NZINGA MBANDE

By Tim Sullivan

Today’s fierce female is Nzinga Mbande.

Born to the ngola (king) of Ndongo and Matamba in 1583, she was sent into exile when her father was overthrown. As the Portuguese forces pressed farther into the region in their quest to dominate the slave trade, they mistook ngola to be the name of the country - the region is still called Angola to this day.

Nzinga’s brother, Mbandi, successfully recovered rule of the kingdom, but he was almost immediately thrust into war with the invading Portuguese forces. After losing several battles, he sent his sister to negotiate for a treaty. Nzinga so impressed the Portuguese that they agreed to an equal treaty, enabling Ndongo to remain independent and without Nzinga offering any of her people’s enslavement in return.

The Portuguese soon reneged on their deal however, invading Ndongo and capturing thousands for the slave trade. A despondent Mbandi committed suicide, and Nzinga ascended the throne in his stead. After several military defeats, she managed to broker an alliance with the Dutch. With their aid, she led her troops into battle well into her sixties, stunning the Portuguese in several routs and laying siege to their capital.

Nzinga brokered a peace treaty with Portugal in 1657 and presided over 15 years of peace. She was adamant about helping resettle former slaves within her kingdom. She died in 1663 at the age of 80.

Despite her efforts to ensure a peaceful transfer of power after her death, her kingdom was plunged into a civil war that Portugal took full advantage of. Angola would finally be liberated from Portuguese rule in 1975.

“Sometimes force is able to exterminate the wicked customs of those that do not use reason and do not understand any argument without punishment.”

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