chapter  [15]
19 Pages

Military Organisation and the Pre-Colonial Polity of the Bemba of Zambia

WithA. L. Epstein

The Bemba today are numerically the largest and one of the most important ethnic groups in Zambia. This chapter shows that consideration of the issues may illuminate some other aspects of pre-colonial Bemba polity and society. It attempts to trace out some of the implications these had for other aspects of the pre-colonial Bemba social system. The chapter emphasizes on military power leads to a reappraisal of certain aspects of their political system as it has been presented in the ethnographic literature and suggests some problems for further comparative research. It describes the military organisation of a particular people in terms of a limited number of variables: command structure, tactical operations, planning and logistics, and the like. Bemba tactics were adapted to local conditions, and it would seem that it was only in response to the challenge of the Ngoni that they found it necessary to mobilise vast forces.