Portuguese Angola was a colony gifted by the Kingdom of Kongo in 1575. Seven years earlier, the Jagas had rolled into the kingdom with invasion on their mind. The Portuguese teamed with the Kingdom of Kongo and were able to repel them. By the early 17th century, that mostly peaceful existence was fraying. As with other European forces throughout the colonial expansion and claiming Africa period, Portugal wanted to expand. Not only that, but the country wanted rich land–Kongo land. This resulted in the Kongo-Portuguese War in 1622–but ended with the Battle of Mbumbi at the end of the year.
While Portuguese Angola had its own troops, it bolstered its numbers with native warriors. The country had established an alliance with the Mbundu and managed to employ the tribe’s skilled archers. Most concerning was the alliance struck with the Imbangala. They were essentially marauders in Angola. While extremely effective in combat, they were also hyper-violent at times.
This reputation saw the Kongo and colonial powers view them as barbarians and cannibals. Their relationship with the Portuguese came after they were employed in taking the Kingdom of Ndongo.
Taking command of this massive, 30,000-strong force–mostly Mbundu archers–was a Captain Major Pedro de Sousa Coelho. Their goal was to take Nambu and bring its lord underfoot. They succeeded without incident but the lord managed to escape to the important merchant town of Mbumbi.
The Battle of Mbumbi
By the time Portuguese Angola marched on Mbumbi, its forces ballooned close to 40,000. The defending force of 3,000 was led by Paulo Afonso, the Duke of Mbamba and Pemba Cosme’s marquis.The situation was so dire for the defenders that the Duke himself took up sword and shield.
While the 3,000 managed to fend off the Mbundu archers. The true threat was the Imbangala mercenaries who managed to take out the Mbumbi defenders. The leaders of the defending force were among those killed. After the battle, the Portuguese Angola would pillage Mbumbi and take slaves. Meanwhile, the Imbangala would eat some of the war prisoners including the Duke and Marquis’ bodies–by accounts of battle.
In the fallout, the Kingdom of Kongo saw massive slayings of Portuguese in the realm and riots. King Pedro II was under pressure to retaliate while he also saved a number of them from violence. The Battle of Mbumbi marked the end of the larger Kongo-Portuguese War and resulted in the Kingdom forging an alliance with the Dutch.
REFERENCE: A Military History of Africa by Timothy J. Stapleton
http://tinyurl.com/y7poye26 (Google Books)