Luba Empire

Luba Empire was an African Empire located near Lake Kisale in the Lualaba Valley. It was one of the earliest iron producing states in Central Africa.


The Luba Kingdom was founded by the Nkongolo Dynasty from the balopwe clan, between 1300 and 1400. The Nkongolo unified the various farming communities. The Nkongolo had origins from the northern Songye people. The Nkongolo Dynasty would later be ousted by Ilunga Kalala. Kalala's father came from Kunda, the north, who married the nkongolo's sister. Ilunga Kalala was reported to be a mighty hunter in Luba oral history. Some scholars have inferred that he introduced new hunting techniques like the bow and arrow to the region. Ilunga strengthened the kingdom and expanded its territories east of Lake Kisale and was able to gain tribute from won territories. By the 1700s, the empire stretched to Lake Tanganyika, north crossing the Congo River and along the Invua River.


The Luba extended its power by controlling the East and Central African trade routes, the palm oil industry, fishing industry, copper mining industry of central Africa. They also prospered by dealing in slaves. 


The royal family dominated the court. The empire was ruled by the malopwe, a divine king, who was an intermediary between society, the ancestors and gods.. Each province of the empire was assign someone from the royal family, who gathered tribute. The empire's power was acquired via religious mystical belief rather than physical force. The military was small in size.

Rivalry in the royal court was fierce, which caused competing factions to emigrate and found other kingdoms, like Kibinda Ilunga founding the Lunda Kingdom, during the 1600s, near the River Kasai.


The kingdom began to decline when it began to be raided by slavers, Msiri and Tippu Tip, who used guns in their raids. In order to acquire guns, the empire engaged in slavery, sometimes selling their own people. The situation caused much malcontent and division. In 1885, Belgium took over the region. About this time, the kingdom was split into two faction.

Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.(1999). Africana: the Encyclopedia of African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books, pp. 475-478. ISBN 0-465-00071-1.

Davidson, Basil(1991). Africa in History. Simon & Schuster: pp. 158-161. ISBN 0684826674

Shillington, Kevin(2005). History of Africa, rev, 2nd. ed. New York: Palgrave McMillan, pp. 138(9) , ISBN 0-333-59957-8