All Karonga chiefs speak, read and write English

This week our tour guide for Karonga,  Mwangi Msukwa, completes the rich history of this great lake valley district whose people are as resilient and as hard-working as Mangochians. They are also amongst the most politically alert and educated people in Malawi.

“Karonga is a title for Chief Judge or Minister of Justice,” our guide started. “His Lordship! Kalonga in the Chewa setting is a Ruler (King). Here Mwanafyale is King. Karonga was/is the legal arm and a subject of Mwanafyale Kyungu. Hence you do not find a geographical area for TA Karonga. The chiefs under Kyungu were given different roles and job descriptions.  He was recognized by the British and was later crowned a TA by modern politicians who did not understand the Kyungu dynasty. Administratively, it is a personal to holder title.

“Tradition and politics do not work at same level. He is Chief Judge in the supreme court of appeal for Karonga and Chitipa chiefs who fall under the jurisdiction of Kyungu. Kyungu established his court at Mbande near Bwiba, five kilometres to the south of the Boma.

“Trespassers like Mohashoi and his crew would be dealt with accordingly here. The current Karonga is Mwamatope, a highly respected man.”

“So Karonga is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Kyungu!” Mzee Mandela summed up.

“Yes Mukombe!” our tour guide said.

“Mukombe?” Jean-Philippe wondered.

“It means Mwanafyale or Majesty,” our guide said.

“From today address me as Mukombe Alhajj Mufti Jean-Phiippe LePoisson, SC (RTD),” Jean-Philippe joked.

We laughed. And Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and Mega-1 called for a fresh round of drinks on Jean-Philippe, of course.

“Continue Mwanafyale,” I said.

“When Kameme and his young brother Chungu (turned Kyungu in Karonga) came to Mwabulambya, they were accompanied by their sister Ngabo.  They had come from Zambia. Mwabulambya gave them a place in Chinunkha still known as Mwenechungu to date. However, later they requested to move on further east to Ngusa. Mwabulambya allowed them to move on. They left a pregnant Ngabo under the care of Nyondo. She later bore a son known as Mwamuswero who was given a portion of Ifumbo land along the Kaseye River to Ilondo bordering Tanzania. They eventually came to a place known as Mbande. It is about 18 kilometres from Karonga Boma to Chitipa near Muzgoka/Filaule.

“From the hilltops they saw the lake and valley below. They went back to report to Mwabulambya. This interaction between Mwabulambya, Kameme and Kyungu tells a lot about their relationship. Chungu went back to Mbande Hills and settled in the fertile soils of South Rukuru River. Ngusa, the Kyungu’s Newfoundland!  Kameme (Simkonda) stayed in Bulambya but was redirected North West and occupied the Kameme, Ipenza, Njerengwa and Bupighu areas.

“While at Mbande Hills, Chungu married a number of wives from the Ngonde royal families from whom he bore many children. They scattered down the valley following the South Rukuru River to the Lake Nyasa! The Kyungu dynasty is so democratic in that the chieftaincy rotates around the male children from the wives of the original Kyungu by seniority.

“I humbly stand to be corrected by His Majesty Paramount Chief Kyungu at Kasoba. The resting place (Masheto) for all Kyungus is at Mbande Hills to the present day. Being kings, they are buried at night.  Mbande Hills is a national heritage site. A majority of the village headmen in Karonga Central are children of Kyungu and Nyondo. The Tumbuka village heads under TA Kyungu are Lalika, Kayunga, Bwana Chizindile (Modeccai Gondwe), Mabelera, Chifwafwa Mhango and Gwebe Nyirenda  just to mention a few.

“Mohashoi, in as much as you praise Chitipa as home to great mathematicians, Karonga is a role model to Chitipa on education. Should you find a chief or village headman in Karonga and Chitipa who cannot read, write or communicate in English, I will offer my two beautiful daughters: Towera wa Sikabembo and Anganile Jane Namukwala to you free of charge. You have to ‘bribe’ me first if you want to know why we have places called Kaporo and Malungo near (Kambwe Port) in Karonga.

Twakumphira, Twawaulupi kwa Mwalafyale Kyungu. May the spirits of Kyungu Kyabala and Mwakabanga be with your expedition! I am retiring to my mother’s land,” our guide said, leaving his seat.

“If we find just one chief here who cannot communicate in English, your daughters will become Mrs Mohashoi!” I joked.

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