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Lukeni Lua Nimi - the 1st king of the Kongo Empire

Lukeni Lua Nimi - the 1st king of the Kongo Empire

Who said Africa never had any dynasties? - King Lukeni lua Nimi founded the thriving, vibrant, dynamic, and powerful Lukeni kanda dynasty. If you look further into the history of this region, you’ll learn how colonialism started in this kingdom.

At the end of the 14th century, a royal marriage between rivalling kingdoms resulted in the birth of Lukeni Lua Nimi, the founder of the Kingdom of Kongo — an African superpower that would unite the territory from the Atlantic Ocean through present-day northern Angola, western DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and southern Gabon.

So who was the first King of the Kongo Empire?

It is unclear when exactly he was alive, but historians believe it was around 1380-1420. The King conquered the Inkisi valley, which resulted in the annexations of the old Kingdom of Kongo provinces, Nsundi and Mpangu. Although he probably ruled in the valley of the Kwilu River, modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo, he is credited with conquering the region of Mbanza Kongo, Angola. Many details have been lost in history, but what we do know is that the king either displaced a local ruler called Mwene Mpangala, or he conquered a kingdom of the same name and built his capital there.

An interesting fact is that King Lukeni Lua Nimi was believed to be a dedicated, brave young man, and a skilled warrior. However, he was the youngest member of his family, which meant that he wasn’t next in line to rule after his father.

One day, when King Nimi (his father) ordered him to collect the toll fees from people travelling on a nearby river, he bumped into one of his aunts who was pregnant at the time. He ordered her to pay the tax like everyone else, but she refused. Lukeni had then killed her for disobeying. The fear of facing the consequences for the murder led him to run away. His father, had however not held the murder against him, but seen it as proof of his sons commitment to the crown.

After Lunkeni conquered the Mbanza Kongo region around 1390, It was divided between the authority of Mwene Kabunga and Mabambolo Mwene Mpangala. The first was a religious authority similar to a modern day pope. The second mentioned was a political leader.

These two rulers reigned over a Bantu people closely related to the modern day Ambundu, and the Mbaka, known as the “pygmy”. However, in many African traditions, land is inhabited by the descendants of the indigenous population. After taking the land in the Mbanza Kongo region, Lukeni started suffering from seizures. He then sought out help from Mwene Kabunga who eventually healed him. Lukeni and Mwene Kabunga recognized their mutual legitimacy in both political and religious leadership.

Lukeni expanded his conquests further south. This is what led him to permanently move his residence to a hill that eventually became Mbanza Kongo, the capital of his new state, Kongo.

Through alliances and conquests, he extended his territory, which soon included that of his fathers. Lukeni is believed to have died relatively young. His cousin Kinanga succeeded him to the throne. This was only the beginning of the long and rich history of the Kingdom of Kongo.

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