Timeline of Portuguese Medieval Africa

My timeline for Portuguese Medieval Africa. The timeline, at least initially, is largely pieced together from Wikipedia excerpts.


This is a very cursory glance and you can find much more detail elsewhere.


At some point around 1375 the rulers of Mpemba Kasi (Nzima Nimi) and the Mbata Kingdom (Nsaku Lau) allied to ensure the succession of their lines (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).


Sometime in 1395-1400 Lukeni lua Nimi – the heir and successor of Nzima Nimi – conquered the kingdom of the Mwene Kabunga on a mountain to his south (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). He transferred his rule to this mountain, the Mongo dia Kongo (“Mountain of Kongo”) and made Mbanza Kongo, the town there, his capital. This was the foundation of the Kingdom of Kongo and over the next century it expanded considerably.

Early Portuguese Presence


Sometime 1482-83 the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão became the first European to reach the kingdom of Kongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Cão left some men in Kongo and kidnapped some Kongo nobles to take back to Portugal.


In 1485 Diogo Cão returned hostages he had taken in 1482-3 to the Kongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).


Gonçalo de Sousa conducted a formal embassy to the Manikongo or lord of the Kingdom of Kongo, resident at Mbanza Kongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The first missionaries entered the country with de Sousa. Christianity was easily accepted by the local nobility and King Njinga Nkuwu of Kongo was baptized on 3 May, taking the name of João in honour of the king of Portugal, João II (Wikipedia: History of the Republic of the Congo; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).

When the Portuguese arrived in Kongo they were immediately added as a mercenary force, probably under their own commander who used their special purpose weapons, like cross bows and the muskets, to add force to the normal Kongo order of battle (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).


The Cantino Atlas of 1502 mentions Kongo as a source of slaves for the island of São Tomé (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Slavery had existed in Kongo long before the arrival of the Portuguese, and Afonso’s early letters show the evidence of slave markets. They also show the purchase and sale of slaves within the country and his accounts on capturing slaves in war which were given and sold to Portuguese merchants. It is likely that most of the slaves exported to the Portuguese were war captives from Kongo’s campaigns of expansion.In the following decades, the Kingdom of Kongo became a major source of slaves for Portuguese traders and other European powers.


João I of Kongo died and was succeeded by his son Njinga Mbemba who ruled as king Afonso I until 1543 (Wikipedia: History of the Republic of the Congo). Initially Afonso faced a serious challenge from a half brother, Mpanzu a Kitima (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). The king overcame his brother in a battle waged at Mbanza Kongo. According to Afonso’s own account, sent to Portugal in 1509, he was able to win the battle thanks to the intervention of a heavenly vision of Saint James and the Virgin Mary. Inspired by these events, he subsequently designed a coat of arms for Kongo which was used by all following kings on official documents, royal paraphernalia and the like until 1860.


Afonso of Kongo attacked Munza, a Mbundu rebel (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). He had a contingent of Portuguese with him, although he wasn’t too impressed by their performance, complaining about them a year later.


In 1518 the kingdom of Ndongo sent an embassy to Portugal asking for missionaries, and indirectly for recognition as independent of Kongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo).


Afonso Mvemba Njinga established Christianity as the national religion of the Kingdom of Kongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).

The first Portuguese mission arrived in Ndongo in 1520 but local disputes and perhaps Kongo pressure forced the missionaries to withdraw (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). It failed and was withdrawn. Afonso I of Kongo took the missionaries to Kongo and left his own priest in Ndongo.


Despite its long establishment within his kingdom, Afonso believed that the slave trade should be subject to Kongo law (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). When he suspected the Portuguese of receiving illegally enslaved persons to sell, he wrote in to King João III of Portugal in 1526 imploring him to put a stop to the practice. Ultimately, Afonso decided to establish a special committee to determine the legality of the enslavement of those who were being sold.


Afonso I of Kongo died in 1543 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).


King Diogo I was crowned in 1545 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). He faced a major conspiracy led by Pedro I, who had taken refuge in a church, and who Diogo in respect of the Church’s rule of asylum allowed to continue in the church. However, Diogo did conduct an inquiry into the plot, the text of which was sent to Portugal in 1552 and gives us an excellent idea of the way in which plotters hoped to overthrow the king by enticing his supporters to abandon him. His attempt at pacifying the restless kingdom of Ndongo in 1556 backfired resulting in the latter’s independence. Despite this setback, he would enjoy a long reign that ended with his death in 1561.

During the mid-sixteenth century King Diogo I sent missionaries to Matamba, then ruled by an unknown queen (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). Though this queen received the missionaries and perhaps allowed them to preach, there is no indication that the kingdom converted to Christianity.


Paulo Dias de Novais founded Luanda in Angola (Venter, 1974b)


A second Portuguese mission, led by Paulo Dias de Novais, was sent to Ndongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). It included Jesuit priests.


Dias de Novais returned to Portugal, leaving the Jesuit Francisco de Gouveia in Ndongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). While in Portugal Dias de Novais secured a grant allowing him to colonize the country. In exchange for agreeing to raise private funds to finance his expedition, bring Portuguese colonists and build forts in the country the crown gave him rights to conquer and rule the sections south of the Kwanza River


King Diogo I of Kongo died in 1561 and was immediately succeeded by Afonso II (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Afonso’s rule did not last a year. Manikongo Bernardo II was put on the throne afterwards and reigned until 1566 Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo.


End of Bernardo II’s reign (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).


Henrique II assumed the throne of Kongo in 1567 but was then drawn into a war in the eastern part of the country and was killed the next year (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).

1568: The Jagas of Kongo

Henrique II was killed in his war in the east (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). His stepson Álvaro Nimi a Lukeni lua Mvemba was crowned as Álvaro I, “by common consent” according to some witnesses, but perhaps not without contestation by others who might have felt they had a greater right to rule.

Álvaro I immediately had to fight invaders from the east (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). The Portuguese called them the Jaga or Jagas (Wikipedia: Jagas). In fact the Portuguese gave two distinct and unrelated groups the same name. The first group of Jagas invaded Kongo and a second group, properly called Imbangala, invaded Angola. Despite being unrelated both peoples were fierce warriors, often acting as mercenaries for others.

The Jaga that invaded Kongo were either Balunda refugees from the Lunda Empire, or rebels from within Kongo, either peasants or discontented nobles (Wikipedia: Jagas; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Either way they had settled on the eastern border of the Kingdom of Kongo, with the BaTeke kingdom of Tio to their north and the Mbundu kingdom of Ndongo to their south. Regardless of their origin the Jagas were constant victims of the Kongo slave trade and eventually invaded their western neighbour in 1568.

The Portuguese based at São Tomé supported king Alvaro I of Kongo against the Jaga, sending about 600 musketeers under Francisco de Gouveia Sottomaior to his aid (Wikipedia: Jagas). As a part of the same process, Álvaro agreed to allow the Portuguese to establish a colony in his province of Luanda south of his kingdom (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).

Álvaro I was the king who introduced European style titles to Kongo, e.g. Duke of Nsundi, Duke of Mbamba, Marquis of Mpemba, and the Count of Soyo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).

1579-99: The First Portuguese-Ndongo War


In 1575 Dias de Novais returned to Angola with an armed force (or colonists depending on your perspective) and more Jesuit priests (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The Portuguese immediately became involved in Ndongo’s affairs. Initially de Novais planned to offer his small force as a mercenary reinforcement to Ndongo and to Kongo for their various wars. Between 1575 and 1589 when he died, Dias de Novais sought to recover and expand Portuguese possessions in the Kwanza Valley. He did so largely by making alliances with local rulers who were disaffected with Ndongo rule, notably the ruler (soba) of Muxima.


After indifferent success, a Portuguese who had long resided in Kongo, Francisco Barbuda, persuaded the king of Ndongo (Njinga Ndambi Kilombo kia Kasenda) that Portugal intended to take his country over (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). In 1579, acting on this intelligence and advice, Njinga Ndambi made a sudden and devastating war on the Portuguese (and their many servants and slaves). The King tricked the Portuguese forces into an ambush and massacred them at his capital. The Ndongo drove the remaining Portuguese back to a few holdings in the region around Luanda. Kongo supported the Portuguese in their war against the Kingdom of Ndongo Nominally the kingdom of Ndongo was under Kongo administration (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo) and this may have had a bearing on the decision, but most probably it was to get revenge for the slain servants and slaves of the Portuguese, most of whom came from Kongo.


By 1580 the Kongo and their Portuguese supporters had driven the Jagas out of Kongo, but not entirely out of the area (Wikipedia: Jagas).

In 1580 King Álvaro I of Kongo sent a large army to attack Ndongo in revenge for the slaughter of Kongo slaves (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). It wasa near run thing but Kongo’s army was defeated trying to cross the Bengo River and ran out of supplies (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). Dias de Novais managed to hold on to Luanda and the small fort of Nzele on the Kwanza River.

By the 1580s a musketeer corps, which was locally raised from resident Portuguese and their Kongo-mestio (mixed race) offspring was a regular part of the main Kongo army in the capital (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Provincial armies also had some musketeers


In an offensive up the Kwanza river, the Portuguese managed to take over the province of Ilamba located between the Kwanza and Bengo Rivers (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). They founded the post at Massangano at the confluence of the Kwanza and Lucala Rivers. A number of sobas switched their allegiance to Portugal and soon many of the coastal provinces were joined to the colony.

Njinga Mbande was born to Njinga a Mbande Ngola Kiluaje and Guenguela Cakombe around 1582 (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). Njinga has many variations on her name and in some cases is even known by completely different names, these include but are not limited to: Njinga, Queen Nzinga, Nzinga I, Queen Nzinga Mdongo, Nzinga Mbandi, Nzinga Mbande, Jinga, Singa, Zhinga, Ginga, Njinga, Njingha, Ana Nzinga, Ngola Nzinga, Nzinga of Matamba, Queen Nzingha of Ndongo, Zinga, Zingua, Ann Nzingha, Nxingha, Mbande Ana Nzingha, Ann Nzingha, Dona Anna de Sousa, and Dona Ana de Sousa.


Portuguese beat Ndongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).


Portuguese beat Ndongo again (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).


Álvaro II Nkanga Nimi replaced his father Álvaro I as king of Kongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).


Dias de Novais died (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).


Luis Serrão, took over the colony of Angola and led an attack on Ndongo’s capital at Kabasa (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). This attack, however, was a spectacular failure. Although Matamba played a small role in the early wars, the threat of a Portuguese victory stirred the ruler of Matmaba (probably a king named Kambolo Matamba) to intervene (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). He sent an army to aid Ndongo against the Portuguese, and with these forces the combined armies were able to defeat and rout Portuguese forces at the Battle of the Lukala. The Portuguese army was driven back to Massangano. Following this defeat, Ndongo made a counteroffensive, and many of the formerly pro-Portuguese sobas returned to Ndongo. None-the-less Portugual managed to retain much of the land they had gained in the earlier wars. A 10 year stalemate followed.


The Pope declared Kongo to be an episcopal see with jurisdiction over both Kongo and the Portuguese colony of Angola (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).


Portugal and Ndongo signed a peace treaty and formalized their border (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The uneasy peace extended into the early seventeenth century.

The Imbangala Period

1600: The Jagas on the Kwanza

Portuguese continued their expansion along the Kwanza (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). They also continued to meddle in Ndongo’s politics, especially as it concerned Ndongo’s tenuous hold on Kisama and other lands south of the Kwanza River.

Around 1600, Portuguese merchants working on the coast south of the Kwanza River encountered fierce warrior people that they also called Jaga, but who called themselves Imbangala (Wikipedia: Imbangala; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola) (see above for Jagas in the Kongo). The Imbangala were notoriously cruel and cannibalistic. This people are also most likely mbangala immigrants from the Lunda Empire. Their war bands were ravaging the Kingdom of Benguela, overlord in the region. They were prepared to sell captives taken in their wars to the Portuguese in exchange for European goods.

We know Portuguese merchants were buying up Imbangala war captives as slaves by at least 1600-1 because an English sailor called Andrew Battell accompanied such an expedition and left an account (Wikipedia: Imbangala). In fact Battell lived with the Imbangala for 16 months and places them in the coastal regions and highlands of modern day Angola, just south of the Kwanza River. At that time Imbangala marauders were pillaging the countryside primarily to obtain large quantities of palm wine (they chopped the tree down and tapped out its fermented contents over a period of a few months). Apparently the Imbangala exposed all the children born in their armed camp ( kilombo or in Portuguese quilombo), and maintained their numbers by capturing adolescents and forcing them to serve in their army. The young recruits captives were often forced to kill and eat people, consumed considerable amounts of alcohol, and could not be admitted to full membership until they had killed an enemy in combat. Cannibalism, ritual human sacrifice and torture were all featured in what seventeenth century observers called the “quixilla laws” (from Kimbundu kixila, or prohibition) by which the Imbangala were said to live.

The other group of Jagas (Jagas in the Kongo) formed their own kingdom known as Kasanze in the early 1600s and provided many mercenary troops to Ndongo and even Kongo itself (Wikipedia: Jagas).

1602: Presidio of Cambambe

The Portuguese founded the presidio of Cambambe on the Kwanza river (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo).


António da Silva, the Duke of Mbamba, elected a Bernardo to the throne of Kongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo says this was Bernardo II but that is unlikely as the same source says Bernardo II was in power 1561-6.

1615: Imbangala join Portuguese

The temporary Angolan governor Bento Banha Cardoso encouraged some Imbangala to cross the Kwanza river and serve in his armies (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). With Imbangala help the governor expanded the colony along the Lukala River, north of Ndongo

In Kongo António da Silva, the Duke of Mbamba, deposed Bernardo and elected Álvaro III

1617: Colony of Benguela

Governor Manuel Cerveira Pereira founded the colony of Benguela (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola). Initially he had hoped to make it an aggressive military colony like Angola, but after an unsuccessful alliance with the local Imbangala, had had to abandon these plans. His plans to further strengthen the colony by seizing rich copper mines reputed to be in Sumbe also came to naught.

Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos assumed the governorship of the Colony of Angola (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). He initially rejected the idea of using Imbangala troops, but eventually committed himself to the alliance and began aggressive campaigns against Ndongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo).

1618-21: Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos against Ndongo

In 1618 Governor Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos renewed the attack on Ndongo, this time with Imbangala help (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo, Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). He founded an advance fort of Ambaca on the Lukala as the base of operations. During the three year campaign (1618-21) the governor sacked the capital Kabasa, forced King Ngola Mbandi to take refuge on the island of Kindonga in the Kwanza River, captured members of the royal family, sent expeditionary forces as far inland as Matamba, and took thousands of Ndongo subjects prisoner. Mendes de Vasconcelos’ son João led the detachment – comprising both Portuguese and Imbangala – into Matamba where they did great damage (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). The Portuguese captured and exported as many as 50,000 Ndongo as slaves to Brazil and the Spanish Indies. Mendes de Vasconcelos also sought, unsuccessfully, to create a puppet government to allow Portuguese rule.

Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos’s used at least three distinct bands of Imbangala in his 1618 assault on Ndongo, commanded by Kasanje, Kaza (or Kasa), and others (Wikipedia: Imbangala; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). These bands soon abandoned the Portuguese cause. The Kasanje band began a long campaign of pillage through Matamba that eventually would establish them along the Kwango River in the Baixa de Cassange region of modern Angola (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). At some point the Kaza band of Imbangala joined the Ndongo to oppose the Portuguese.

1622: João Correia de Sousa against Kongo

The Imbangala bands had not proved as obedient as the Portuguese hoped and were ravaging far and wide among both Ndongo’s lands and those controlled by Portugal (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).

Mendes de Vasconcelos’ successor, João Correia de Sousa, had ambitions on Kongo so decided to sue for peace with Ndongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). King Ngola Mbandi of Ndongo was also keen on peace and sent his sister, Njinga Mbandi, to Luanda to negotiate (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). Njinga converted to Christianity to strengthen the treaty and adopted the name Dona Anna de Sousa when she was baptized in honor of the governor’s wife who was her godmother (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). Portugal agreed to withdraw from its advance fort of Ambaca on the Lukala, return a large number of captive serfs (kijjko) to Ndongo, and restrain the Imbangala still ravaging Ndongo. In exchange Ngola Mbandi would leave the island of Kindonga and re-establish himself at the capital, become a Portuguese vassal, and pay 100 slaves per year as tribute. None of these conditions were actually met until 1624 because of João Correa de Sousa’s disastrous war with Kongo.

In 1622 João Correia de Sousa led a bloody campaign against the territory of Kasanze, located near Luanda and under Kongo’s authority (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). He then invaded Nambu a Ngongo, claiming the local ruler, Pedro Afonso, harboured runaway slaves. Pedro Afonso, facing an overwhelming army of over 20,000, agreed to return some runaways, the Portugese attacked anyway and killed him.

Finally, upset that the Kongo electors had chosen Pedro II the former Duke of Mbamba to be king of Kongo, João Correia de Sousa invaded Mbamba itself (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). In Nov 1622, the Portuguese met a hastily gathered Kongo army at the Battle of Mbumbi and defeated it, with Imbangala allies eating the Duke and other Kongo nobles.

Meanwhile Pedro II of Kongo brought down a larger army (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). Pedro defeated the Portuguese force and began a campaign of humiliation for the many Portuguese resident in Kongo. The Kongolese musketeer corps served against the Portuguese invading army in 1622 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).

In the aftermath of this shock, many Portuguese resident in Luanda, who had invested money in Kongo and were threatened with ruin, expelled the governor from the colony (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). Correia de Sousa was subsequently imprisoned in Portugal. The junta that ran Angola in the aftermath of Correia de Sousa’s expulsion (the Bishop was the temporary governor), was unable to execute the peace treaty with Ndongo but quickly made peace with Kongo, restoring some of the slaves they had seized.

Kongo, meanwhile, had also made an alliance with the Dutch West India Company to attack Luanda (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola).

1624: Dutch take Luanda; Rise of Njinga

A Dutch fleet under Piet Heyn attacked Portuguese held Luanda in the Kongo (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). Pedro had died and his son Garcia Mvemba a Nkanga had been elected king of Kongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). King Garcia I was more forgiving of the Portuguese and had been successfully persuaded by their various gestures of conciliation. He was unwilling to press the attack on Angola at that time, contending that as a Catholic, he could not ally with non-Catholics to attack the city. Despite their luke warm reception by their “allies”, the Dutch captured Luanda after an almost bloodless struggle. Kongo immediately entered into a formal agreement with the new government and agreed to provide military assistance as needed. The Dutch, however, were less interested in driving the Portuguese out of Angola as in securing a trading post, and thus were fairly slow to act against them.

Following the disaster of Correia de Sousa, the crown sent Fernao de Sousa to be governor of Angola in 1624 (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). He had orders to make fewer unjust wars in the country, and he tried to bring some order to its fiscal system.

Portugal’s failure to honor its treaty took a toll on Ngola Mbandi, king of Ndongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The King committed suicide, leaving the country in the hands of his sister Njinga Mbandi. Njinga was to serve as regent for his minor son. At the time the son was in the protective custody of the Imbangala leader Kaza, who had left Portuguese service and joined with Ndongo. Njinga, however, only briefly served as regent, and had the young son murdered and succeeded to the throne as ruling queen.

Fernao de Sousa reopened negotiations with Njinga but was reluctant to recognize her as ruler of Ndongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). He refused to return the serfs, and insisted that Njinga first acknowledge Portuguese sovereignty. Although Njinga was prepared to do this, she would not leave the island until her full control was established and the serfs returned. When the Portuguese refused, Njinga encouraged the serfs to run away and enter her service. Ferão de Sousa also insisted on keeping the Portuguese fort at Ambaca (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). In her correspondence in 1624 Njinga styled herself “Lady of Ndongo” (senhora de Dongo) (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba).

1626: Fernao de Sousa attacks Ndongo

The dispute over the serfs led to war in 1626, and de Sousa’s army was able to oust Njinga from her island capital of Kidonga, but not to capture her as she fled east (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). De Sousa felt confident enough at this point to declare Njinga deposed and convened some sobas who had supported him to re-elect as new king Kiluanji Hari, lord of the rocky fortress of Mpungo a Ndongo (or Pungo Andongo) in 1626, but he died in the smallpox epidemic that broke out as a result of the war, and was replaced by Felipe Ngola Hari. Felipe I served the Portuguese loyally in the following decades, even when the Portuguese made a separate peace with Njinga in 1639. His troops were the largest component in the army the Portuguese used to make conquests and to consolidate their rule in the Dembos area to the north.

Njinga refused to recognize Ngola Hari claiming that he was of slave origin and not eligible to reign (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). She reoccupied Kindonga and began mobilizing support of all the sobas opposed to Ngola Hari and Portuguese rule, leading to a second war with Portugal. No longer content with “Lady of Ndongo” (senhora de Dongo) in a letter of 1626 Njinga called herself “Queen of Ndongo” (rainha de Dongo), a title which she bore from then on (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba).


Njinga reoccupied her island capital of Kidonga (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba).

1628 or 1629

De Sousa’s army defeated Njinga again in 1628, once again forcing her to flee the islands (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). Njinga narrowly escaped capture although one of her sisters was captured (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). With the Portuguese hot on her tail, she fled towards the Baixa de Cassange. The party had to descend into the depression on ropes. Njinga retained only a few hundred of her followers.


The Kaza band of Imbangala had joined the Queen Njinga Mbande to oppose the Portuguese, however, they betrayed her in 1629 as she was trying to form a base for Ndongo independence on islands in the Kwanza River (Wikipedia: Imbangala).

Unable to hold on to Ndongo and deeming the island of Kidonga too vulnerable, Njinga turned to the Imbangala band of Kasanje in desperation (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). Kasanje accept her, but refused her equal status. The Queen had to accept a humiliating position as wife and give up her royal regalia. This arrangement was not a success.

The lengthy campaign of Lopo Soares Lasso from Benguela failed to produce many slaves or conquests (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola). Other attempts to expand from Benguela were abandoned.

1631: Queen Njinga established in Matamba

Njinga was able to win one of Kasanje’s supporters, subsequently known as Njinga Mona (or Njinga’s son) away and rebuild her army with his band of Imbangala (Wikipedia: Imbangala; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). Using this support, Njinga moved northward into Matamba where her forces routed the army of Matamba’s ruler, Queen Mwongo Matamba, capturing her and taking her prisoner (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). Njinga made Matamba her capital, joining it to the Kingdom of Ndongo, although Matamba became her base. Njinga also sent a detachment to reoccupy the Kindonga Islands, now sacred because her brother’s remains were buried there.

During this time Njinga declared herself an Imbangala (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). She gained notoriety during the war for personally leading her troops into battle and forbade her subjects to call her “Queen,” preferring to be addressed as “King”. The Portuguese often asserted that Njinga’s army practiced the rites and rituals of the Imbangala, which included infanticide and cannibalism, but acceptance of such reports must be tempered with knowledge that Europeans often created stories of barbarism to justify the dehumanization and enslavement of African peoples. It is unclear whether Njinga or her armies ever engaged in these rites, and she often appeared to have continued some elements of Christianity. She was certainly favorably disposed to priests and allowed Portuguese prisoners to have Christian sacraments if possible.

1634-5: Njinga against Kasanje

Njinga made several wars against Kasanje especially in 1634-5 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba).

1639: Peace between Njinga and Portugal

Following sporadic negotiations Njinga and Portugal concluded a peace in 1639 (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). At the same time Portugal established diplomatic relations with Kasanje, the Imbangala band that occupied the Kwango River valley south of Njinga’s domains in Matamba.

26 Aug 1641 to 21/24 Aug 1648: Dutch Angola

The Dutch occupied the coastal areas (under a governor of Dutch West India Company) (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). After the Dutch fleet under Admiral Cornelis Jol took Luanda, the Portuguese withdrew to the Bengo River, but

The Dutch were not interested in conquering Angola, much to the chagrin of Kongo’s king Garcia II and Njinga who had both pressed them to assist in driving the Portuguese from the colony. However, Dutch authorities came to realize that they could not monopolize the slave trade from Angola just by holding Luanda and a few nearby places, and moreover, the Portuguese sent several relief expeditions to Massangano from Brazil.


In 1641, Dutch fleet under Admiral Cornelis Jol, under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company, invaded Angola seized the coastal areas (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo; Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The Dutch took Luanda so the Portuguese withdrew to the Bengo River. The Dutch and immediately sought to renew their alliance with Kongo and Garcia II immediately sent an army to southern Kongo to assist. Njinga also sent the Dutch an embassy and concluded an alliance.

Kongo-Dutch forces then successfully attacked the Portuguese camp at Bengo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The Portuguese continued to occupy the inland parts of their colony of Angola with their main headquarters at the town of Masangano. Where Garcia II and Njinga helped the Dutch, the forces of Felipe I of Ndongo formed the bulk of the forces defending Masangano (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo).

1642: The Nsala rebellion

The Dutch did, however, provide Kongo with military assistance, in exchange for payment in slaves (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). In 1642, the Dutch sent troops to help Garcia II put down an uprising by peoples of the southern district in the Dembos region. The rebellion was quickly put down re-affirming the Kongo-Dutch alliance. King Garcia II paid the Dutch for their services in slaves taken from ranks of Dembos rebels. These slaves were sent to Pernambuco, Brazil where the Dutch had taken over a portion of the Portuguese sugar producing region.

1643: Dutch victory on the Kwanza then Peace

In 1643, the Dutch, bothered by Portuguese harassment from bases on the Bengo River, decided to act against it (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Garcia sent forces to assist the Dutch attacking force, which captured the Portuguese positions and forced them to withdraw to their forts on the Kwanza River at Muxima and Masangano. Following this victory, the Dutch again lost interest in conquering the entire colony of Angola. As in their conquest of Pernambuco, the Dutch West India Company was content to allow the Portuguese to remain inland. The Dutch sought to spare themselves the expense of war, and instead relied on control of shipping to profit form the colony. Thus, to Garcia’s chagrin the Portuguese and Dutch signed a peace treaty in 1643 ending the brief albeit successful war. Despite his disappointment, however, with the Portuguese out of the way and an end to Dutch pursuits of troops, Garcia II could turn his attention to the growing threat posed by the Count of Soyo.


Hoping to recover lost lands with Dutch help, Njinga moved her capital to Kavanga in the northern part of Ndongo’s former domains (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). In 1644 she defeated the Portuguese army at Ngoleme, but was unable to follow up.

1645: Kongo against Soyo

In 1645 Garcia II sent a force against Daniel da Silva, Count of Soyo, under the command of his son Afonso (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). The campaign was a failure due to Kongo’s inability to take Soyo’s fortified position at Mfinda Ngula. Worse still, Afonso was captured in the battle forcing Garcia to engage in humiliating negotiations with da Silva to win back his freedom. Italian Capuchin missionaries who had just arrived in Soyo in the aftermath of the battle assisted in the negotiations.

1646: Kongo against Soyo

In 1646 Garcia sent a second military force against the Count of Soyo, but his forces were defeated again (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). Because Garcia was so intent on subduing Soyo, he was unable to make a full military effort to assist the Dutch in the war against Portugal.

In 1646 the Portuguese defeated Njinga at Kavanga and in the process her other sister was captured, along with her archives revealing her alliance with Kongo (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). These archives also showed that her previously captured sister had been in secret correspondence with Njinga and had revealed Portuguese plans to her. As a result the Portuguese drowned her sister in the Kwanza River.

1647: Battle of Kombi

In 1647, the Battle of Kombi, Queen Njinga’s army, reinforced by Dutch from Luanda and Kongoese troops, defeated an army made up of Portuguese and the men of Felipe I of Ndongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo; Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). According to the sole, Dutch, record of the battle, it was a complete victory with the Portuguese suffering many losses (Wikipedia: Battle of Kombi). The battle was somewhere north of Masangano. In the battle’s aftermath the Dutch and Ngola armies laid siege to Ambaca, the Portuguese capital of Masangano, and Muxima. These sieges were not successful, largely because neither she nor her Dutch allies possessed sufficient artillery to effect an attack. When the forces of Salvador de Sa e Benevides arrived in 1648, Njinga was forced to abandon the siege and return to her headquarters in Matamba.

1648: Portuguese take Luanda; Dutch leave

Large and strong Portuguese reinforcements arrived from Brazil, led by Salvador Correia de Sá (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). They took Luanda and the Dutch capitulated and evacuated Angola. The new Portuguese governor sought terms with Kongo, and demanded that the Island of Luanda, the source of Kongo’s money supply of nzimbu shells, be handed over. Although a treaty was never ratified, the Portuguese appeared to have taken the island over. They also pressed claims over southern provinces of Kongo, especially the country of Mbwila. Mbwila was a nominal vassal of Kongo, but had also signed a treaty of vassalage with Portugal in 1619. It divided its loyalty between the colony of Angola and Kongo in the intervening period. Though the Portuguese often attacked Mbwila they never brought it under their authority.

Njinga retreated to Matamba and continued to resist Portugal well into her sixties, personally leading troops into battle (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba).


Salvador de Sa sought to restore Portuguese authority as much as possible during his rule (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). However, he made little progress, aside from forcing Njinga to retreat from her position in Cavanga to Matamba. His successors in the seventeenth century sought to renew the warfare that had expanded Portuguese authority and filled slaves ships before the Dutch interlude. However aggressive foreign policies were less successful. Following a disastrous campaign in Kisama in 1654-55 the governor was faced with widespread settler disobedience as they saw that the wars hurt their trade and killed their subjects.

1654-55: Portuguese campaign in Kisama

A disastrous Portuguese campaign in Kisama (Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola). The settlers subsequently realised that the wars hurt their trade and killed their subjects, and the governor was faced with widespread settler disobedience.

Following the expulsion of the Dutch in 1648, Felipe I of Ndongo began to feel that the Portuguese were not giving him his full due (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). He became involved in disputes with them over his subordinates and jurisdiction, even as his forces marched into disastrous wars in Kisama and the Dembos.

1657: Portugal accepts Njinga as Queen of Ndongo

In 1657, weary from the long struggle, Njinga signed a peace treaty with Portugal (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). Portugal accepted Njinga’s claim as Queen of Ndongo and Matamba (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). She was anxious that Njinga Mona’s Imbangala not succeed her as ruler of the combined kingdom of Ndongo and Matamba, and inserted language in the treaty that bound Portugal to assist her kin retain power. Over time she tried to distance herself ideologically from the Imbangala and returned to the Christian church.

Felipe I of Ndongo’s son and successor was understandably disappointed as the treaty only left him as ruler of Pungo a Ndongo (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo).

17 Dec 1663: Njinga dies

Despite numerous efforts to dethrone Njinga, especially by Kasanje, whose Imbangala band settled to her south, she died a peaceful death in Matamba (Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba). Matamba went though a civil war after her death. Her sister Barbara initially succeeded Njinga, but she was killed by forces loyal to Njinga Mona (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba)

29 Oct 1665: Battle of Mbwila

Captain Luis Lopes de Sequeira with 14,466 men defeated King António I of Kongo with 22,360 men at the Battle of Mbwila (or Battle of Ambuila or Battle of Ulanga) (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila).

In the years following the Dutch attack, Angolan governors sought to obtain revenge against Kongo and to support the slave trade with a highly aggressive policy (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila). Included in this policy were attacks on the zone of small, semi-independent states called Dembos that separated Angola for Kongo. Both Kongo and Angola claimed authority of the Dembos. In 1665, one of these small kingdoms, Mbwila, underwent a succession struggle and the various factions appealed to Kongo and Angola for aid. In 1665 both sides invaded Mbwila and their rival armies met each other at Ulanga, in the valley below Mbanza Mbwila, capital of the district (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo).

[Wikipedia: History of the Republic of the Congo states the battle was the result of of a conflict between the Portuguese led by governor André Vidal de Negreiros and the Kongolese king Antonio I concerning mining rights with the Kongolese refusing to give the Portuguese extra territorial rights.]

The Portuguese force, commanded by Luis Lopes de Sequeira, a soldier of mixed Portuguese and
African parentage, were centered on a group of 450 musketeers and two light artillery pieces,
forces from Brazil including those of African and Native American origin, as well as Imbangala and
African forces numbering about 15,000 (Wikipedia:
Battle of Mbwila
). The Kongo army included a large number of peasant archers, probably about
15,000, some 5,000 heavy infantry equipped with shields and swords, and a musket regiment of 380
men, 29 of them Portuguese led by Pedro Dias de Cabral, who was also of mixed Portuguese-African
heritage. [Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo
says 360 musketeers served in the Kongo army against the Portuguese at the battle of Mbwila.]

Both armies were operating at some distance from their main bases and had marched for days to
reach the battlefield, along the valley of the Ulanga River just south of the capital of Mbwila (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila).
Steep hills and the river defined the east side of the battlefield, and lower ridges the west. The
Portuguese forces took up positions between the two, with their African forces deployed on the
flanks and the musketeers forming a diamond shaped formation in the center, anchored by their
artillery. The Imbangala forces were held in reserve.

Antonio’s army advanced into the Portuguese formation with a vanguard, followed by three divisions
of his heavy infantry and the archers on the flanks (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila).
The Duke of Bengo commanded the reserve. In the initial stages of the battle, the Kongolese
archers swept most of the African archers of the Portuguese forces from the field and then
launched attacks against the Portuguese musketeers with their own heavy infantry with the
musketeers in support. In spite of heavy fighting, the Kongolese were unable to break the
Portuguese formation and Antonio was killed in the final attempt. Most of the Kongo forces broke
following the king’s death, and the survivors were only able to withdraw thanks to skilful
rearguard action by the Duke of Bengo and the reserves.

This was the first victory by Portuguese forces from Angola over the kingdom of Kongo since 1622 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). The Kongolese lost 5,000 men killed or captured including the King, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila). More than 400 of Kongo’s heavy infantry were killed in the encounter and many more of the archers. Along with these losses was royal chaplain, the mixed race Capuchin priest Francisco de São Salvador (Manuel Robrerdo in secular life). King Antonio’s young son of seven years was captured. After the battle, the head of the king or Manikongo was buried with ceremony by the Portuguese in chapel of Our Lady of Nazareth situated on the Bay of Luanda, and the crown and scepter of Kongo were sent to Lisbon as trophies.

Portugal obtained an act of vassalage from D. Izabel, the regent of Mbwila but was unable to exercise any real authority over the region once their forces had withdrawn (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila).

In the aftermath of the battle, there was no clear succession and civil war broke out (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). The country was divided between rival claimants to the throne. The two factions of Kimpanzu and Kinlaza hardened, and partitioned the country between them. Pretenders would ascend to the throne then be ousted.

1669-70: João Guterres in Matamba

João Guterres reigned in Matamba from 1669 to 1670 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). Like his predecessor Barbara, he was killed by forces loyal to Njinga Mona.

18 Oct 1670: Battle of Kitombo

The Portuguese tried to capitalise on the Kongoese civil war and invaded the county of Soyo, still independent of Mbanza Kongo, on their way to the capital (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). They met with no more success than Garcia II suffering a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Kitombo (18 Oct 1670).

1670-1: Siege of Mpungo Andongo

In 1657 Felipe I of Ndongo’s son and successor was Portugal’s principal ally in the war against Njinga (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo). Not surprisingly he was disaffected when Portugal agreed to accept Njinga’s claim as Queen of Ndongo, and relegating him to just the ruler of Pungo a Ndongo . The relationship with Portugal had deteriorated since then and in 1670 he revolted. Although the Portuguese managed to defeat him in a long siege of his capital of Mpungo Andongo in 1671 it was a costly victory. The fall of his fortress marked the end of an independent Kingdom of Ndongo.


João Guterres’, son Francisco successfully ousted Njinga Mona from Matamba and became ruler in 1676 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba; actually the source says 1666, but this is unlikely given the context). He ruled until 1681.

1678: Sack of São Salvador

The battles between the Kimpanzu and Kinlaza continued plunging the kingdom of Kongo into a chaos not known in centuries. The fighting between the two lineages led to the sack of São Salvador in 1678 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo). The city and hinterlands around Mbanza Kongo were depopulated

4 Sep 1681: Battle of Katole

In 1681 King Francisco of Matamba became involved in a war with neighbouring Kasanje, in which he sought to promote the interests of one of the candidates to the throne (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola; Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). The Portuguese intervened in this war and invaded Matamba with a force of over 40,000 troops, the largest military force Portugal had even mobilized in Angola. The army penetrated to Katole, where Francisco launched a successful dawn attack on 4 Sep 1681, inflicting heavy casualties on the Portuguese army. Imbangala forces in the Portuguese army managed to stiffen resistance, and in the ensuing battle, Francisco and several of his relatives were killed. It was still defeat and the Portuguese army, having suffered heavy losses, withdrew to Ambaca and then to Masangano. Following this affair, Portugal turned its attention away from war in the north to Kongo and Ndongo. [Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola actually places this battle in 1684, but that is at odds with the more complete Timeline in Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba.]

Verónica I Guterres Kandala Kingwanga, the sister of Francisco Guterres, succeeded her brother to the throne of Matamba (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba).

7 Sep 1683: Peace Treaty between Matamba and Portugal

In order to forestall another Portuguese invasion, Verónica sent an embassy to Luanda that negotiated a peace treaty, signed 7 Sep 1683. In it she accepted nominal vassalage, agreed to return Portuguese prisoners taken at the battle of Katole, allowed missionaries into the country and permitted agents of Portuguese free passage through her lands. She also agreed to acknowledge the independence of Kasanje and to renounce all claims on the country and to pay 200 slaves over 4 years as compensation.


In 1684 the bishop’s seat was moved from São Salvador, now in ruins, to São Paulo de Luanda (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola).


The Portuguese had to return to Mbwila in an attempt to subdue the region again (Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila). The primary result in Kongo was that the absence of an immediate heir spun the country into a civil war. This civil war, which would rage for half a century led to its decentralization and fundamental change, which is why Kongolese historians, even in 1700 regarded the battle as a decisive turning point in their country’s history.

1689: Portugal versus Matamba

Verónica, however, was not really cowed, and within a few years was advancing claims as Queen of Ndongo and Matamba that rivaled those of her predecessor Njinga (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba). In the process of asserting her claims she was drawn into wars with Portugal in 1689. This and the subsequent wars and raiding in between major operations led to serious depopulation on the western edges of her domains.

1692-3: Portugal versus Matamba

Verónica was drawn into another war with Portugal in 1692-3 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba).

Late Seventeenth Century

During the campaign of 1618-21 the Kasanje band of Imbangala began a long campaign of pillage that eventually would establish them along the Kwango River in the Baixa de Cassange region of modern Angola (Wikipedia: Imbangala). In the late seventeenth century this band abandoned their previous militant customs.


Wikipedia: History of the Republic of the Congo says … The revolt of Kimpa Vita was another attempt to regain independence from the Portuguese. Baptised around 1684 as Dona Béatrice, Kimpa Vita was raised Catholic and being very pious she became a nun seeing visions of St. Anthony of Padua ordering here to restore thee kingdom of Kongo to its former glory. Creating the Anthonian prophetic movement she interfered directly in the then civil war between the three members of the local nobility claiming the Kongolese throne, Joao II, Pedro IV and Pedro Kibenga. In it she took sides against Pedro IV, considered the favourite of the Portuguese. Her revolt, during which she captured the capital Mbanza Kongo, was short lived. She was captured by the forces of Pedro IV and under orders of Portuguese Capuchin Friars condemned for being a witch and a heretic and consequently burned to death. For many African nationalists she is the African version of Joan of Arc and an early symbol of African resistance against colonialism. [See also Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo]

1706: Matamba and Kongo alliance

Verónica sought some sort of alliance with Kongo in 1706 (Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba).


Pedro IV of Kongo restored his capital and repopulated it (Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola).


Venter, A. J. (1974b). The Zambesi Salient: Conflict in Southern Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins.

Wikipedia: Battle of Kombi

Wikipedia: Battle of Mbwila

Wikipedia: Colonial History of Angola

Wikipedia: History of the Republic of the Congo

Wikipedia: Imbangala

Wikipedia: Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba

Wikipedia: Jagas

Wikipedia: Kingdom of Kongo

Wikipedia: Kingdom of Matamba

Wikipedia: Kingdom of Ndongo Wikipedia: Precolonial History of Angola

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