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Mbala is Zambia’s most northerly large town and seat of Mbala District, occupying a strategic location close to the border with Tanzania and controlling the southern approaches to Lake Tanganyika, 40 km by road to the north-west, where the port of Mpulungu is located. It had a population of about 20,000 in 2006. Under the name Abercorn, Mbala was a key outpost in British colonial control of this part of south-central Africa. It is headquarters of an administrative district of the Northern Province.HistoryA 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 who surveyed Lake Tanganyika. Livingstone inspired missionaries of the London Missionary Society 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 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 in Nyasaland, and decisions were taken to strengthen the imperial presence south of the lake and prevent other colonial powers establishing a foothold there.Use our Zambia trip tool to arrange the details of your trip to Mbala and other destinations.
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