The land along Lake Tanganyika in recent history has often been neglected, the people just getting on with their lives as much as they can. But this was not always the case. There have been times of excitement, of sadness and wonder for the people who live along the lake shore.
The Tabwa, Mambwe and Lungu people migrated to the land from Central Africa in the 1700s. The Tabwa gained fame for being salt producers; the Lungu and Mambwe both kept cattle and they all caught fish. Their lives were as quiet pastoralists following their traditional beliefs of ancestor worship with sites along the shore of special significance.
But these quiet times came to an end when slave traders arrived from the east coast in the middle of the 1800s. Even Tippu Tip, the infamous slave trader entered their land to capture the people. The villagers learned to fortify their homes as much as possible by building stockades but they were still no match for the guns of the slave traders.
Some relief arrived with the first missionaries in 1885. The missionaries from the London Missionary Society were following in the footsteps of David Livingstone who had visited the area in 1871 and had pleaded with the Society to send in missionaries to help the people with legitimate trade, not the slave trade. The first missionary station was set up on the lake at Niamkolo but they moved after a year to Fwambo. Niamkolo was to become Mpulungu; Fwambo was abandoned later. The Mambwe and Lungu people flocked to the missionary stations for protection but they did not take kindly to learning about the new religion.
It took another 14 years before the slave trade finally ended with all the people, including the missionaries, living in fear.
Peace came with British South African Company and the people could relax, spread out and get back to their farms. This spreading out of the people disconcerted the owners of the British South Africa Company who had plans to start coffee farming all around the lake. This plan, though, never happened as by 1914 the First World War broke out.
The First World War was against the Germans and the Germans controlled German East Africa (Tanganyika, then Tanzania). Abercorn and Fife (Nakonde) which had become centres for the administration of Northern Rhodesia were on for forefront of defence with garrisons being set up in both villages.
Lake Tanganyika was initially controlled by the Germans who had several large boats on the water. Abercorn was attacked on several occasions. In 1915 two small, but fast, boats armed with big guns, built in Britain, were brought through Belgium Congo to Lake Tanganyika. The boats were named Mimi and Toutou and each only weighed only 4½ ton.
Mimi and Toutou first captured a 53-ton German gun-boat which they renamed Fifi and then sunk a 150-ton boat. The two other boats were dealt with by the Belgiums.
Abercorn and Fife were the towns where the Rhodesian forces gathered for the final attack on the Germans in Tanganyika. One German commander, Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was so astute at avoiding capture that he came back into Northern Rhodesia with his force of 1,500 men and about the same number of porters. His forces attacked Kasama and Mpika and were finally found two days after the war had ended near the Chambeshi River, half way between Mpika and Kasama. Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was told to march his forces back to Abercorn. The march took 11 days where his surrender was officially recognised on 25th November, two weeks after the end of hostilities in other parts of the world.
A monument now stands on the site where Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck surrendered. It is near the bridge over the Chambeshi River.
Another first for Abercorn was the landing of a bi-plane in Northern Rhodesia in 1920.
During British rule the mines got going and places where the white people could go to relax were set up. Nsumbu had already been declared a Game Reserve and the lake is so beautiful that a lodge, Kasaba Bay, was set up and scheduled flights operated. The area boomed with the holiday-makers.
After Independence, and the departure of many white people, the holiday resorts all over the country became quieter and quieter with the end result that they were abandoned, including Kasaba Bay. The area declined along with the economy, the people being left to their subsistence farming and fishing. The roads decayed to the point that many were impassable.
With the fresh face of a new type of government in 1991, slowly the roads were redone and the camps along the lake shore took on a new lease of life. Between the camp owners, ZamParks, Conservation Lake Tanganyika and now the Frankfurt Zoological Society the park now has a bright future.