With an input from Allan Lupenga, Lupumpaula, Jipumpu III


Originally, the Kaonde people under chief Kasempa were part of the Basanga chiefdom under chief Mpande. Sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s, they migrated from the Katanga region.

They came down south and settled in the area around the Mafwe and Luma rivers, where they displaced the Bambwela whom they found living there. They began to call their new home as ‘Kaonde Land’ (‘Kyalo kya Bakaonde’).

When the Kaonde settled in this land, their joy was short-lived. They were met with pressure from the fast-growing Lozi Kingdom, under King Lewanika, who strongly held claim to the land in which the Kaonde had settled.

In fact, the Lozi strongly believed that the whole territory of land occupied by the Kaonde, the Lunda, Luvale, Bambwela, Bankoya and other smaller groups of people, was their land, all of which they referred to as Barotseland. So they demanded that the Kaonde pay tribute for settling on this land.


The Lozi were more populous and more powerful than the Kaonde, mainly because they were more united and only had one overall king, while the Kaonde were divided, with each Kaonde clan being ruled by a less powerful chief.

In addition, by the time the Kaonde reached this land, the Lozi had already interacted with British officials under the British South Africa Company, so in the eyes of the Kaonde, the Lozi had a powerful friend, the white man (muzungu).

The Lozi for their part had two main objectives: To expand their kingdom; and to control all mining activities in the lands that they ruled or claimed to be theirs. And the only way to achieve these goals was to conquer and subdue smaller groups of people.

King Lewanika assigned Indunas (representatives) to pass through Kaonde land to collect tribute for him. However, the Kaonde under chief Kasempa refused to oblige. Although the Kaonde were smaller and less powerful in comparison with the Lozi, they did not succumb to Lozi pressure, thanks to the resilience of one Chief Kasempa Jipumpu.


Jipumpu was a mighty hunter and was a cousin of Chief Kiboko Kabambala. However, there was constant conflict between Kabambala and Jipumpu, perhaps because Kabambala feared that Jipumpu might someday violently take over the chieftainship, since he was a mighty hunter.

Finally, in the year 1880, Kabambala treacherously attacked Jipumpu’s village and carried off his wives. In retaliation, Jipumpu attacked Kabambala in the forest and killed him. Kabambala’s son escaped, although badly wounded.

He sought help from the Bayeke and attacked Jipumpu, forcing him to run away. However, about a year later, Jipumpu came back and defeated all who opposed him and set himself as chief in the year 1882.

When the Bayeke warriors from the mighty King Msidi came and attacked him, Jipumpu defeated them. By this time, Jipumpu had built a reputation for being a mighty warrior, and the name “Kasempa” (kasempakanya bantu biseba) had developed.

When he set up his capital at the Kamusongolwa Hill, he called his capital, “Kasempa.” And by 1902, when the British opened their first administrative station (boma), they called it Kasempa. Thus the name became established. Of course, the Lozi knew Jipumpu, and they attacked him.


This war took place in 1898. The Lozi king Lewanika was eager to dominate the Kaonde, particularly those in Kasempa. In fact, Lewanika had heard much about the new Kaonde chief, Kasempa, whom some people even compared to Shaka the king of the Zulu. So he was curious to demonstrate his kingly power over Jipumpu.

Earlier, Lewanika had sent his subordinate chief Kahari of the Nkoya, but Jipumpu defeated Kahari and his army. Thus in 1898, Lewanika sent an army coalition which included some members of the Kaonde chief Mushima. (Mushima supported Lewanika in fighting against Jipumpu because he wanted to retake his wives who had been captured by Jipumpu’s sons.)

With this army, the Lozi attacked the Kaonde. During the battle, Kasempa Jipumpu climbed the Kamusongolwa Hill, and when the Lozi warriors tried to capture him, he fought them off, and killed many of them. Those who survived escaped for their lives.

After this battle, Lewanika did not attempt to attack Kasempa again. Because of this victory on the hill, the Kaonde began to revere the Kamusongolwa Hill. It came to be known as “the Hill of Skulls,” owing to the fact that human skulls and other relics of the Lozi-Kaonde war abounded on the hill.

Author Dick Jaeger notes: “On poles around the stockade [erected by Kasempa Jipumpu,] there were many human skulls of the warriors he killed.”

In fact, even after many years had passed, in the 1950s, Kaonde people still feared the hill. When William Grant was sent to Kasempa to serve as court judge, the local people discouraged him from climbing the Kamusongolwa hill, saying it had ghosts, venomous snakes, and killer bees.

Still, William with his young cadet, Victor Magee, climbed the hill up to the top, and of course, they found no ghost, and, thankfully, on that day they met no snakes or killer bees.

Archeological findings show that the Kamusongolwa Hill was previously inhabited by an ancient people before the Kaonde. In fact, the rock paintings on this site date back to 11,000 B.C., and a cave excavated in the hill contained implements used for iron and copper smelting.

These finds show that the hill was used periodically for thousands of years. Today, at the foot of the hill stands a district prison, and local chiefs have repeatedly requested the government to make this hill a heritage site. This request is still in progress. Among the Kaonde, the story of the war on Kamusongolwa is passed on from generation to generation.

Jipumpu knew why the Lozi had attacked him. So to avoid further conflict, he sent gifts of reconciliation to the Lozi king. Lewanika certainly recognized this as a payment of tribute, but this was last that the Kaonde ever paid to the Lozi, and Lewanika himself did not see it expedient to demand further tribute from Kasempa Jipumpu. In fact, he is said to have had “a great liking for the Kaonde chief.”


The British, by means of the British South Africa Company (BSAC), were interested in the mineral reserves in the Barotse and Kasempa areas. However, they had two challenges:

1). The Lozi kingdom was well organized and too ambitious to deal with.

2). The Kaonde were too disorganized and scattered about over a large territory of land, making it ‘administratively’ difficult to bring them all under proper control.

Hence, the British seemed to focus more on establishing a protectorate agreement with the Lozi king Lewanika, with the idea that as long as Lewanika was able to subdue the Kaonde and bring them under his control, the British would then exert their overall control of the Lozi and Kaonde through King Lewanika.

Lewanika also desperately wanted this agreement because he felt that British protection would also ensure that there was no rivalry against him even from within the Lozi kingdom. So he consented to the agreement, despite being discouraged from doing so by his own advisers.

Thus for a time, the BSAC showed disinterest in the welfare of the Kaonde, and only sent officers in the company of Lozi indunas to Kasempa from time to time. It was not until 1902 that the first administrative office in Kasempa was opened by Sub-inspector F. C. Macaulay, and Captain Stennet of the Barotse Native Police.

In Kasempa, Cpt. Stennet was put in charge of police. Using his alliance with the British, Lewanika tried to force Kaonde chiefs to obey him as paramount chief. At one time, Lewanika sent his induna with a letter to all Kaonde chiefs, saying: “This is my Induna [whom I have sent] to collect the Kahondi [Kaonde] Chiefs.” Lewanika wanted to gather the Kaonde chiefs at his palace for a meeting to assert his authority over them. However, this letter was intercepted by District Commissioner F. C. Macaulay, and Lewanika’s intentions were thwarted.



A. Copeman, was the district commissioner who fought hard to preserve Kaonde sovereignty in Kasempa

In 1904, E. A. Copeman took over from Macaulay. Copeman was even more determined to protect the Kaonde from Lozi influence. Lewanika then appointed an induna to stay in Kasempa and continually collect tribute from the Kaonde.

The induna arrived in Kasempa on July 1, 1905, but he left almost immediately, because he had left his wives and his cattle behind. Lewanika sent another sub-chief, Setenge to collect tribute, but Copeman refused to allow Setenge to collect tribute.

Later that year (1905), Lewanika sent three indunas to fetch chief Kapijimpanga from Kansanshi (Solwezi) and take him to Lewanika, with the goal of forcing him to accept Lewanika as the paramount chief. Again, Copeman intercepted them. It was at that time that Copeman declared that no Lozi could come into Kasempa without a permit from the administrative office in Kalomo.

Later, Frank H. Melland, who was Solwezi District Commissioner (1911-1922), also did his best to protect the Kaonde from Lozi interference. Although men like Macaulay, Copeman, and Melland fought to preserve Kaonde autonomy, they were actually working against BSA Company policy.

The BSAC wanted Lewanika to feel assured of his supremacy over the natives, in order for BSAC to sustain and manipulate the agreement with Lewanika in their favor, given that Lewanika did not fully understand the terms of that agreement. Still, Macaulay and Melland’s resilience and sympathy for the Kaonde deterred the Lozi from dominating the Kaonde.

In the many years that followed, many lozi chiefs attempted to use the colonial administration in order to exert their authority on Kaonde territory, but their efforts proved futile. However, out of the ashes of conflict rose a close tie between the Kaonde people and the Lozi.

In the stream of the 20th century, many Kaonde people individually settled among Lozi communities, as did many Lozi people. One example is Kaoma district of Western province. By location, Kaoma is a Lozi district, but it has a very high population of Kaondes.

Added to this are the countless inter-marriages that have occurred between Kaonde and Lozi men and women. All of this has resulted in a very close kinship between the Lozi and Kaonde.

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