolese, trained and led by Belgian army officers. (This was the origin of the Force Publique, of which so much has been heard in our own time.) Their commander was a brilliant soldier, Captain Dhanis, and none of the officers was above the rank of lieutenant. The campaign was hard and bloody. Although the numbers ostensibly engaged in it were small about four hundred black troops and a dozen white officers against some two hundred Arab chiefs and their armed followers many more took part in the fighting. The region was well populated with warlike tribes normally engaged in slave raiding for the Arabs who joined in on whichever side appeared at the moment to be winning. As these people were among the most savage in Africa every battle was followed by orgies of cannibalism, in which dead, wounded and prisoners rapidly vanished without trace, irrespective of whether they were friends or foes. The endurance, courage and powers of leadership shown by the white men amid such horrors were beyond praise. One of them, the Belgian sergeant De Bruyn, met a heroic death at the hands of his Arab captors after refusing to betray the position of his comrades.

For nearly a year the war waged to and from with its outcome in the balance. Gradually, however, the better discipline of the Free State forces gave them the upper hand. The capture of Nyangwe on 4th March 1893, after the defeat of the Sultan Mohara, and of Kasongo on 22nd April; the struggle with Rumaliza; the surrender of Rachid, nephew of Tippu Tib, on 25th January 1894; and finally the fall of Kabambare on 24th April, resulted in the Arabs being driven back across the eastern frontier and disappearing for good from the history of the region.


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Federation of the Free States of Africa



Secretary General
Mangovo Ngoyo

Email: africa.federation@gmail.com