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African Kingdoms

Central Africa


Kings of Lemba for the House of Kinlaza (Kongo Kingdom)
AD 1669 - 1709

Situated in the Lower Congo and northern Angola, the Kongo kingdom was founded in the fourteenth century. The kingdom's original home lay 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 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.

After passing its three hundredth anniversary, the kingdom had to endure a brutal Civil War in the later part of the seventeenth century. Following the destruction of the capital in 1678, the Kinlaza retreated to their fortress at Mbula, otherwise known as Lemba, The legitimate Kinlaza king, Pedro III, continued his reign there for another eleven years, all the while opposing the Kimpanzu kings and eventually to be succeeded by Joao II.

Following Dona Beatriz's religious movement which re-populated São Salvador, Pedro IV of the House of Kibangu seized the kingdom and tried Dona Beatriz for heresy, subsequently executing her. With the church behind him, Pedro IV secured Kongo and appeased the opposition faction by ensuring that a Kimpanzu heir would succeed each Kinlaza ruler at the end of his reign. As for the Lemba kings, the reign of João II was brought to an end in 1716. A branch of the Kinlaza also controlled Nkondo on the upper River Mbidizi from the late 1680s when Ana Afonso de Leao established herself there. They become known as the 'Southern Kinlaza' and, in 1764, they were able to seize Kongo's throne for themselves to rule under that name.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Elite Women in the Kingdom of Kongo: Historical Perspectives on Women's Political Power, John Thornton (Journal of African History 47, 2006), from Mbanza Kongo/Sao Salvador: Kongo's Holy City, John Thornton, from Urban Africa; Histories in the Making (Africa's Urban Past), David M Anderson & Richard Rathbone (Eds), from Kongo's Incorporation into Angola: A Perspective from Kongo, John Thornton, and from Africana: The Encyclopaedia of the African and African American Experience, Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates (Oxford University Press, 2005).)

1669 - 1680

Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba

Ruled Kongo (1669). Continued reduced reign at Lemba.


São Salvador is sacked and destroyed by Pedro III from his base at Lemba as part of the chaos of the Civil War period. The act considerably weakens the country's centre to the benefit of the rival factions based on the kingdom's edge. The House of Kibangu continues to rule a limited area from its own fortress, while Pedro III asserts his own authority around Lemba. Pedro is assassinated in a controversial faked wedding that will haunt peace attempts for many years.

Kongo ambassadors
These oil on paper illustrations show the typical dress of Kongo's ambassadors to the Portuguese at Recife during the 1630s and 1640s, with little likely to have changed by the time of Pedro III

1680 - 1716

João II Nzuzi a Ntamba

Brother. Died, ending the Lemba claim on Kongo.


During the reign of João II Nzuzi a Ntamba at Lemba, Pedro IV of the House of Kibangu gains control over the entire kingdom following a notable defeat of João's forces. Pedro initiates the period of Rotating Houses in which rule will be held alternatively by the houses of Kinlaza and Kibangu. However, he is not regarded as a legitimate ruler by twentieth century descendants of the later manikongos.

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