History Files


African Kingdoms

Central Africa





Modern Angola emerged mainly out of the territory of the former Kongo kingdom which encompassed much of the Lower Congo and northern Angola. The region, and the native Bantu kingdom, was a Portuguese colonial territory during the late nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century. Before that, it had seven hundred years of recorded or remembered history, and up to three thousand years of settlement. People speaking ancient versions of Kikongo probably arrived in the region encompassing the modern Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Gabon from the north as part of the larger Bantu migration. They were practicing agriculture by at least 1000 BC, and working iron by at least 400 BC.

Kongo Kingdom
c.AD 1400 - 1914

Situated in the Lower Congo and northern Angola, the Kongo kingdom was founded in the fourteenth century. The kingdom's original home lies somewhere in the region along the lower stretches of the River Congo. According to a study of Kongo's traditions by John Thornton, the origin of the kingdom was in the small state of Mpemba Kasi, located just south of modern day Matadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A dynasty of rulers from this small state built up their rule along the Kwilu valley, and were buried in Nsi Kwilu, which was apparently its capital. At some point in around 1375, the ruler of Mpemba Kasi made an alliance with the ruler of the neighbouring Mbata kingdom, and the Kongo kingdom was born out of this alliance.


Nimi a Nzima

Ruler of Mpemba Kasi.


Nsaku Lau

Ruler of the Mbata kingdom.


The alliance guarantees that each of the two partners ensures the succession of their joint lines. The son and heir of this arrangement, Lukeni lua Nimi becomes the founder of the Kongo kingdom when, in around 1400, he conquers the kingdom of the Mwene Kabunga (or Mwene Mpangala), which lies upon a mountain to his south.

River Congo
The kingdom originated in the lower stretches of the River Congo

Early Kings
AD 1400 - 1568

Although its trading contacts were limited, by the fifteenth century the kingdom stretched from the River Congo in the north to the River Loje in the south, and from the Atlantic Ocean to beyond the River Kwango in the east. Several smaller autonomous states to the south and east paid tribute to it. Kongo was ruled by the manikongo, or king, and was divided into six provinces, each administered by a governor who was appointed by the manikongo. The capital was at Mbanza.

Unfortunately, the history of the kingdom was only written down in the late sixteenth century, and focussed on the ruling dynasty, largely overlooking any previous ruling dynasties.

1400 - ?

Lukeni lua Nimi (Nimi a Lukeni)

Founded Kongo kingdom.






Nkuwu a Lukeni

Son of Lukeni.

1470 - 1509

Nzinga Nkuwu / João I



Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao visits the kingdom, impressing the manikongo with Portuguese culture.


Portuguese missionaries, soldiers, and artisans are welcomed at Mbanza. The missionaries soon gain converts, including Nzinga Nkuwu (who takes the name João I), and the soldiers help the manikongo defeat an internal rebellion.

1509- 1543

Alfonso I Mvemba a Nzinga

Raised as a Christian. Attempted to convert his subjects.


The Portuguese are primarily interested in increasing their private fortunes (especially through capturing Africans and selling them into slavery), despite the attempts of King Manuel I of Portugal to channel the efforts of his subjects into constructive projects. Following Alfonso's death, they play a major part in weakening the kingdom and reducing the hold of the capital (renamed São Salvador) over the provinces. Kongo declines rapidly and suffers major civil wars.

1543 - 1545

Pedro I Nkanga a Mvemba



1545 - 1561

Diogo (James) I Nkumbi a Mpudi


The Portuguese have already shifted their interest southwards to the previously subject kingdom of Ndongo and help them to defeat Kongo.


Alfonso II Mpemba a Nzinga

1561 - 1566

Bernardo I

1566 - 1568

Henrique I

Killed while fighting a war in the east.

House of Kwilu
AD 1568 - 1622

During this period, the Portuguese strengthened their position along the coastline through an aggressive policy of war and treaty, forming a colony that would become Angola. They also sent several missions to Kongo's southern neighbour, Ndongo, which ended in a disastrous uprising in 1579. The Portuguese fled back into Kongo and had to be aided by Kongo's native forces to repel the Ndongo.

1568 - 1587

Alvaro I Nimi a Lukeni lua Mvemba

Stepson. Accession was contested.


Following a request by the manikongo, the Portuguese aids the Kongo kingdom (and their own interests) by helping to repel an invasion from the east by the Lunda ethnic group.


Kongo virtually becomes a Portuguese colony. They are 'allowed' by the manikongo to found its present capital, Luanda, which they use as a base for the slave trade.

1587 - 1614

Alvaro II Nimi a Nkanga

1614 - 1615

Bernardo II Nimi a Nkanga

1615 - 1622

Alvaro III Nimi a Mpanzu

House of Nsundi (Kinkanga)
AD 1622 - 1631

In around 1615, the Portuguese encouraged Imbangala bands that were ravaging the kingdom of Benguela to cross the River Kwanza and serve in the colonial armies. They were used well in attacks against Ndongo from 1618.

1622 - 1624

Pedro II Nkanga a Mvika

1624 - 1626

Garcia I Alphonse Mvemba a Nkanga

1626 - 1631

Ambrosio (Ambrose) I Nimi a Nkanga

House of Kimpanzu
AD 1631 - 1636

The Portuguese suffered a loss of authority during a series of wars in 1626 and 1628 against the ruler of Ndongo, thanks to mistakes made by the Portuguese governor. Negotiations and skirmishes continued until 1639.

1631 - 1636

Alvaro IV Nzinga a Nkuwu


Alvaro V Mpanzu a Nimi

House of Kinlaza
AD 1636 - 1665

Relative peace returned to the Kongo kingdom in 1639 following the conclusion of a peace treaty with Ndongo. A new Portuguese governor from 1648 attempted to restore colonial authority as much as possible, although he made little progress.

1636 - 1641

Alvaro VI Alphonse Nimi a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba

1641 - 1660

Garcia II Alphonse Nkanga a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba

1641 - 1665

Garcia allies himself to the Dutch in an attempt to control Portuguese slave traders, but in 1665 a Portuguese force decisively defeats the army of Kongo. The manikongo becomes little more than a Portuguese vassal. The kingdom disintegrates into a number of small states, all controlled to varying degrees by the Portuguese.

Portuguese meet with Queen Nzinga in 1657
Portuguese relations with the Kongo kingdom were usually dictatorial

1661 - 1665

Antonio (Anthony) I Nvita a Nkanga

Civil War Kings
AD 1665 - 1678

After the Battle of Mbwila (or Ulanga), the kingdom was involved in a long and brutal civil war. The House of Kimpanzu, with the support of Soyo, was often based at Mbamba Luvota, while the rival House of Kinlaza held Mbula (or Lemba), south of the River Congo, and Nkondo in the upper Mbidizi/Lukunga system. A third house, Agua Rosada, which was descended from both the other two, ruled in Kibangu. Soyo more or less became independent but regularly intervened in Kongo's affairs.

While many of the rulers in this period did not recognise the legitimacy of their rivals, the numbering was maintained by later generations to include them all.


Afonso II

House of Kimpanzu.

1665 - 1666

Alvaro VII Tusi Mumaza

House of Kinlaza.

1666 - 1669

Alvaro VIII Mvemba a Mpanzu

House of Kinlaza.


Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba

House of Kinlaza. Continued to rule at Mbula/Lemba.

1669 - 1670

Alavaro IX Mpanzu a Ntivila

House of Kimpanzu.

1670 - 1673

Rafael I Nzinga a Nkanga

House of Kimpanzu.

1673 - 1674

Afonso III Mvemba a Nimi

House of Kimpanzu.

1674 - 1678

Daniel I Miala mia Nzimbwila

House of Kimpanzu.


São Salvador is sacked and destroyed, considerably weakening the country's centre to the benefit of the rival faction based on the kingdom's edge.

House of Kibangu for the Agua Rosada
AD 1669 - 1709

The Kimpanzu retreated south to Mbamba Lovata, which territory was to some extent under the protection of the prince of Soyo. Under the informal leadership of Suzanna de Nobrega, they opposed the Kinlaza and any other group claiming to rule Kongo. The kingdom's population also retreated to the mountains or fell victim to the slavers. The manikongo of Kibangu still claimed sovereignty over the kingdom, but their power never extended beyond their fortress.

1669 - 1685

Garcia III Nkanga a Mvemba


André I Mvizi a Nkanga

1685 - 1688

Manuel Afonso Nzinga a Nlenke

1688 - 1695

Alvaro X Nimi a Mvemba Agua Rosada

1695 - 1709

Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba

Gained the entire kingdom, creating the Rotating Houses.

King of Lemba for the House of Kinlaza
AD 1669 - 1709

Following the destruction of the capital in 1678, the Kinlaza retreated to their fortress at Mbula/Lemba, Pedro III continued his reign and Joao II followed.

1669 - 1680

Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba

Ruled Kongo (1669). Continued diminished reign at Mbula/Lemba.

1680 - 1716

João II Nzuzi a Ntamba

The Period of Rotating Houses
AD 1709 - 1764

Following Dona Beatriz's religious movement which re-populated São Salvador, Pedro IV seized the kingdom and tried Dona Beatriz for heresy. With the church behind him, he secured Kongo and appeased the opposition faction by ensuring that a Kimpanzu heir would succeed each Kinlaza ruler at the end of his reign.

(The names of kings shown in red are from the list by Francisco das Necessidades, which was compiled from oral traditions and documents found in São Salvador in 1844).

1709 - 1718

Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba

Reunited the kingdom. House of Kinlaza.

1718 - 1743

Manuel II Mpanzu a Nimi

House of Kimpanzu.

1743 - 1752

Garcia IV Nkanga a Mvandu

House of Kinlaza.

1752 - al.1758

Nicolau I Misaki mia Nimi

House of Kimpanzu. Ruled after 1758.

Afonso IV Nkanga a Nkanga

House of Kinlaza.

António II Mvita a Mpanzu

House of Kimpanzu.

Sebastião I Nkanga kia Nkanga

House of Kinlaza.

1763 - 1764

Pedro V Ntivila a Nkanga

House of Kimpanzu. Overthrown.

House of the Southern Kinlaza
AD 1764 - c.1790

When Pedro V was overthrown he withdrew to Mbamba Lovata as Alvaro XI seized power. Alvaro XI and his successors were apparently from the Kinlaza who controlled Nkondo on the upper River Mbidizi and had been in place since the late 1680s when Ana Afonso de Leao had established herself there. These were termed Southern Kinlaza, as the Northern Kinlaza, centred in Mbula continued to exist.

1764 - 1778

Alvaro XI Nkanga a Nkanga

1778 - 1785

José I Mpasi a Nkanga

1785 - 1787

Afonso V

1787 - ?

Alvaro XII

Kings of Kongo
c.AD 1790 - 1891

Once Alvaro XII had died, the throne passed from house to house in no particular order, and records became very scrappy and sparse regarding their reigns.

? - 1793

Alexio I Mpanzu a Mbandu

1793 - 1794

Joaquim I

1794 - 1803

Henrique I Alphonse Masaki ma Mpanzu

1803 - 1830

Garcia V Nkanga a Mvemba

1830 - ?

André II Mvizi a Lukeni

? - 1842

André III Ndondele Beya


Portugal officially abolishes the slave trade.

1842 - 1857

Henrique II Mpanzu a Nsindi a Nimi a Lukeni

1857 - 1859

Alvaro XIII / Ndongo

1859 - 1891

Pedro VI / Elelo


Pedro VI signs the Treaty of Vassallage with Portugal. The area of Kongo is incorporated mostly into Angola and partly into the Independent State of Congo (the modern Democratic Republic of Congo). Local resistance persists.

Kings of the Independent State of Congo (Angola)
AD 1891 - 1914

Under Portuguese control, these kings governed a reduced Kongo from their capital at São Salvador. Following their removal from power in 1914, the kings apparently retained their titles but had no power and the claim seems to have ended with independence in 1975. These kings are shown with a shaded background.

1891 - 1896

Alvaro XIV / Agua Rosada

1896 - 1901

Henrique III / Tekenge

1901 - 1910

Pedro VII / Mbemba

1910 - 1911

Manuel Nkomba

1911 - 1914

Manuel III

Deposed. The line continued with Hereditary Kings.


The kings are abolished by the Portuguese following a revolt.

1915 - 1923

Alvaro XV Alphonse Nzinga

1923 - 1955

Pedro VIII Alphonse


Angola's Portuguese status changes from colony to overseas province. Between this point and 1961 a nationalist movement develops and guerrilla war begins.

1955 - 1957

António III Alphonse

1957 - 1962

Pedro IX Alphonse Mansala


To the north of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo achieves independence from Belgium, while the former French region of Middle Congo becomes the Republic of the Congo.

1962 - 1975

Isabel Maria da Gama

First female claimant to the title.

Modern Angola
AD 1975 - Present Day

Angola lies in south-central Africa, with the Democratic Republic of Congo on its northern border, Zambia to the east, and Namibia to the south. It also has an enclave province called Cabinda which is wedged onto the coast to the north. It lies sandwiched between the republic of the Congo to the north and the democratic republic of Congo west and south. The Angolan capital is at Luanda, once one of the world's busiest slave-trading ports.

In a history that saw the usual nineteenth century colonial interference, Angola emerged mainly out of the territory of the former Kongo kingdom which encompassed much of the Lower Congo and northern Angola. The region, and the native Bantu kingdom, was a Portuguese colonial territory during the late nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century. Before that, it had seven hundred years of recorded or remembered history, and up to three thousand years of settlement. People who spoke ancient versions of Kikongo probably arrived in the region that is encompassed by the two modern Congo republics, plus Angola itself and Gabon to the west as part of the larger Bantu migration. The people here were practicing agriculture by at least 1000 BC, and working iron by at least 400 BC.

Between 1974-1975, there was revolution in Portugal and as a result of the turmoil its overseas empire collapsed. Angola gained independence in 1975 as the republic of Angola without any official handover or preparation. A power struggle immediately ensued between the MPLA (People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola), backed by Cuba and Soviet Russia, and the FNLA and Unita, backed by South Africa and the USA. The civil war rumbled on for years, and even today foreign travellers are advised against entering the country's north-eastern corner on all but the most essential of trips. However, an oil boom is making Angola one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and one of the most expensive in which to live for those who have the money (principally foreign oil workers). Outside of this it is still one of the least developed countries, having to import almost everything it needs other than the very basic essentials.

(Additional information from External Links: British Foreign Office at Gov.UK, The New Yorker, and BBC Country Profiles.)

1975 - 1995

Sudden and unexpected independence from Portugal in 1975 is the touch-paper for a destructive civil war between the two main factions in the country, the MPLA (People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola) on one side, and the FNLA and Unita on the other. With interference mainly by Cuba (with 50,000 troops in the country) and South Africa (with its army there), the civil war alternates between phases of relative calm and intense action.

Angola war
The long-running civil war in Angola saw heavy weaponry being supplied to both sides by their respective sponsors, both of whom were similarly able to arm themselves thanks in part to the Cold War

At the same time as independence is proclaimed and civil war breaks out, the former colonial masters pull out of the country, taking everything that can be moved. The memoirs of Ryszard Kapuscinski, entitled Another Day of Life, describe efforts to cram the entire city into a series of wooden crates and ship most of it to Lisbon. Entire streets of abandoned, rusting cars are left behind, but just about everything else is removed.

1979 - Present

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

'President' in name with a firm grip on power.

1991 - 1992

Moves are made to withdraw troops after Unita and the MPLA government sign a peace accord in Lisbon. However, the elections in 1992 are disputed and fighting begins again.

1998 - 2002

The war flares up following tensions, and finally ends when Unita signs a ceasefire in 2002. The real end is apparently signalled when Jonas Savimbi is assassinated by being shot in the head. For the duration of the civil war he had proved himself to be a murderous despot who had embraced Maoist principles, despite being backed by the CIA and South African mercenaries. True peace finally arrives in Angola, notwithstanding a high crime rate and several kidnappings and murders of political opponents.


The republic's long-term president - Jose Eduardo dos Santos - appoints Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos as the first prime minister to assume the post in more then three years.

2008 - 2010

The ruling MPLA of which President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is a member wins the country's first parliamentary elections for sixteen years. A new constitution is approved in 2010 which substitutes direct election of the president with a system under which the top candidate from the largest party in parliament becomes president. It also strengthens the presidency's powers, prompting the Unita opposition to accuse the government of 'destroying democracy'.


Elements of the 'Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda' (Flec) attack a police convoy which is escorting Togo's national football team on its way to attend the Africa Cup of Nations, killing three team members.