While Undi’s Chewa kingdom took years to grow and become powerful, the kingdom of Mwata Kazembe around Lake Mweru was rapid. Mwata Kazembe was the son of Mwata Yamvo from the established kingdom in the Congo basin; he had been sent to extend the realm of the Lunda people. They had been informed that the land around Lake Mweru was fertile and there were plenty of fish in the rivers and lakes. Mwata Kazembe took his Lunda people to the area with an already established political system and good trade links through his father around 1700.
The Lunda could easily take over the clans already in the area because they had a good army with guns which had been imported from the west; their neighbours had no guns. Mwata Kazembe’s way of dealing with conquered people was to allow them to continue their normal way of life as long as tribute was paid.
Because this Lunda kingdom was more isolated than the Chewa kingdom, they did not have direct links with the coastal trade and the Portuguese or Swahili slave traders. They used intermediary traders to transport their goods. Trade to the west went via Mwata Yamvo and trade to the east was transported by the Bisa people.
Successive Mwata Kazembes subdued the neighbouring clans, the kingdom being extended into parts of Zambia and DRC. By 1805 the kingdom had reached its largest size and power.
The kingdom was rich in many resources. Not only did they have plenty of food but they had copper, salt, elephants and slaves to trade.
During the time of the Lunda kingdom the Portuguese were making inroads into the interior. Two expeditions were sent by the Portuguese government to try to make trade links and treaties with Mwata Kazembe – Francisco de Lacerda came in 1798; Antonia Gamitto in 1831.
David Livingstone visited in 1867 when he was already very weak and sick. Although he was in theory representing British interests, he was consumed with his exploration of finding the source of the Nile. He left Kazembe’s palace with a slave trader to make his way to Ujiji in present-day Tanzania to find new supplies … which, when he got there, had mostly been stolen …
The decline of the Lunda kingdom began with increased trade and internal conflict. A clan of people, the Yeke, under their Chief Msiri, managed to infiltrate the copper producing area to the west and cutting the link to the original Lunda kingdom; the Swahili continued their advances on the east. (The Swahili culture had spread all along the east coast for hundreds of years and was a mixture of Bantu and Arab influence with Islam as their religion.) By persuading tributary chiefs under Mwata Kazembe to trade independently, both the Yeke and Swahili were able to weaken the Lunda kingdom. By 1850 the state had been considerably reduced in size and power.