The Luba Kingdom was a pre-colonial Central African state that grew across the Upemba Depression, now known as the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The rise of the kingdom of Luba started in the 16th century, between 1585 and 1889, under the hand of king Kongolo Mwamba. The capital of his empire was Mwibele, close to Boya Lake. During that period, Kongolo Mwamba met a hunter coming from the east named Ilunga Mbidi Kiluwe, who settled not too far from Mwibele, the capital of the Luba empire. In the imperial court, Ilunga is well received by Kongolo and ends up marrying his two sisters, Bulanda and Mabele. Although the two men had collaborated in the past, hostility grew between Kongolo and Ilunga, to the point where Ilunga returned to his lands to the east of the Lualaba River, abandoning his two wives.
One of Ilunga’s wives, Bulanda, will give birth to a son who will be named Kalala Ilunga. In his adulthood, the young Kalala will become a skilled warrior and hunter just like his father, Ilunga Mbidi Kiluwe. As a trained warrior, Kalala will help his uncle, Kongolo, expand his territories to the south. However, due to the jealousy of Kongolo over the success of his nephew, Kalala decides to join forces with his father, Ilunga, to overthrow Kongolo’s reign. Their strategy will be a success, and Kongolo will be killed by his nephew.
After that, his nephew and immediate successor, Kalala Ilunga, expanded the kingdom and its power grew to new heights. It’s the birth of the second Luba empire. Kalala will have two sons, Walefu and Tshibinda. By the end of the 18th century, the empire reached its peak during the reign of Kumwimba Ngombe, who expanded it towards Lualaba and the Tanganyika Lake.
However, before we talk about the eruption of the Luba kingdom, we must also mention that the region of the Upemba depression has been inhabited for longer than a millennium and has mediated the way for the central African region to be led by Kongolo Mwamba. The trade before was mainly fishing villages, dry-aging their fish and trading it to the deeper zones of central Africa. From there, those same small towns started cultivating a lot of iron craftsmen. Because of this new trading prowess and how much it has exponentially raised the bar for the entire region’s economy, the various villages began to expand together. Soon enough, these small villages became small towns, and from small towns to big cities.
After the center of Africa was united by the King. At its zenith, it had more than a million people residing in it. Having its capital city, Mwibele, be the main seat of power.