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Oct 2

Written by: Dino Estevao
2013/10/02 10:43 PM  RssIcon

To understand the story of the Angolan border war or the “Bush war” as is widely referred in the some military circle. I want to take you back, about fifty year prior to the outbreak of that war in 1966, the date that is widely accepted as the beginning of the border war. In 1911 King Nande, the aging king of the kingdom of Uukwanyama died and his successor, the new king was his 17 years old nephew, Mandume ya Ndemufayo.
Born in 1894, Mandume ya Ndemufayo was groomed by his maternal parent and academically schooled by a German missionary, pastor Adolf Wulfhorst. At the age of 17, he became the succession to the throne of the Kingdom of Uukwanyama. Although Mandume was not the direct heir to the throne, his ascension brought relief and stability in the kingdom. He was young, strong and demanded respect and discipline, than his uncle Nande who was old, weak and was loosing control within his ranks and delegated the power of arbitration to the chiefs and nobles who in turn became the law… as the new king, Mandume ya Ndemufayo started restoring the order, control and centralizing the power and decision within the kingdom. This was a tense period, with severe draught, conflict and high turbulence as the world drawn into the theater of the world war one.
The kingdom of Uukwanyama, one of the largest tribe, powerful and well organized within the tribes of Owambo. Stretching from the southern of Angola to the northern part of Namibia, until then enjoying enormous fertile land for agriculture, grazing and hunting.
Mandume ya Ndemufayo was the eighth king to have lived in Ondjiva as the royal capital of the kingdom of Uukwanyama. And by 1900, this part of the world felt very little impact of the Portuguese in the north or the German in the south. With the exception of the missionaries and the(comerciantes) traders, this region had very little interaction with either colonial powers. Portugal, until then had very little interest in this part of the world, faraway from the sea and often referred as the end of the world(a terra no fim do mundo) and offered very little in economy or otherwise… but soon with more need to have a grasp in the African continent, “scramble for Africa”. The colonial power to the soon realized that situation in south of Angola needed hands on. Mandume ya Ndemufayo inherited a thorn in his throne, the partition of the kingdom of Uukwanyama between the Portuguese to the north and German in the south. This new border suddenly brought confusion and bewilderment throughout the region. Suddenly, there was restriction on movements. After a number of incidents of violation of the border were reported to the colonial authorities. Mandume was called and requested for him and his subjects to abide to the international laws of the borders as set out in the Berlin treaty of 1888. This infuriated the King, who had to get travelling permission from either the Portuguese or Germany authority to travel within his kingdom. In retaliation he expelled the Portuguese missionaries and traders from Ondjiva. The border line between Angola and Namibia(South west Africa its colonial name) was drawn without the consideration of the natives, and as such should no be recognized, Mandume instructed his subjects from both side. Mandume ya Ndemufayo became defiant and started to build up a better army, and started trading cattle for guns. As spoil of the war, Mandume expelled the Portuguese “comerciantes,” from Ondjiva. Mandume ya Ndemufayo was young but determine to defend and die defending the kingdom. The border dispute drew in another Owambo tribe, the kingdom of Ombadja. King Shihetekela, the king of Ovambdja or Cuamati was an ally and confidante of Mandume ya Ndemufayo, his kingdom is situated north of the Owambo and south of the Cunene river.

Oshana ya Onfilo(the plain of death)
The Portuguese immediate response to the expulsion of the missionaries and traders from Ondjiva was to send an army to restore “order,” in the south of Cunene river. The first Portuguese military intervention were met at the kingdom of Ombadja where fierce battle was fought. The Portuguese were defeated and fled leaving the weapons and gears. King Shihetekela collected the weapon and equipped his army and send some to Mandume. However this victory was short lived, the Portuguese army returned, this time not only better equipped and large number but led by an experienced senior officer who has fought and won war in another part of Africa. Mozambique. And the man was general Preira d’eça.
In 1914, the Union Defense Force(UDF) invaded and forced the Germans to surrender in Germany in South West Africa(GSWA) as part of the World War I campaign to defeat and surrender the Germans.
The Union Defense Force(UDF) drawing its soldiers from the Rhodesian Regiment and the South Africans moved in territory north of the Orange river, with an army better equipped and superior training and experience acquired from the Boer war. The initial approach of the UDF was to observe without interfering in the affairs in the north of GSWA and south Angola. Also the new authority in Windhoek identified Mandume ya Ndemufayo as a formidable leader who should be an ally then foe, however this approached worried the Portuguese who were struggling to gain control in the south of Cunene river and feared that Mandume would find a supplier of weapons from the new authority in Windhoek. After a defeat at Ombadja. Portugal drew in one of the most experienced, respected military hero and war general in the Portuguese defense force.
General Preira d’eça rose through the military ranks to become a war hero, having successfully quelled the Shangaan uprising and apprehended king Ngungunyane in the southern Mozambique, General Preira d’eça became a force to reckon in the military and political circle within Portugal and its colonies(referred as the overseas provinces).
Mandume ya Ndemufayo, the eighth monarch in the kingdom of Uukwanyama to have been a resident in the royal house at Ondjiva was faced a dilemma of waking up every morning and face the flag of Portuguese and look at Ondjiva as the town of Preira d’eça. As a result Mandume moved out and set his royal house at Oihole, east of Namacunde.

The battle of Mongua
Although the battle of Mongua was only one of the few battles fought between the Portuguese and the Owambo people in this period and it only lasted three days, it is none the less a significant encounter that was to be told from one generation to the next. The documented history of this encounter is very limited and vague in many ways and the oral tradition from which is my point of departure and from where I based the record of this writing is influenced by zeal, time and myths. So I am guided by the caution rule.
In 1915, the first battle(a batalha do Mongua) that lasted few days between the Portuguese and Mandume’s army took place in the north of Ondjiva, although trying to hold back the Portuguese army from Ondjiva, his headquarter. The first meetings to between the UDF and the Portuguese Defence Force was held at Namacunde, although there slight mistrust from the Portuguese who suspected Mandume was being armed by the authority in Namibia The South Africans forces were moving through the northern Namibia towards the border of Angola When told to hand himself to the authority, that’s what he said, “se os engles me procuram eu estou aqui, eles pode vir e mondar-me um ardil. Nao farei o primeiro disparo, mas eu nao sou um cabrito nas mulolas, sou um homen e lutarei ate gastar a minha ultima bala. O meu curacao diz-me que nao fiz nada errado.”
At the age of 23 Mandume died while fighting while fighting the UDF and Portuguese forces… he was defeated and decapitated and his head was taken South West Africa(Namibia)where it was displayed throughout every town as the conquerors rode back south in a traditional barbaric that mankind has displayed since the cave days towards his enemy. Although it is not known where his head is or buried, his body was buried at Oihole about ten kilometers south east of Namacunde.
Mandume ya Ndemufayo’s day is commemorated in Angola and Namibia every years in the month of February, with the university of Mandume ya Ndemufayo in Lubango and Ondjiva.
Mandume’s successor was only anointed after Namibia gained its independence, almost seventy years after his death.

7 comment(s) so far...


Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

Thank you for this very insightful story, Dino! It is so important that we all learn about the history and events that predated our own Border War. When you read this you realize how these historical events eventually led to the situation we experienced with the SWA/Angola border cutting the Owambo nation in half. Also very interesting that Mandume died while fighting both the UDF (in SWA) and the Portuguese forces (in Angola)! I must confess that, other than knowing that the Owambo people were on both sides of the border, most of us in the SADF were unaware of the history behind it... Who was Mandume'a successor after independence?

By Johan Schoeman on   2013/10/03 11:04 PM

Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

Kornelius Shilungu was the successor...

By Dino Estevao on   2013/10/11 07:20 PM

Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

Hi Dino, do you know if the planned new statue for Mandume is erected already. Apparently he will be sitting on his white horse.

By Paul J Els on   2015/12/19 06:34 AM

Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

Hi Paul, I will be getting more clarity on the matter. I think the statue you referring in the one to be erected at the four stop at ondjiva. Will tell you more after the 3rd of February.

By Dino Estevao on   2016/01/23 08:29 AM

Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

Hi Dino, Are you now in a position to tell us more about the proposed erection of a statue for Mandume at Ondjiva, please

By Lukas de Waal on   2017/06/22 10:32 AM

Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

I must say i'm so happy to see my great grandfathers name being mentioned in the books of history. i grew up hearing of his names in stories (folk tails), know i have discovered myself his name and his contribution to the world history and the shaping of the Namibian and Angolan borders of today

By Thomas Mweneni Thomas on   2018/04/29 05:46 PM

Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça

Sorry to reply very late Lukas, but the story of the statue is a sad one. In short the money to make the statue was either stolen... There is lots of infighting in the provincial government.

By Dino Estevao on   2018/04/30 06:22 PM

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