The Kavango people, also known as the vaKavango, reside on the Namibian side of the Namibian–Angolan border along the Kavango River. They are mainly riverine living people, but about 20% reside in the dry inland. Their livelihood is based on fishery, livestock-keeping and cropping (mainly pearl millet). The Kavango Region of Namibia is named after the people.
In traditional politics they are divided into five kingdoms (Kwangali, Mbunza, Shambyu, Gciriku and Mbukushu), each headed by a hompa or fumu, both meaning "king". Traditional law is still in use and legitimized by the Namibian constitution. The Kavango people are matrilinear. The most common language spoken is RuKwangali (in Kwangali and Mbunza territory); also spoken are Shambyu, Gciriku, and Mbukushu in the corresponding territories. Their religion is mainly Christian although traditional elements still have a place.
As a consequence of the Mbunda people's resistance to Portuguese colonial occupation at the beginning of the 20th century in Angola,1 and later because of the impact of the Angolan War of Independence (1961–1974), the decolonization conflict in Angola (1974/75),2 and the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), a number of Mbunda took refuge in Kavango region of Northern Namibia, in the Caprivi Strip around Rundu. Many other Angolans (often referred to as Nyemba, which is in fact only one of many Angolan peoples)3 also immigrated to traditional Kavango territory, following the Angolan Civil War. KiMbundus and ChiMbundus are also some of the Angolan tribes that migrated to the Kavango region during the Angolan civil war. Also, many San people live in the Kavango Region. They are the earliest inhabitants of the country.
Ekoro is a very important social relation in kinship systems of Kavango. It may be roughly referred to as an extended family, but it is more than that. It is a social relation dominantly rooted in clan and it is not necessarily determined by blood connections. The clans are ranked according to seniority, and whoever belongs to a junior clan (irrespective of age) is deemed young by those in the senior clan. There is a command of respect and high level of obedience towards the senior clan. Other people can also become clan members by seeking allegiance due to various unifying circumstances such as floods or war.4
- René Pélissier, La révolte des Bunda (1916-1917), pp. 408 - 412 (French for "the Mbunda revolt"), section footnotes citing sources: Luís Figueira, Princesa Negra: O preço da civilização em África, Coimbra Edição do autor, 1932
- Franz-Wilhelm Heimer, Der Entkolonisierungskonflikt in Angola, Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1979 ISBN 3-8039-0179-0
- Martin Ngodji (March 2010). "Thesis: The Applicability of the Translatability & Interpretation Theory of Sanneh & Bediako: The Case of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (North)". University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg. pp. 230–231. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- Eckl, Andreas. "Serving the Kavango Sovereigns' Political Interests. The Beginnings of the Catholic Mission in Northern Namibia", LFM. Social sciences & missions no.14, July 2004, pp. 9–46.