The Kongo and the Pygmy Tribes in the Modern Day Zaire
The study of tribes in the Congo is a very confusing matter. Linguistic, regional and political divisions are all very prevalent characteristics of these people. Two tribes who speak the same unique language may be separated by thousands of miles. The three major linguistic groups are the Bantu, Central Sudanic, and Ubangian with Bantu being the most prevalent. 2000 to 3000 years ago large numbers of Bantu speaking people slowly but steadily began to migrate from modern day Sudan to the Congo basin, or modern day Zaire (www.nbufront.org). The original inhabitants of this area were the Pygmies, the diminutive forest people. I am going to focus on the two most celebrated of the Congo civilizations: the Kongo Kingdom and the Pygmy tribe.
The Kingdom of the Kongo began as a small Bantu-speaking chiefdom founded by Ntinu Wene near the modern day town of Boma in the fourteenth century (Ranger pg. 29). The kingdom expanded rapidly through expansion and conquest of other small chiefdoms. Kingship was a pillar of the social structure and was passed on through heredity. The political structure consisted of a hierarchy similar to feudal systems in Europe. An ascending order of villages, districts, and provinces were governed by king appointees. At the top of the hierarchy was, of course, the king. Anyone who was a proven descendant of Ntinu Wene could attempt to become king. A council of nine to twelve aristocrats elected the king (Ranger pg. 30). So when the Portuguese arrived in 1482 (Ranger pg 31), the Kingdom of the Kongo was a large, powerful, bureaucratic empire similar to those in Europe. The Portuguese made short work of the empire though. Their lust for gold, ivory, and slaves caused them to attack the Kingdom in 1660 and it went into decline. The Kongo Kingdom is the best example of the organization of Bantu speaking people in the Congo. Although the empire did not last long its power was unprecedented for black civilization in the Congo.
Pygmies are the complete opposite of the...