LEWANIKA (c. 1860- ), paramount chief of the Barotse and subject tribes occupying the greater part of the upper Zambezi basin, was the twenty-second of a long line of rulers, whose founder invaded the Barotse valley about the beginning of the 17th century, and according to tradition was the son of a woman named Buya Mamboa by a god. The graves of successive ruling chiefs are to this day respected and objects of pilgrimage for purposes of ancestor worship. Lewanika was born on the upper Kabompo in troublous times, where his father Letia, a son of a former ruler lived in exile during the interregnum of a foreign dynasty (Makololo), which remained in possession from about 1830 to 1865, when the Makololo were practically exterminated in a night by a well-organized revolt. Once more masters of their own country, the Barotse invited Sepopa, an uncle of Lewanika, to rule over them. Eleven years of brutality and licence resulted in the tyrant's expulsion and subsequent assassination, his place being taken by Ngwana-Wina, a nephew. Within a year abuse of power brought about this chief's downfall (1877), and he was succeeded by Lobosi, who assumed the name of Lewanika in 1885. The early years of his reign were also stained by many acts of blood, until in 1884 the torture and murder of his own brother led to open rebellion, and it was only through extreme presence of mind that the chief escaped with his life into exile. His cousin, Akufuna or Tatela, was then proclaimed chief. It was during his brief reign that Francois Coillard, the eminent missionary, arrived at Lialui, the capital. The following year Lewanika, having collected his partisans, deposed the usurper and re-established his power. Ruthless revenge not unmixed with treachery characterized his return to power, but gradually the strong personality of the high-minded Francois Coillard so far influenced him for good that from about 1887 onward he ruled tolerantly and showed a consistent desire to better the condition of his people. In 1890 Lewanika, who two years previously had proposed to place himself under the protection of Great Britain, concluded a treaty with the British South Africa Company, acknowledging its supremacy and conceding to it certain mineral rights. In 1897 Mr R. T. Coryndon took up his position at Lialui as British agent, and the country to the east of 25 E. was thrown open to settlers, that to the west being reserved to the Barotse chief. In 1905 the king of Italy's award in the Barotse boundary dispute with Portugal deprived Lewanika of half of his dominions, much of which had been ruled by his ancestors for many generations. In 1902 Lewanika attended the coronation of Edward VII. as a guest of the nation. His recognized heir was his eldest son Letia.
See BAROTSE, and the works there cited, especially On the Threshold of Central Africa (London, 1897), by Francois Coillard.
(A. ST. H. G.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)