‘Chitipa, Karonga people are cousins of the Yao’

We have dedicated this week to learning about the tribal history of Karonga. Because of the searing heat here we decided to camp at Club Marina in the Old Town. Club Marina faces the lake and gets some cool breeze which makes your life somehow comfortable.  While we spend the nights at Nyazeleza Hotel, we pass the evenings along the lake of stars. From last Thursday, our royal escort and tour guide in this lake valley, Mwangi Mwamkenge Msukwa, is dishing out the history of Karonga.

“Let me start by saluting our Paramount Chief Kyungu, Clement Kapote Mwakasungula. My father’s home at Kasoba (Mwakasungula village) is just 50 metres away from the royal palace. Joseph Ntchelere Msukwa (Mwenechibula) trekked from Chibula in Misuku to Ngonde where he settled in the late 1800s. He married Janet Nanyondo, daughter to Chief Mulyavibombwe Mwenebwisi of Zambia from the Samphala Mwabulambya group. Joseph Msukwa bore William (Scotson) who ‘created’ my father Robert Msukwa from Mercy Sichone (Namonje, a Mambwe). Come along Mwanafyale.

“The Karonga story is very interesting, if not complex. This lake valley area occupied by the Ngondes was first inhabited by one Ngusa, probably a Nyakyusa. Ngusa Kyala literally means Pull Me God. Chiuta Niguza in chiTumbuka or Nishike Mkono Mungu in kiSwahili. It’s like you are in a pit and asking for God or someone to hold your hand and pull you out. Karonga is mainly made up of the Nyakyusa, Tumbuka, Mambwe (In Kasisi) and Ndali.

“You may be surprised why I do not mention the Ngonde (Nkhonde) who dwell in the bigger central area? The Nyakyusa came from the highlands of Tukuyu and Kyela in Southern Tanzania. They are descendants of the Kikuyu in Kenya. Those in Tanzania are called Bamwamba (they are in the highlands). Those in Karonga under traditional authorities (T/As) Mwakaboko, Mwangulukulu and Kilupula speak pure Nyakyusa.

“Due to proximity to Tanzania, their Nyakyusa accent is intact. The Swahili and Ndali are also found here. The Nyakyusa under Kyungu are called Bankhonde (Bangonde). Ngonde means valley. They are along the lake valley in the land of Ngusa. If you are a Nkhonde, you are automatically on the reverse side of the same coin with a Nyakyusa.

“The ChiNyakyusa (Kyangonde) of Karonga is lighter because it has been soiled by other languages. If one is in Chitipa we say you are in Bulambya and if in Karonga you are in Ngonde (Lake Valley). Let me remind you that before the British came, Chitipa was under Karonga.

“The Traditional Authorities (Chiefs) of Karonga are Mwakaboko, Mwangulukulu and Kilupula to the North, Kyungu covers the Centre and North West, Wasambo (Mwafulirwa) and Mwirang’ombe (Mkandawire) to the South.  The last two are Tumbuka Chiefs. No doubt they drifted down to the lake at Chitimba, Fulirwa, Wovwe and Hara through the North Eastern sides of the Nyika plateau in Rumphi. The Hengas are also Tumbuka.

“They are found in Henga valley in Rumphi (Western side of Livingstonia) down to Mlowe, Chiweta, Chitimba, Chilumba and Fulirwa. Those who crossed the lake from the East (Tanzania) decorate their names with Mlowoka. The other big names in Karonga are Mwakabanga, Mwanjasi Mwakikunga, Mwakamogho, Mbemba Mwangonde, Mwambande, Mwenitete, Mwanjabala, Mwakifwamba (Nyondo), Mwafongo, Mwangomba, Mwangolera, Mwagomba, Amon Mwenitanga,  Mwafilaso, Mwahimba, Kafikisira, Mwambelo (Mwamphepo), Mwasanyila and Mwamatope. Don’t you relate the last name to Nachitipa, the marshy stream? Mwamatope owns the mud! Mwa or Mweni denotes ownership.

“If you listen carefully to people speaking chiNdali, chiLambya, chiNyika, chiNyakyusa and chiNkhonde (Ngonde) you hear a lot of Yao words in these dialects. The words and meanings but save for pronunciations. Chitipa and Karonga people are cousins of the Yao.

“A branch of the Yao that went into Tanzania from Amakonde in Mozambique to Songeya, Mbeya, Tukuyu,  Kyela then into Malawi through Karonga and Misuku messed up their language due to  inter marriages. Just like the Ngoni of Mzimba and Ntcheu, they conquered the land but lost the language. Ndali and Ngonde or Nyakyusa is broken Yao! Those who came down to Mangochi, Machinga and Mulanje stuck to Yao women and kept their Yao language.


…Continues next week

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