This African king is considered Kongo’s greatest monarch for expelling the Portuguese from Angola

King Garcia II of Kongo
King Garcia II of Kongo receiving missionaries

From the late 1300s when the kingdom of Kongo was formed (present-day Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), there was a succession of kings but Garcia II Nkanga a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba is widely considered to be the greatest as he expelled most of the Portuguese from the colony that became Angola.

Garcia II Nkanga a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba, also known as Garcia Afonso, ruled Kongo at the height of its fame (from 1641 -1661), having descended from Afonso I, the first Kongo king to embrace Catholicism.

Afonso I, who was known as Mvemba a Nzinga, had asked to be baptized in the late 15th century when the Portuguese first arrived in Kongo. This gave him the name Afonso I.

According to records, the Christianisation of Kongo would cause many nobles to change their names to Portuguese variations, leading to the adoption of European titles such as ‘duke,’ ‘count’ and ‘king.’

Ahead of the arrival of the Portuguese, Kongo was a “loose federation of small polities, but, as the kingdom expanded, conquered territories were integrated as a royal patrimony,” according to an account by Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The kingdom, with its capital being Mbanza Kongo, had provinces, including Nsundi, Mpangu, Mbamba, and Mpemba. “The capital and its surrounding area were densely settled—more so than other towns in and near the kingdom. This allowed the manikongo (king of Kongo) to keep close at hand the manpower and supplies necessary to wield impressive power and centralize the state,” said Encyclopaedia Britannica.

After the arrival of the Portuguese around 1483, Afonso, who became king in 1509, forged strong ties with Portugal while extending the borders of Kongo but he soon faced challenges with the Portuguese over the slave trade. He, therefore, took charge of the trade to ensure that people were not illegally enslaved and exported.

It would be these same Portuguese who would later help restore Kongo after it was faced with disputes over succession and was then being controlled by rival warriors in the east.

For helping the kingdom to stand on its feet under King Álvaro I Nimi, the king allowed the Portuguese to settle in at Luanda (a Kongo territory) and create the Portuguese colony that became Angola.

But dealings between Kongo and Angola soon deteriorated when the latter’s governor briefly invaded southern Kongo in 1622. This was when Garcia II stepped in the scene and would eventually liaise with the Dutch against the Portuguese as the former seized portions of Angola from 1641 to 1648.

Garcia and his brother, Álvaro Nimi, were born in the early seventeenth century. They became close to the Jesuits, who had established themselves in the Kongo in 1619.

The brothers attended the Jesuit college at São Salvador (also known as M’banza-Kongo) and joined the Congregation of Saint Ignatius, through which they became attached to Kongo’s King Alvaro IV (1631-1635).

The two brothers would, in 1631, help defend the king against a rebellion by Daniel da Silva, Duke of Mbamba. It is documented that Garcia led the attack that killed the duke, and for his reward, his brother, Alvaro, was made Duke of Mbamba while Garcia was made Marquis of Kiowa, a small territory on the south bank of the Congo River.

But when Alvaro IV died, his half-brother, who was crowned as Alvaro V, planned to take out Garcia and his brother from their offices. Having heard this, the brothers led a rebellion that deposed the king. Alvaro Nimi was subsequently chosen by electors to be king Alvaro VI while his brother, Garcia, became the duchy of Mbamba. It was from this position that Garcia established close relations with the Dutch merchants who were trading along the Kongo coast.

In 1641, Garcia’s brother, King Alvaro VI, passed away. Historical accounts state that Garcia quickly moved to São Salvador, forcing the electors to make him king.

Some months after being made king, the Dutch attacked Luanda, the Portuguese colony and established themselves there. Upon an invite from Garcia, the Dutch visited São Salvador, where they formed an alliance with a purpose to remove the Portuguese from Angola.

Eventually, with the support of the Dutch, Garcia’s armies were able to take back most of the territories in the south that had been taken by Portuguese governors in the 1620s and 1630s. The armies, in 1643, also helped the Dutch to force the Portuguese from Kongo territory, however, their bases around the Kwanza River remained.

In subsequent years, there were further disputes between Kongo and Portugal over areas and districts which eventually led to the Battle of Mbwila (or Ulanga) on October 29, 1665.

The Portuguese won the battle and killed António I Nvita a Nkanga, who was then king. Kongo continued to exist, but largely not as a unified kingdom. Garcia had then died, in 1660.

Advertisements