The Kenga, also known as Kinga, Kenge or Cenge, are a collection of closely related ethnic groups, including the Kinga proper, who live in the hills of the Hadjeray región, near Mongo and Melfi, in Chad.
The Kenga of Chad are numbering 101,000 (Peoplegroups.org, 2023)
The highest concentration of people of the Kenga ethnic group occurs in the canton of the same name located in the Bitkine subprefecture. They coexist in some 70 villages or towns with Arab or Arabized groups, as well as with small Bonuan communities.
They originated to the east, in the Darfur región of Sudan, in the fifteenth century, moving west to Hadjeray.
They are considered the founders of the Baguirmi kingdom, which around the 16th century became a sultanate in which sub-Saharan, Berber and Arab ethnic groups coexisted. In turn, they are part of the Hadjarai ethnic complex along with Dajus, Junkunes, Dangaleats, Mogums, Sokoros, Sabas, Baraines, Bidios, Yalnas, Bolgos, Feodosios, Mukulus, Mubis, and Djongores. They are also located within the Guera-Naba group of peoples of Chad, within the sector of its sub-Saharan population.
Over the centuries they adapted their agricultural techniques to the harsh conditions of this mountainous area located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert.
Their language is Kenga, from the sara-bongo-baguirmi family and their population is around 112,000 people. Their language closely resembles that of the Barmas.
Although the Kingas are nominally Muslims, they remain very loyal to many pre-Islamic rites, including the worship of margal spirits.
Since the 16th century they have been part of the Sunni Islamic community, predominant in northern Chad. However, there is a small Christian minority that grew under the influence of missionaries who arrived in the area in the mid-20th century. Ethnic or pre-Islamic religion survives in popular culture according to reports from ethno-religious studies.
They make their living as farmers and by tapping the acacia trees for gum arabic.
More than 90% of the women in these groups have experienced genital mutilation.
Virtually all the Kenga living in the villages are farmers (millet), with the exception of one or two dozen teachers (who teach in the village public schools). The Kenga living in N'Djamena have adopted the urban lifestyle and generally have occupations in the public and private spheres of the city's economy.
The Bitkini kenga participated in the founding of the Baguirmi kingdom around the year 1522. According to tradition, Dala Birni was the founding leader who migrated with a group to Massenya and installed his court there. The small state integrated settlers from Arab, Berber and sub-Saharan origins that supported the expansionist policy of the mbang (king or manarch) that in a few years generated a clientele network of populations that paid him tributes in exchange for "protection".
During the years 1608 to 1806 the splendor of Baguirmi, at that point converted into a Muslim kingdom, was based on the capture and sale of slaves. Generally captured from their neighboring towns and especially from the Sara complex. Many of these captives over time became part of the Barma population, which is what the multi-ethnic descendants of Baguirmi called themselves. Among the peoples subject to tribute, sometimes enslaved, were to the north the peoples of the Lisi ethnic complex: Medogos, Bulalas, Kukas and Babelyias (Babalias). To the west it controlled and subjected to tribute the Kotoko peoples; to the south the Sarua, the Somrai, the Niellim, the Ndam and the Bwa; and to the east his brothers Kenga and the Sokoro.