The Barotseland 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 males.

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 years later.

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 rulers.

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 later.

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 public figures.

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.


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 bestowed.

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.
: 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 Mukwai Mboanyikana:
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.
: 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.
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CopyrightęChristopher Buyers, November 2004 - July 2008