Mbala
Overview
 
Mbala is Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

’s most northerly large town and seat of Mbala District
Mbala District
Mbala District is a district of Zambia, located in Northern Province. The capital lies at Mbala. As of the 2000 Zambian Census, the district had a population of 149,634 people.-References:...

, occupying a strategic location close to the border with Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

 and controlling the southern approaches to Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, after Lake Baikal in Siberia; it is also the world's longest freshwater lake...

, 40 km by road to the north-east, where the port of Mpulungu
Mpulungu
Mpulungu is a town in the Northern Province of Zambia, at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika.From Mpulungu, boats reach DR Congo, Tanzania and Burundi...

 is located. It had a population of about 20,000 in 2006. Under the name Abercorn, Mbala was a key outpost in British colonial
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 control of this part of south-central Africa. It is headquarters of an administrative district of the Northern Province
Northern Province, Zambia
Northern Province is one of Zambia's nine provinces. It covers approximately one fifth of Zambia in land area. The provincial capital is Kasama. The province is made up of 12 districts, namely Kasama , Chilubi, Isoka, Chinsali, Kaputa, Luwingu, Mbala, Mporokoso, Mpika, Mpulungu, Mungwi and Nakonde...

.
A number of archaeological sites in the area (such as at Kalambo Falls) provides a record of human activity in the Mbala area over the past 300,000 years.

Before colonial times, Mbala was the village of Chief Zombe on the Lucheche River.
Encyclopedia
Mbala is Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

’s most northerly large town and seat of Mbala District
Mbala District
Mbala District is a district of Zambia, located in Northern Province. The capital lies at Mbala. As of the 2000 Zambian Census, the district had a population of 149,634 people.-References:...

, occupying a strategic location close to the border with Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

 and controlling the southern approaches to Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, after Lake Baikal in Siberia; it is also the world's longest freshwater lake...

, 40 km by road to the north-east, where the port of Mpulungu
Mpulungu
Mpulungu is a town in the Northern Province of Zambia, at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika.From Mpulungu, boats reach DR Congo, Tanzania and Burundi...

 is located. It had a population of about 20,000 in 2006. Under the name Abercorn, Mbala was a key outpost in British colonial
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 control of this part of south-central Africa. It is headquarters of an administrative district of the Northern Province
Northern Province, Zambia
Northern Province is one of Zambia's nine provinces. It covers approximately one fifth of Zambia in land area. The provincial capital is Kasama. The province is made up of 12 districts, namely Kasama , Chilubi, Isoka, Chinsali, Kaputa, Luwingu, Mbala, Mporokoso, Mpika, Mpulungu, Mungwi and Nakonde...

.

History

A number of archaeological sites in the area (such as at Kalambo Falls) provides a record of human activity in the Mbala area over the past 300,000 years.

Before colonial times, Mbala was the village of Chief Zombe on the Lucheche River. It became the focus of British interest as a result of travels by the explorer David Livingstone, the first European to visit the area, in the 1860s. He was followed some years later by Verney Lovett Cameron
Verney Lovett Cameron
Verney Lovett Cameron was an English traveller in Central Africa and the first European to cross equatorial Africa from sea to sea.-Biography:He was born at Radipole, near Weymouth, Dorset...

 who surveyed Lake Tanganyika. Livingstone inspired missionaries of the London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 to come in the 1880s to Niamkolo on the lake and Fwambo and Kawimbe on the plateau. These missions had links to the African Lakes Company
African Lakes
The African Lakes Corporation plc is a British company which operated businesses in Africa. It is often referred to as just "African Lakes"....

 which later set up in Mbala and Mpulungu. The area was ravaged by the slave trade during much of the 19th Century, and the African Lakes Company devoted some efforts to trying to stamp it out. This activity drew in the representative of the British Government in the region, Harry Johnston
Harry Johnston
Sir Henry "Harry" Hamilton Johnston, GCMG, KCB , was a British explorer, botanist, linguist and colonial administrator, one of the key players in the "Scramble for Africa" that occurred at the end of the 19th century....

 in Nyasaland
Nyasaland
Nyasaland or the Nyasaland Protectorate, was a British protectorate located in Africa, which was established in 1907 when the former British Central Africa Protectorate changed its name. Since 1964, it has been known as Malawi....

, and decisions were taken to strengthen the imperial presence south of the lake and prevent other colonial powers establishing a foothold there.

As a result the colonial
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 era began in Mbala in 1893, earlier than in most other areas of what would be come Zambia, when Hugh Marshall was sent by Johnston as the British Consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 for the area. Marshall built a well-fortified boma
Boma (enclosure)
A boma is a livestock enclosure, a stockade or kind of fort, or a district government office. The term is used in many parts of eastern, central and southern Africa and is incorporated into many African languages as well as colonial varieties of English, French and German.As a livestock enclosure,...

 at Chief Zombe's village and acted as Magistrate
Magistrate
A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...

 and Postmaster
Postmaster
A postmaster is the head of an individual post office. Postmistress is not used anymore in the United States, as the "master" component of the word refers to a person of authority and has no gender quality...

. In 1895 the British South Africa Company
British South Africa Company
The British South Africa Company was established by Cecil Rhodes through the amalgamation of the Central Search Association and the Exploring Company Ltd., receiving a royal charter in 1889...

 took over administration of the territory, called it North-Eastern Rhodesia, and the ‘Zombe boma’ became known as Abercorn, named after the company chairman. The site was favoured by British administrators as being healthy and having a pleasant climate with plenty of hunting and fishing. Until German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

 was taken over by Britain in 1919 as Tanganyika
Tanganyika
Tanganyika , later formally the Republic of Tanganyika, was a sovereign state in East Africa from 1961 to 1964. It was situated between the Indian Ocean and the African Great Lakes of Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika...

, Abercorn and the smaller Chiengi
Chiengi
Chiengi or Chienge was a historic colonial boma of the British Empire in central Africa and today is a settlement in the Luapula Province of Zambia, and headquarters of Chiengi District...

 boma on Lake Mweru
Lake Mweru
Lake Mweru is a freshwater lake on the longest arm of Africa's second-longest river, the Congo. Located on the border between Zambia and Democratic Republic of the Congo, it makes up 110 km of the total length of the Congo, lying between its Luapula River and Luvua River segments.Mweru...

 were the most northerly outposts of British southern Africa. During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Mbala was a focus of the unsuccessful British military effort to defeat German General von Lettow-Vorbeck
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was a general in the Imperial German Army and the commander of the German East Africa campaign. For four years, with a force that never exceeded about 14,000 , he held in check a much larger force of 300,000 British, Belgian, and Portuguese troops...

’s German army, and British forces were concentrated there. After Germany’s surrender in Europe, von Lettow-Vorbeck formally surrendered
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 at Mbala on 25 November 1918, though he had agreed a ceasefire at the Chambeshi River
Von Lettow-Vorbeck Memorial
The Von Lettow-Vorbeck Memorial in the Northern Province of Zambia commemorates the final cessation of hostilities of World War I, three days after the Armistice in Europe.-The reasons for the Memorial:The Memorial bears a plaque which reads:...

 250 km south nine days earlier. A memorial marks the spot of the formal surrender about 2 km south-west of the centre of town. Following the surrender ceremony, the German troops were ordered to throw their weapons into Lake Chila.

After Zambia’s independence in 1964, the name of the town was changed back to Mbala.

Since its heyday as a colonial town in the 1950s and early 60s, Mbala has suffered some decline, and has lost out in development terms to the provincial capital, Kasama, and Mpika, which have better road and rail connections. Although the Mbala area has fertile soil
Fertile soil
Fertile soil has the following properties:*It is rich in nutrients necessary for basic plant nutrition, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium....

s and plenty of water, it is too far from urban markets for agricultural produce
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

. Similarly, while it has tourist potential
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 it is a bit too far off the main tourist routes and the poor state of the main highway and the lack of regular air services discourage visitors. There is one hotel but no resorts in the immediate area, the nearest being those in Nsumbu National Park
Nsumbu National Park
Sumbu National Park lies on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika near its southern extremity, in Zambia's Northern Province...

 such as Kasaba Bay, 100 km away, but there is no road link there − in fact the lack of a road serving the south-western side of the lake, which is mountainous, is a serious barrier to tourism or to any development there. Kalambo Falls is an attraction, but is not accessible throughout the rainy season. Wars and unrest on the eastern and northern shores of Lake Tanganyika have also hindered trade and tourism on the lake, which has not given Mbala and Mpulungu the advantages of their location. With recent steps towards resolution of those conflicts, the future may be brighter. The population was 16,963 in the 2000 census.

Geography and transport

The town is at the edge of the plateau covering most of Zambia, at an elevation of 1670 m, about 900 m higher than Lake Tanganyika, which comes within 22 km (straight line distance). The escarpment above the lake is the end of the western Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa...

, and the Mbala area experiences occasional earth tremors
Earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

. It is also said that the tiny but picturesque Lake Chila within the town experiences inexplicable drying out, and sudden flooding from underground springs, but this may be just a legend.

The second highest waterfall in Africa, Kalambo Falls
Kalambo Falls
Kalambo Falls on the Kalambo River is a 772ft single drop waterfall on the border of Zambia and Tanzania at the southeast end of Lake Tanganyika. The falls are some of the tallest uninterrupted falls in Africa...

 lies about 40 km (by road) north west, and is formed where the Kalambo River comes over the Rift Valley escarpment.

Mbala is on the old Great North Road
Great North Road (Zambia)
The Great North Road is a major route in Zambia, running north from Lusaka through Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi Serenje, Mpika, Kasama, Mbala and Mpulungu. 82km North of Mpika is a signposted left turn onto a well maintained gravel road leading to Shiwa Ng'andu and Kapishya Hot Springs...

 165 km north of Kasama
Kasama
The toponym Kasama may refer to:* Kasama, Ibaraki , Japan* Kasama, Zambia* Kasama Project- See also :Related toponym:* Kazama * Kazami* Kazemi* Hazama...

, and at one time was the end of that road. It has been paved and as of late 2008 is in poor condition, with large patches of pavement missing, and stretches have reverted to a dirt road. However, work crews were patching the road in late 2008, with one crew starting in Kasama, and the other starting from Mbala. Since it is the only paved highway access to the town and district, as well as to the port of Mpulungu, its poor condition is a major barrier to development in the area. Buses run daily from Mbala to Kasama and Lusaka, the capital.

Mbala is 25 km from the border with Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

 and connected by a dry-season road to one of only two road border crossings between the two countries. It is not much used, the road beyond the border is a dirt track impassable in the rainy season.

The paved road which winds down the escarpment to Mpulungu
Mpulungu
Mpulungu is a town in the Northern Province of Zambia, at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika.From Mpulungu, boats reach DR Congo, Tanzania and Burundi...

 affords scenic views and passes close to Lunzua Falls. From Mpulungu the MV Liemba
MV Liemba
The MV Liemba, formerly the Graf von Götzen, is a passenger and cargo ferry that runs along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika...

 provides a boat service to other ports and countries on the lake. In the 19th century the lake was an important entry point to the territory of northern Zambia, by boat from Ujiji
Ujiji
Ujiji is the oldest town in western Tanzania, located about 6 miles south of Kigoma. In 1900, the population was estimated at 10,000 and in 1967 about 4,100. Part of the Kigoma/Ujiji urban area, the regional population was about 50,000 in 1978....

, which was reached by an overland trade route from the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 coast near the island of Zanzibar
Zanzibar
Zanzibar ,Persian: زنگبار, from suffix bār: "coast" and Zangi: "bruin" ; is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja , and Pemba...

.

Mbala has an airport but does not currently receive scheduled services, though it has a 2.6 km runway and was once a Zambian Air Force
Zambian Defence Force
The Zambian Defence Force consists of the army, the air force, and Zambian National Service . The ZNS, while operating under the Ministry of Defence, is responsible primarily for public works projects. The ZDF is designed primarily for internal defence in Zambia...

 Base.

Attractions

  • Moto Moto Museum
    Moto Moto Museum
    The Moto Moto Museum is a museum in Mbala, Zambia, housing a collection of artifacts related to Zambian culture, first collected by Canadian priest Jean Jacques Corbeil in the 1940s. The artifacts, collected for study and posterity by Father Cornbeil, were stored in the Mulilansolo Mission until...

     — a museum of Mambwe/Lungu
    Bemba people
    The Bemba belong to a large group of peoples mainly in the Northern, Luapula and Copperbelt Provinces of Zambia who trace their origins to the Luba and Lunda states of the upper Congo basin, in what became Katanga Province in southern Congo-Kinshasa...

     culture, named after the French Catholic bishop Joseph Dupont, nicknamed Moto Moto.
  • Mutomolo harvest thanksgiving ceremony at Lake Chila
  • Uringa Pans
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