Tenet people


Tenet / Tennet

The Tennet people ('Tennet' in early language survey) are an ethnic group in South Sudan.

Their language is also called Tennet.

Their neighbors, the Lopit as well as the Lotuho, refer to them as Irenge, the name they called to Buya also.

Tenet people

Tennet had adopted the culture of Lopit but they have their own traditional dances such as Lalu, Nyaliliya, Loduk, etc.

Tennet people are multilingual. They can speak the languages of the neighboring communities such as Lopit, Lotuko, Pari, Buya, Murle, and Toposa.

But they have maintained a strong ethnic identity and resisted assimilation from the neighboring communities by maintaining their culture and language among themselves. They continue to speak Tennet.


Demography and Geography

The Tennet home area consists of fifteen (15) villages in north of Torit in Eastern Equatoria. Tennet population is estimated at about 30,000 people.


Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

The Tenet live in hilly terrain. They are agro-pastoralists practicing traditional agriculture as well as livestock rearing mainly cattle, sheep and goats. They harvest forest products such as honey, wild fruits (shea nuts) and hunt on the mountain slopes and plains. The main crops are sorghum, bulrush, millet, pumpkin, groundnuts, simsim, and okra.

The Tennet people practice swidden agriculture. They grow sorghum mostly on the plains below the villages, but they also cultivate fields on the mountainsides. They raise cattle, which are the main measure of wealth and are used for bride wealth, and they also hunt, fish, and raise goats and sheep. However, they are primarily dependent on sorghum, and drought can cause severe food shortages.



The Tennet communities are governed by the ruling age set, called the Machigi Looch, (this word means the rulers and the owners of the land). The Members of the Machigi Looch are young men who are old enough to participate in warfare (cattle raiding and defense of the village). They make decisions, but they are also held accountable by the retired Machigi Looch, the elders. A new group of Machigi Looch is initiated about every twelve years.



Tennet music is pentatonic which is "Rugumon". Carved flutes are common around the villages, and drums are used during dances.


Mythology and History

The Tenet are obviously part of the Didinga – Boya – Murle ethnic group. Tradition has it that they separated and remained in their present location when the Murle moved northwards. They are said to have placed themselves under the Ngaboli King of the Lopit to offset the imbalance in numbers with the Pari.

The Tennet learned iron-working from the Bari people. However, during Sudan's civil wars, blacksmith activity decreased.



The Tenet speak a language very close to the Didinga, Murle and Boya.


Society: Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions

Like the Langorim and Didinga, the Tenet are organised into agnatic exogamous clans and lineages. The main social events include:
Hunting, which they practice in the beginning of the dry season, brings the whole population of the Tenet into the Kidepo valley and the adjoining Tingle dry land in pursuit of game.
Marriage traditions and customs are similar to those of Didinga with some influence from the Lotuka and Lopit.


Socio-Political Organisation, Murle Traditional Authorities

The age-set system and the kinship-system are fundamental to the Murle social and political organisation. The outstanding feature of the political system is the position of the clan chiefs and elders who are treated with the greatest respect.


Spirituality, Beliefs and Customs

The Tenet, like their kins the Murle and the Didinga are extremely conscious of the spirits.


Culture: Arts, Music, Literature and Handicraft

The Tenet people have evolved a cultural regime of oral transmission from one generation to the other. It is centred round cattle and is expressed in songs, poetry, folklore and dance. They adorn their bodies with all kinds of markings and drawings of different animals and birds while wearing different types of beads.


Neighbours, Foreign Relations and Co-operation

The Tenet neighbour the Pari, the Lopit, Boya and Lotuka. The relationship with neighbours is by no means cordial due to their cattle raiding practices.


Latest Developments

The Tenet is a small community least affected by modernity because of deliberate neglect, marginalisation and political exclusion. The war affected their area and as such, many of their youth were recruited into SPLA.



Very few Tenet people have left home or travelled to East Africa and overseas.