Southeastern Angola is a remote region. The Portuguese, who founded the city of Luanda in 1576, only began to establish a network of administrative posts in the remote interior after 1885. It was not until 1912 that the region was "opened up" and named Distrito Cuando-Cubango (after the rivers Kwandu and Kuvangu that form its natural boundaries).

The interior of southeast Angola was inhabited originally by San hunter-gatherers. When conflicts began to break out around 1600 in the powerful Lunda Empire ruled by Queen Luweji, many populations (including the Bantu-speaking peoples) associated with the empire migrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo southward and settled on the flood plains of Angolan rivers. These peoples developed separate identities and dialects in their new settlements.