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Nineteenth century intruders in zambia

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Before the nineteenth century Zambia had very few contacts with Europeans and none directly with Arabs and the world of Islam. [A. Roberts, “The Nineteenth Century in Zambia”, in T.O. Ranger, (ed) Aspects of Central African History, Oxford, Henemann Educational Books, 1968, p. 71)

In the 19th Century this pattern changed. Intruders came from the North and South.

Northen intruders: Arabs, Swahili, and Nyamwezi or Yeke.

Southern intruders: Kololo, Ngoni and Europeans.

The groups introduced major economic and political changes.

NB. The three major Zambian political entities were the Bemba, Lunda, and Lozi kingdoms.

Other groups: Ila and Tonga (South of Zambia); Chewa and Nsenga (East); Bisa, Ushi, Tabwa (North-east Zambia), Lala and Lamba (Central); Kaonde, S. Lunda and Luvale (North-west)

Early Contacts with the Portuguese

- The Portuguese were the first Europeans to show an interest in Zambia.

- They were mostly searching for gold and silver but towards the end of the 18th Century they wanted to link the west coast (Angola) to the east coast (Mozambique).

- In 1798 they [were spurred by the British occupation of the Cape in 1795] sent an expedition to open up trade with Kazembe so as to tap his trade route westward to Mwata Yamvo and Angola.

- The expedition failed to achieve its goals of the Kazembe's resistance and the death of the Portuguese expedition leader de Lacerda.

- In 1827 the Portuguese failed again to establish a colony on the route to Kazembe.

- In 1831 they tried again to Angola with Mozambique but failed due to Kazembe's hostility and tha appalling hardships they suffered on the journey.

  • Thus the Portuguese never had a major impact on the Zambian communities in the 19th Century. However most of the history of north-eastern Zambia is known throughthe Portuguese records especially the Journal of Antonio Gamitto.

Invasions From The South: Ngoni and Kololo

The Mfecane had a great impact on Zambia.

The Ngoni of Zwangendaba that had crossed the Zambezi in 1835 finally settled at Ufipa (South of L. Tanganyika)

After the death of Zwangendaba in 1845 they dispersed in different directions and around 1870 Mpezeni and his Ngoni settled among the Chewa in Eastern Zambia.

They impacted heavily on the political and socio-economic organisation of the area.

The long established Mkanda Chiefdom of eastern Zambia was totally destroyed.

They raided the locals for cattle and captives to increase their armies.They disrupted the trade system of the area. Roberts says they had little use for trade and they put the captives to work rather than sell them to slave traders.

However they adopted the local language [Nyanja].

The Ndebele who established themselves at Bulawayo around 1840 raided across the Zambezi among the chiefless Tonga thus disrupting the latter's peace and tranquility.
The Kololo under Sebitwane overran the Lozi kingdom in 1840.

Unlike the Ngoni and Ndebele, the impact of the Kololo was not very destructive.

They impacted on the leadership style in a profound way. The king was the army captain and was freely accesssible to his fellow warriors unlike the Lozi kings that were hedged about by rituals and taboos and were kept secluded from the people. Men of the same age group [not just members of the royal family] with the king were made territorial governors.

The Kololo did not destroy the mounds and canals of the flood plain which continued to be cultivated by the Lozi.

The Kololo also imposed their language with amazing speed upon the various dialect-groups of Barotseland and this was an important unifying influence.

However, the Kololo were defeated by the Lozi under Sepopa in 1864. The Lozi killed as many Kololo men as they could and spared the women and children but many features of the former Lozi society had undergone major transformation by then.

Invasions from the North: Nyamwezi (Yeke), Arabs and Swahili.

Before the 19th Century there was very little contact between Zambian and Tanzanian communities.

However in the 19th C Zambian communities were drawn into the trading systems of the Nyamwezi [from Western Tanzania] and traders from Zanzibar.

The Nyamwezi or Yeke firmly established themselves in the area.

Msiri, a Nyamwezi caravan leader obtained guns from the Portuguese and built a formidable empire based on trade and raiding.

He cut into Kazembe's trade with Mwata Yamvo and even collected tribute from Kazembe's former subjects.

The Nyamwezi also traded with Bemba chiefs to whom they sold copper in exchange for ivory.

Arabs who seem to have first visited the Kazembe in the 1830s had by 1840 registered their presence in the area in big numbers.

This created some hostility between Arabs and Yeke.

However the Arabs and Swahili found local allies in the form of the Bemba. In the 1860s the Arabs got large quantities of ivory from the Bemba in exchange for cloth, beads and shells.

The Arabs established themselves among the Lungu in north-eastern Zambia and defeated many local chiefdoms, includung the Tabwa under Nsama.

The Arabs in the northern and eastern parts of Kazembe’s kingdom and the Yeke in the southern and western areas undermined the Kazembe’s authority and the Kazembe could no longer enforce his monopoly of ivory or dictate the terms of trade.

The impact of the Arab presence was economic as well as political.

In 1872 a Lunda prince overthrew the Kazembe with Arab assistance. This was a political revolution in that it was the first time that a Lunda prince had attained kingship for by law they were guarded at the capital and denied political office.

After this event Arab and Yeke interfered in political matters and aided many rival Lunda groups and princes to ascend to the throne.

The Kazembe kingdom which was once the chief power in north-eastern Zambia waned in authority. [So Arabs upset the balance of power in the area]

Some kingdoms such as the Bemba kingdom grew in strength.

The Bemba built their wealth and strength through allying with Arabs.

Through this alliance they gained guns from the Arabs and became effective partners in the business of hunting and collecting ivory and raiding other ethnic groups for slaves.

By the 1880s the Bemba had conquered much territory to the south and west of their kingdom.

As Kazeembe power declined the Bemba power [the Chitimukulus] rose.
The Mambari and Chikunda: Traders from the East and West
These were African and Portuguese-coloured traders from angola and Mozambique.

Their expeditions into Zambia were mainly in search of slaves and ivory.

After 1848, they pushed as far as Barotseland from Angola and exchanged guns and cloth for ivory and slaves. Thus they helped in introducing the slave trade in Barotseland.

In many parts of Zambia the slave-trade intensified as a result of their activities.

Until the end of the 19th Century, the lower Luangwa was a favourite hunting ground of slavers known as Chikundas.

Their activities were quite destructive.

Socio-Cultural Impact

In summary terms, Ngoni, Swahili, Arabs and Yeke intruders had an unsettling and destructive impact.

However they also left a major socio-cultural imprint.

New food crops were introduced- e.g cassava. The crop alleviated the food shortages normally experienced before the harvest among many Zambian communities. The crop was also adopted by some groups as their staple food.

It was the Yeke who brought cassava to the Bemba kingdom.

The Yeke also introduced sweet potatoes in north-eastern Zambia.

Maize reached Zambia through contacts with Portuguese Africa. It was spread by the Ngoni who had adopted it in the 1830s from the Portuguese on the lower Zambezi.

New languages were introduced –e.g the Lozi adoption of Kololo.

Islam made a little impact on Zambia while Christianity spread after the arrival of white missionaries from the south.

There was a growth in the exchange of artistic and ceremonial practices [music, dance, architecture, etc]

Missionaries and Other Europeans from the South.
Members of the London Missionary Society were the first group to establish themselves in north and eastern Zambia in the 1880s.

Members of the Scottish mission who had begun work in Malawi in 1875 also established an out-station close to Bemba country in 1883.

They hoped to end the illegitimate slave trade in the area and spread missionary work.

But their resources were too limited to make any meaningful progress.

The people tired of harassment by slave raiders saw them as protectors and their stations as centres of refuge.

They were seen more as powerful white chiefs than men of the cloak [religion]. So their missionary work had very little impact.

In Barotseland the major missionary work was that of Coillard and Arnot.

Arnot who arrived in 1882 from the Cape encouraged Lewanika the Lozi king to ally with Khama than the Ndebele.

With the Scramble for Africa gaining in momentum and the Ndebele threat a reality, Lewanika chose to follow Khama’s example and form an alliance with the whites for his survival.

In 1890, following the advice of Coillard and Khama he signed the Lochner concession which gave the B.S.A.C mining rights throughout Barotseland. It also offered Lewanika protection and a £2000 salary per year. Another clause was a promise to develop trade and build schools and telegraphs in Barotseland.

In 1891 the British government recognised the Company’s protectorate over Barotseland. This was followed by a series of agreements being signed between the British and oter European powers establishing the Boundaries of British territory north of the Zambezi.

By 1900 African resistance had been suppressed throughout Zambia.

Thus European arrival in Zambia from the South in the 19th century saw Zambia falling into the British sphere of influence as a colony of Britain.
[A summary of Andrew Roberts’s article: ‘The nineteenth century in Zambia,’ in T.O. Ranger, (ed) Aspects of Central African History, Oxford, Heinemann Educational Books, 1968.]

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