region of Zambia represents a large autonomous kingdom in
the Western Province. The earliest known tribe of the
Lozi people to settle in the area, the Luyi, migrated
from Katanga in the Congo. They were ruled by a long line
of female rulers until their settlement on the Bulozi
flood plain. The earliest of these rulers was named
Mwambwa, who was succeeded by her daughter,
Mbuymamwambwa. According to legend they both married
Nyambe, the "maker of the world, the forests, the
river, the plains, all the animals, birds and fish".
In reality, Mwambwa and Mbuymamwambwa, probably bore
children by several different consorts.
Mwanasolundwi Muyunda Mumbo wa Mulonga aka Mboo, the son
of Mbuymamwambwa, was chosen as paramount ruler of the
Lozi, becoming the first male ruler in history.
Thereafter, all his successors, as Litunga, have been
A revolution ca. 1840, removed the ruling dynasty from
power. The whole of Barotseland then fell under the rule
of the Kilolo, led by Sibitwane, brother of the great
Moshesh of Lasotho, for the next twenty-four years. The
Lozi dynasty continued to oppose them wherever possible,
and maintained its leadership and traditions in exile. A
rebellion against in 1860 enabled Lutangu Sipopa, a son
of Litunga Mulumbwa, to seize his chance to establish his
claim to the throne. He defeated and virtually
exterminated the Kilolo four years later and restored the
fortunes of the dynasty. During his reign, European
explorers, missionaries and travellers began to enter the
region in numbers.
Litunga Sipopa's assassinated by his bodyguard in 1876
triggered a contest for the succession. Although his
nephew, Mwanawina II, secured the throne, a powerful he
was deposed in favour of his popular cousin, Lubosi, two
Litunga Lubosi I or more popularly Lewanika, succeeded on
the death of his cousin in 1878, was himself deposed and
driven into exile in 1884. He escaped to Angola,
collected an army and regained the throne in late 1885.
Highly intelligent and keen to modernise his kingdom, he
embraced the missionaries as a means of educating his
people. He also recognised the risk of white settlement
and arranged to accept a British protectorate in 1890 in
order to protect his people and lands from encroachment.
His sons and daughters were given a modern education,
several being sent to the Cape or Britain for further
study. He abolished slavery in 1895 and bonded labour in
1906. He died after a long reign in 1916, hailed amongst
Europeans and Africans alike as one of Africa's greatest
Yeta III, the eldest son of Lewanika, succeeded in 1916
after a long apprenticeship under his august father. The
first ruler of his line to receive a modern European
education, much of his reign was spent expanding
education while preserving traditional customs and ways
of life. He abdicated in favour of his younger brother,
just shy of a reign of thirty years in 1945.
Litunga Imwiko succeeded in 1945, but died three years
later, being succeeded by yet another brother, Litunga
Mwanawina III. The latter had already had a distinguished
career in various subordinate posts under his father and
brothers. He had served during the Great War and had been
educated at Lovedale College in South Africa. His reign
was to be one of the most momentous in the history of the
Lozi, culminating with the rising tide of nationalism in
Zambia. He saw out the short-lived and unpopular
federation of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, with the
white-dominated Southern Rhodesia. Then renounced the
protectorate agreement in favour of integration with
Zambia 17th May 1964. He died four years
Litunga Godwin Mbikusita, succeeded his brother in 1968,
and almost immediately faced with difficulties. Relations
with the central government deteriorated as Kenneth
Kaunda sought to impose one-party centralised rule
throughout the country. The large measure of
autonomy enjoyed by the Lozi did not fit into these
plans, so the Zambian government unilaterally abrogated
the 1964 agreement in October 1970. The government
renamed Barotseland the Western Province, even forbidding
any references to the term in parliament. Despite these
trials, the Litunga, whose interests were scholarly,
continued to maintain the traditions and culture of his
people, against considerable odds. At his death in 1977,
the throne devolved on the next generation, after being
held by the powerful sons of Lewanika for sixty years.
Litunga Ilute, nephew of Mbikusita and son of Yeta III,
succeeded in 1977. He faced just as many difficulties
with the central government as his uncle. The added
burden of a deteriorating economy, worsened by the
centralising policies of Kaunda and the blockade arising
from the war in Southern Rhodesia, made matters worse.
Nevertheless, his previous life as a diplomat stood him
in good stead to navigate a careful path between
different forces, and enabling him to preserve the
traditions of his people, while recovering a modicum of
autonomy. His death in 2000 caused a succession crisis
amongst several candidate princes, two of whom were
leading opposition politicians in Lusaka. Eventually, the
succession was decided in favour of Prince Lubosi Imwiko,
the surviving son of Litunga Imwiko II, and he was
installed with great pomp in October of that year.
Litunga Lubosi II continues to maintain the traditions of
his office and to act as a focus for the Lozi people.
Disagreements with the central government have surfaced
over the control of lands. Some compromises have been
reached, but the issues have not been entirely resolved.
Nevertheless, the Litunga remains a popular figure
amongst his people, and the post Kaunda democratic
governments have generally supported and maintained the
cultural traditions of the people. The annual Kuomboka
ceremony, in which the Litunga journeys in state from his
summer residence to his winter palace, has become a
popular tourist attraction. It is perhaps the best known
public event in Zambia and attended by all the important
The ruler: Mulena Yomuhulu Mbumu wa Litunga (reign
name), Litunga of the Lozi and Paramount Chief of
Borotseland, with the style of His Highness.
The principal consort of the ruler:Moyoo.
The junior wives of the ruler: Linalinga.
The Heir Apparent: Mulena of Sesheke, i.e. the
Prince of Sesheke.
The Princess Royal: Mulena Mukwai. The consort of the Princess Royal: Mulundwelu.
The ruler's official sister: Makoshi.
The sons of the ruler: Mwana' Mulena, i.e. Prince.
The daughter of the ruler: Mukwai, i.e. Princess.
The wife of a prince: Natandi.
The husband of a princess: Ishee.
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Agnatic descent from the line of kings, preferably a son
of a former Litunaga, born after his father's accession,
by a woman on whom a number of regal titles have been
SELECT GLOSSARY: Bana Bamulena: 'children of the king', i.e. the
Royal Family. Bo-ishee: husbands of princesses. Bulena Bwamalozi: kingship. Bulozi: land of the Lozi. Induna: chief, counsellor of state. Ishee: title of a husband of a princess, usually
conferred with a new title on marriage. Kashandi: council chamber. Khotla: council hall. Kuomboka: the ceremony in which the Litunga
journeys in state from his summer residence to his winter
palace. Kuta: parliament. Lealui: the summer palace of the Litunga. Lokombwa: stewards. Likwanabi: commoner relatives of the Royal Family. Lilalo: sub-district. Limulunga: the winter palace of the Litunga. Linabi: the descendants of kings through males and
females for five generations, i.e. the Royal Family. Linalinga: junior wife of a King. Lindumeleti: representative of the King in an
outlying district, sent to supervise the collection of
tribute. Litunga: 'the earth', i.e. the King. Litunga la Mboela: 'earth of the south'. The
Princess Royal. Lutatai: royal pavillion. Lutungalo: a royal drum. Mabuto: royal bodyguard.
Mafulo: palace. Makoshi: title of the Litunga's official sister. Malozi: the people of Barotseland. Manduna: counsellors of the right. Maoma: Royal drums. Mbumu wa Litunga: 'great one of the earth', the
King. Meyana: wives of ruling chiefs, other than the
king. Moyoo: the title of the principal wife of the
Litunga. Mukwai: princess. Mulena: chief. Mulena Yomuhulu: 'the Great Chief', i.e. the King. Mulena Mukwai: 'Chief Princess', i.e. Princess
Royal Mulena MukwaiMboanyikana: Mulundwelu: Prince Consort to the Mulena Mukwai. Mutanga: subject, vassal. Mwana' Mulena: 'son of the king', i.e. prince.
Mwana Mulena Kufuna: the usual title of the Litunga's
eldest son, the "first prince", or
"marshal of the princes". Mwana Mulena Kaluwe: the usual title of the
Litunga's second son.
Mwenduko: royal drum. Nalikwanda: Royal barge. Natamoyo wa Lwambi: 'the sanctuary of the north',
a Minister of State to the Princess Royal.
Natamoyo wa Namuso: 'the sanctuary of the north', a
Minister of State to the King, usually a prince of the
blood. Natandi: title of a wife of a prince of the blood. Ngambela: Chief Minister. Nguana-Morena: Prince. Pitso: National Council. Sambi: chief counsellor of the Princess Royal. Sicaba saMalozi: the Lozi nation. Silozi: the language of the Lozi. Solami: chief counsellor of the King.
Gerald L. Caplan. The Elites of Barotseland 1878-1969: A
Political History of Zambia's Western Province. C. Hurst
& Co., London, 1970.
The Rev. A.D. Jalla. Litaba za Sicaba sa Malozi:
History, Traditions and Legends of Barotseland. Produced
for the use of the Colonial Office, African No. 1179,
Second Edition, 1921.
C.W. Mackintosh. Yeta III, Paramount Chief of the Barotse
(Northern Rhodesia), A Sketch of his Life. Pickering
& Inglis, London, 1937.
M. Yeta. "The Kuomboka Ceremony During Yeta III's
Reign". The Northern Rhodesia Journal. Volume IV -
No. 6 - 1961. Pp. 574-582.