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Kongo Civil War

Kongo Civil War

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The Kongo Civil War was an internal conflict between rival houses of the Kingdom of Kongo
Kingdom of Kongo
The Kingdom of Kongo was an African kingdom located in west central Africa in what are now northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

. The war waged throughout the middle of the 17th and 18th centuries pitting partisans of the House of Kinlaza against the House of Kimpanzu. Numerous other factions entered the fray claiming descent from one or both of the main parties such as the Água Rosada
Agua Rosada
Água Rosada or Álvaro XIV was ruler in Kongo from February 1891 to 1896. His father signed the vassalage of Kongo in 1888-Family:Álvaro XIV was the son of Peter V or VI, brother of Álvaro XIII and son of Henrique II. Henrique had split his Asian lands between his two sons; Álvaro and Peter. They...

 of Kibangu and the da Silva of Soyo
Soyo
Soyo is a city located in the province of Zaire in Angola. Soyo recently became the largest oil-producing region in the country, with an estimate of .-Early history:...

. By the end of the war, Kongo's vaunted capital had been destroyed and many BaKongo were sold into the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Origins


The kingdom of Kongo reached its apex during the reign of its most powerful king Garcia II
Garcia II of Kongo
Garcia II Nkanga a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba, also known as Garcia Afonso for short, ruled the Kingdom of Kongo from 23 January 1641 to 1661; he is sometimes considered Kongo's greatest king for his religious piety and his near expulsion of the Portuguese from Angola.-Early life:Garcia and his...

. King Garcia II had come to power after the death of his brother, Álvaro VI
Álvaro VI of Kongo
Álvaro VI of Kongo, sometimes called Nimi a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba , was a ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo.Descended through the female line of Anna Ntumba from King Afonso I, he became Duke of Mbemba in 1634...

, whom he had assisted in seizing the throne of Kongo from the House of Kimpanzu. Together, the brothers forged a new dynasty named for the Nlaza kanda
Kanda (lineage)
Kanda In Kikongo any social or analytical group, but often applied to lineages or groups of associated people who form a faction, band or other group. In Kongo documents written in Portuguese, or in older Portuguese accounts of Kongo it often is translated by "geração"...

, thus the House of Kinlaza. The ascension of this dynasty, which traced its legitimacy to the throne maternally as opposed to the paternal pedigree of the House of Kimpanzu and House of Nsundi was greeted with hostility from the get go. Rival claimants for the throne of Kongo, by then the most powerful state in Central Africa, united behind the Kimpanzu. When King Garcia II came to power, the Kimpanzu were entrenched in the county of Soyo
Soyo
Soyo is a city located in the province of Zaire in Angola. Soyo recently became the largest oil-producing region in the country, with an estimate of .-Early history:...

 giving support to the remaining Nsundi and Kimpanzu partisans inside Kongo while claiming the title of Princes and later Grand Princes. By the end of Garcia's reign, Soyo was completely independent of Kongo and there was open hostility between the House of Kinlaza and the House of Kimpanzu including plots on the king's life and military engagements.

Descent into War


In 1661, King Garcia II died leaving the throne to his second eldest son António. King António I was determined to remove the Portuguese from Angola as they had been a thorn in Kongo's side since 1622. King Garcia II's gambit of assisting the Dutch in their short war with Portugal over the port of Luanda
Luanda
Luanda, formerly named São Paulo da Assunção de Loanda, is the capital and largest city of Angola. Located on Angola's coast with the Atlantic Ocean, Luanda is both Angola's chief seaport and its administrative center. It has a population of at least 5 million...

 had turned out badly. Now Portugal was stronger than ever with control of Luanda, source of Kongo's nzimbu shell money. More and more, Kongo had to rely on Dutch support which was not as forthcoming with Soyo as a competitor. These events set Garcia II's successor, António I
António I of Kongo
António I Nvita a Nkanga was a mwenekongo of the Kingdom of Kongo who ruled from 1661 to his defeat and death at the Battle of Mbwila on October 29, 1665. He was elected following the death of King Garcia II...

 on a completely anti-Portuguese agenda.

Battle of Mbwila



Despite the rising tension between the states, the spark that would set them to war again would be a dispute over the tiny border town Mbwila
Mbwila
Mbwila is a historical small state in modern-day Angola. Its rulers, like those of the surrounding areas, bore the title Ndembu, and the region was often known in Portuguese as "Dembos"....

. The chiefdom had sworn fealty to both Kongo and Angola in the past. In 1665, a dispute between the claimant to the chiefdomship and his aunt drew Kongo and Angola into confrontation, Kongo supporting the claimant with Angola supporting aunt. The two powers met at the Battle of Mbwila
Battle of Mbwila
At the Battle of Mbwila on October 29, 1665, Portuguese forces defeated the forces of the Kingdom of Kongo and decapitated king António I of Kongo, also called Nvita a Nkanga.-Origins of the War:...

 on October 29, 1665. In the ensuing battle, Kongo was badly defeated. King António I and many of the Kinlaza nobility were killed in the battle; the royal crown and sceptre were sent to Portugal as trophies. The boy heir to the Kongo throne was captured and taken to Luanda along with the head of António. The royal possessions of the king, which he feared to leave in Kongo because of rival partisans, were also lost on the battlefield. Robbed of their king, heir and symbols of leadership, the kingdom quickly descended into civil war as Kinlaza and Kimpanzu partisans vied for the throne.

Soyo intervention in Kongo


The Battle of Mbwila did not have a drastic change on the borders of Central Africa. Kongo and Angola had no more control over this remote settlement than it had before the battle. The party that did prosper as a result of Kongo's defeat was the county of Soyo, home to many Kimpanzu partisans. Soyo, ruled by the Silva kanda, had been refuge to the Kimpanzu hiding out in the Luvota region in its south. With no strong opposition in Kongo to them, the da Silvas were able to impose their will on both Kinlaza and Kimpanzu claimants to the throne.

Beginning of Soyo intervention


King Afonso II of Kongo and Nkondo
Afonso II of Kongo and Nkondo
Afonso II of Kongo and Nkondo was a ruler of the kingdom of Kongo in the period following the Kongo Civil War. He was a member of the House of Kimpanzu and may have been supported in his claim for the throne by partisans in Soyo...

, not to be confused with Afonso II of Kongo
Afonso II of Kongo
-Biography:Little is known about Afonso II or his reign. He may have been the illegitimate son of Diogo I. Six years earlier, King Diogo had cut off all relations with Portugal and expelled them from the kingdom. The Portuguese attempted to return by plotting with another claimant for the throne...

 from the 16th century, took the throne after the death of António I. The ascension of Afonso, a Kimpanzu partisan, played into Soyo's plans. The Kinlaza were quick to act against him and forced him out in place of Álvaro VII
Álvaro VII of Kongo
Álvaro VII was king of the Kingdom of Congo from 1665 to 1666.When the death of Antonio I at the Battle of Mbwila was announced, a relative of the dead sovereign, Álvaro, was proclaimed king....

. The deposed king fled to Nkondo where he continued to claim kingship over Kongo.

Invasions of Kongo (1666 and 1669)


King Álvaro VII turned out to be a tyrant, hated by both political rivals and the common people. In an unprecedented move, Soyo marched on the capital and assisted the people in Álvaro VII's overthrow and murder. In June, another Kinlaza king was elected. This time, the election would take place under the auspices of Soyo. Álvaro VIII
Álvaro VIII of Kongo
Alvaro VIII , of the House of Kinlaza, was king of the Kingdom of Congo, from 1666 to 1669.-Biography:Alvaro VIII was elevated to the throne by Paulo da Silva, Count of Soyo, which marched on São Salvador and killed his predecessor, King Alvaro VII.In 1667, he sent his ambassador, Anastasius, to...

 was elected to the throne and ruled for three years. He allowed the Portuguese to search for gold in his kingdom, but no gold or silver was to be found in the realm. The House of Kinlaza kept tacit control of the throne, but Soyo proved to be the true master of the kingdom.

King Pedro III
Pedro III of Kongo
Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba was a ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo during its tumultuous civil war period.King Pedro III was the elder brother of King Joāo II and one of many partisans of the House of Kinlaza. Since 1666, the two royal kandas or lineages of Kinlaza and Kimpanzu had been fighting bitterly...

, another Kinlaza partisan with less sympathy toward Soyo, came to power in January of 1669. Soyo sent a force yet again into Kongo and removed the king from power. This time, the da Silvas would place a Kimpanzu ruler on the throne. King Pedro III fled to Lemba (also known as Mbula or Bula), but that would not be the end of his dealings in Kongo.

End of Soyo intervention


King Álvaro IX was put in power by Soyo in hopes that a Kimpanzu might be easier to control. But even amongst the Kimpanzu, nobles were beginning to resent Soyo's meddling in Kongo. In 1670 Álvaro IX was overthrown by Rafael I, the Marquis of Mpemba. Unlike the previous king, Rafael I was a Kinlaza and unwilling to be controlled by the Silvas.

Battle of Kitombo



Once on the throne, the ambitious king sought Portuguese help in removing his overseers in Mbanza-Soyo. With the promise of various mineral rights and opportunity to punish Soyo for dealings with the "heathen" (non-catholic) Dutch, Angola sent an army under the command of João Soares de Almeida. After an initial victory against Soyo in which its ruler Count Estêvão da Silva was killed, the Angolan army was crushed at the Battle of Kitombo
Battle of Kitombo
The Battle of Kitombo was a military engagement between forces of the BaKongo state of Soyo, formerly a province of the Kingdom of Kongo, and the Portuguese colony of Angola.-Pre-Battle Situation:...

 by a Soyo force led be Prince Pedro da Silva, brother of the dead count. The victory stopped Portuguese ambitions in Kongo until the 19th century but left Soyo in a much more precarious position. King Rafael remained on the throne as Soyo turned its focus toward protecting its own border and getting papal recognition. The victory at Kitombo is celebrated in certain parts of Angola on Saint Luke's
Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer whom Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles...

 Day (October 18).

Sack of São Salvador


The Kimpanzu continued to rule the kingdom despite its tenuous situation. The more powerful provinces like Nsundi and Mbata were splitting off, and the power of the king waned as trade was rerouted to more stable areas outside of Kongo such as Soyo and Loango
Loango
Loango may refer to:* Loango National Park, a national park in Western Gabon* Petit Loango, a town in Gabon* Kingdom of Loango, a pre-colonial state in what is now the Republic of Congo* Loango, a schooner wrecked in 1909 at St Ives, Cornwall...

. King Rafael I was succeeded by the Marquis of Nkondo, Afonso III of Kongo
Afonso III of Kongo
Afonso III Mvemba a Nimi was a ruler of the kingdom of Kongo during its civil war period.King Afonso III first enters written record as the ruler of the Marquisate of Nkondo. He governed that area from late 1669 until mid 1673. After which, he claimed the throne of divided Kongo...

. He only reigned shortly before the rise of King Daniel I. King Daniel I ruled four years before the Kinlaza made a final disastrous play for the throne. The deposed King Pedro III
Pedro III of Kongo
Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba was a ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo during its tumultuous civil war period.King Pedro III was the elder brother of King Joāo II and one of many partisans of the House of Kinlaza. Since 1666, the two royal kandas or lineages of Kinlaza and Kimpanzu had been fighting bitterly...

 marched on São Salvador with Jaga mercenaries resulting in a battle that killed King Daniel I and burnt most of the city to the ground in 1678. The destruction of the capital forced the claimants from both sides of the conflict to rule from mountain fortresses. The Kinlaza retreated to Mbula while the Kimpanzu were headquartered at Mbamba Luvota in the south of Soyo. São Salvador became the grazing place of wild animals where rival claimants would crown themselves then retreat before drawing the ire of opposition partisans. Even after its resettlement, the city would never regain its prominence.

Divided kingdom


Without a center for trade and politics, the once powerful kingdom ceased to exist for two decades. This did not keep the partisans from trying to kill each other, however. King Pedro III was assassinated in 1680 under a banner of truce by Manuel de Nóbrega in revenge for the death of his brother, King Daniel I. King Pedro III was succeeded by his younger brother, João II. King João II fought tirelessly to dominate another Kinlaza stronghold, Kibangu, but to no avail. Kibangu eventually fell to forces from within opposed to the succession of Manuel I of Kibangu. Two brothers from the Água Rosada
Agua Rosada
Água Rosada or Álvaro XIV was ruler in Kongo from February 1891 to 1896. His father signed the vassalage of Kongo in 1888-Family:Álvaro XIV was the son of Peter V or VI, brother of Álvaro XIII and son of Henrique II. Henrique had split his Asian lands between his two sons; Álvaro and Peter. They...

 kanda, the product of a Kimpanzu father and Kinlaza mother, overthrew Manuel in 1688. The oldest brother, King Álvaro X, ruled the mountain fortress until his death in December of 1695. It would be his brother, Pedro IV, that would oversee the restoration of Kongo. Meanwhile Manuel de Nóbrega, brother of King Daniel I, ruled Mbamba Lovata in the name of the Kimpanzu and with the sanction of the powerful queen Suzana de Nóbrega. Manuel de Nóbrega used the power of Soyo to make war on all Kinlaza partisans within reach including the Queen Ana Afonso de Leão, the matriarch of the Kinlaza.

Antonians


In the midst of the Kongo Civil War (and perhaps because of it as well) a religious movement developed spearhead by a young noblewoman from the Mbidizi valley. Born Beatriz Kimpa Vita
Kimpa Vita
Beatriz Kimpa Vita , was a Congolese prophet and leader of her own Christian movement, known as Antonianism. Her teaching grew out of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church in Kongo.-Early life:...

, the young woman's family lived in the sphere of influence of the Kinlaza. She claimed to be possessed by the spirit of Saint Anthony
Anthony of Padua
Anthony of Padua or Anthony of Lisbon, O.F.M., was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. Though he died in Padua, Italy, he was born to a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, which is where he was raised...

, hence the name of the movement. She claimed that Saint Anthony came to her in visions and declared her mission was to reunite the kingdom of Kongo. She later traveled to each of the mountain fortresses of the Kinlaza (Kibangu and Bula) She proclaimed her mission was to persuade the different claimants to resettle São Salvador and make an end to the bloodshed. After being rebuffed by all of them, she gathered her followers and marched into the ruins of the ancient capital in October or November of 1704. With the assistance and protection of Pedro "Kibenga" Constantino da Silva, a half-Kimpanzu/half-Silva brigand nominally loyal to Pedro IV, Dona Beatriz crossed over from mere religious zealot to political liability. King Pedro IV, at the urging of Capuchin missionaries, had Dona Beatriz arrested for heresy and burned at the stake. King Pedro then left to take São Salvador and reunify the kingdom for good.

Battle of São Salvador



King Pedro had been working toward reunification of Kongo since before the rise of the Antonians. He had gained the fealty of nearly all claimants through political rather than military means. Even the Kimpanzu acknowledged him. On February 15, 1709 King Pedro marched on São Salvador at the head of his army carrying only a cross. In the ensuing battle between Pedro IV and Pedro Constantino da Silva, the Antonians were routed. Constantino da Silva was killed as he tried to surrender and beheaded.

Battle of Mbula


The defeated Antonians fled to Bula and sought the help of João II, who had still refused to recognize any king of Kongo other than himself. King João II marched his forces south to see what if anything could be gained at the expense of Pedro IV. On Saint Francis
Francis of Assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men's Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St...

 Day, October 4, the armies of João II and Pedro IV clashed within the Mbula territory. King Pedro IV was again victorious, and João II fled back to Lemba. King Pedro IV was so elated that he proclaimed St. Francis his savior and renamed his base São Francisco de Kibangu.

End of the war


After these battles, Pedro dedicated himself to reunifying Kongo and making peace between the Kinlaza and Kimpanzu. A general pardon was given to all Kimpanzu. Manuel Makasa, youngest brother of Kibenga, became Pedro's son-in-law and heir. King Pedro died in 1718 leaving an at least partially reunified kingdom with its capital back at São Salvador. Prince Mauel Masaka became king under the name Manuel II of Kongo. After him, Garcia IV Nkanga a Mvemba succeeded peacefully to the throne according to Pedro's compromise agreement. King Garcia the IV was a member of the Mbula faction of Kinlaza. After him, the Kinlaza of Bula stopped making independent claims for the throne of Kongo. King Pedro IV's descendants remained in Kibangu claiming the title of prince but never pressing to become king of Kongo. Peace reigned more or less for the next 50 years with very few intervals. The throne rotated mainly between the Kinlaza of the east and the Kimpanzu of the west. Despite the settlement and restoration of the monarchy, Kongo was long past its glory days. It never regained its prominence economically or politically, disintegrating into fiefdoms recognizing the King of Kongo but not truly under his control.

See also

  • House of Kimpanzu
  • House of Kinlaza
  • Kingdom of Kongo
    Kingdom of Kongo
    The Kingdom of Kongo was an African kingdom located in west central Africa in what are now northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

  • List of Rulers of Kongo
  • History of Angola
    History of Angola
    Angola is a country in southwestern Africa. Its name derives from the Kimbundu word for king, 'N'gola'. It was first settled by Bushmen hunter-gatherer societies before the northern domains came under the rule of Bantu states such as Kongo and Ndongo. From the 15th century Portuguese colonists...