- Elizabeth Heath
Born with the name of Ngelengwa in Tanzania, Msiri was the son of a Sumbwa chief and trader. Msiri started his career on the trade routes forged by his father between East and Central Africa. In 1856 he negotiated with Mwata Kazembe, chief of the Lunda empire, for the right to settle and trade in south Katanga.
There Msiri used alliances with local ruling families and firearms acquired from traders to build his own empire, the Yeke or Garenganze. By 1870 Msiri’s empire extended throughout Katanga. He also built his trade networks by forging ties with Tippu Tip, a trader of the Swahili people. He forged ties with many other East African merchants as well. With these traders he exported slaves and copper, also working in the Ivory Trade, in return for cloth and firearms.
In 1880 after the death of his father Msiri proclaimed himself mwami or king ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.