September 15, 2016


The Lendu are the largest of the non-Nilotic tribes which have contributed to the formation of Alur society. Their social structure is a variant of that found among the chiefless Sudanic peoples of the north-western Congo and the neighbouring parts of the southern Sudan, a type which has so far never been fully described. These peoples also pose the problem of tribal and cultural definition. They speak many mutually unintelliggible languages of extremely difficult tonal structure, though linguistic bounderies are only overlapping corridors of bilingualism and of greater changes in the frequency distribution of dialectal elements. Tucker, with good reason, refers to the Lendu as spitting rather than speaking their words.

In Uganda at the time of the Foreign annexation distinctively Lendu groups were in a numerical minority and were not administratively separated from the Alur. In the Congo the ratio of Alur of Lendu was very different and, the abolition of slavery still being a burning issue at that time, it was only natural that the system of Lenu serfdom to the Alur should also be energetically suppressed. Alur and Lendu were therefore concentrated in separate teritorial units, after the latter had been extracted from among the former, where necessary by force and against their will. However, the Lendu units so formed remained larger or smaller isolated pockets, and the territory of some Lendu administrative chiefs is a patch work scattered amidst that of hema and Alur. This disperaal of the Lendu became increasingly market as the lands in which the Alur were confined aproved inadequate for their increasing population, and more had to be alloted to them from territory originally conferred on the Lendu.

It is not surprising that a people of this type, with such numerical size and territorial extension and dispersion, should exhibit considerable differences of culture as well as language. No detailed information was obtained first hand from the Lendu Bindi, the southernmost section, nor do the documentary sources supply any of value. However, they came under the influence of the southern Hema and not the Alur.

The chiefdoms of Rutsi and Tsiritsi comprise a population of about 90,000, including those away from any traditional domination they, for the most part, claim that they were always independent, having only fought with and been laterly enslaved by the Alur. Against this testimony there is the following evidence: the Belgian administrators and administrative records asset that these Lendu were all found in some sort of subjection to Alur or Hema. Administrators are, of course, usually impressed by the best constituted authorities found in a region, and easily deceived aas to the real extend of their powers. In this case, however, it seems that the Belgians had too much close personal dealing with the situation to have been so deceived. They had to take active measures to separate the peoples by force, and record the refusal of many Lendu to leave their "protectors" willingly. They carried out unusually detailed studies of the composition of the larger Lendu groups, as well as of the Alur and Hema chiefdoms, as a basis for their regroupment. Later, when the Lendu began to realise the changed political conditions of colonial rule and the total destruction of the independent power of Alur and Hema, they began to realise th changed political conditions of colonial rule and the total destruction of the independent and the distinctness of their culture and language; to ape the parpjernalia of chiefsip which they learnt from the Alur and Hema; and to pretend that no other state of affairs had ever existed. Yet they actually call both the Alur of Jukoth, and the Hema, "zhi" which in Lendu means "rain" and the Lendu speaking Hema called them "matsabali" meaning "my people." The hema of Blukwa, who were rivals of the Alur and unlikely to exaggerate their influence, say that the Tsiritsi o not practise circumcision because they came from amog the Alur and lost the custom there. The Rutsi have been tradition of having come from Nebi, the heart of the early Alur settlement. The Uganda Lendu of Zeu say that they and their neighbours of the Walendu Watsi chiefdom were all under the domination of the Alur of either Ukuru or PaNduru.

The Lendu have only a very rudimentary awareness of the form of their own society, compared with the detailed accounts which Alur are prepared to give of theirs. Therefore if Alur are present they always try to speak for the less articulate Lendu in this matter! The Lendu constantly emphasise the place of fighting and violence in their traditional social system, and enguiries about the later always provoke endless mimicry if bow and arrow shooting and dodging, which seems to have left an indelible impression on all their recollections of the old life.

The most clearly defined social and territorial unit above the level of the family is the sub clan. Both Alur and, after them, Europeans have used the sub clan as the basic territorial unit of the Lendu for administratie purposes. In reality these groups are probably of very simi;ar type of the Alur, for they are localised groups which appear to have arisen mainly through segementation along agnatic lines; but the cohesion between segmented groups among the Lendu is so slight that very soon nothing remains except a vague idea of common origin and an inclusive name. Such groups are then left high and dry with an ideology of agnatic segmentation and genealogical knowledge so poor and contradictory that it cannot account for the relations of component lineages, let alone of the other sub clans of the same clan.

We have here a society in which the kinship system and the property relations of the family are as favourable to the development of an extensive segmentary lineage system as they are in case of the Alur, nor does any other pervasice principle of organisation substiture for it; and all that can be said is that the Lendu exhibit a form of social organisation smaller in scale and less efficient as a standardised mode of interrelationships regarded by the people as legitimate. I could discern no structural features which could account for this contrast; nor could it be due to any present or recent differences in the system of land tenure or cattle ownershp as betweeen them and the Alur. it cannot be explained by the narrownewss pf the Lendu field of exogamy, although this is clearly closely related to it, for this must itself reflect theories of sex and descent which are partly detained outside the present structural principles.

Supposing that the Lendu, as some of their traditions and those of other peoples about them suggest, were formerly a hunting and collecting people, living in small bands unable to maintain close contact, this would largely explain the lac of desire or ability to recollecting people, living in small bands unable to maintain close contact, this would largely explain the lack of desire or ability to recollect genealocial structure or to maintain a highly organised system to decent groups. It might also account for the lack of need or possiblity of an extensive field or exogamy. Could there be a "cultural lag" in this respect, governing the acceptance of changes such as settled residence, governing the acceptance of changes such as settle residend, keeping and inheritance, in such a way that they never formed the basis for extensive lineages as among the Alur? that the presence or absence of chiefship is insuffiecient to explain the difference in proved by the lineage systems of peoples closely related to the Alur and otherwise similar in culture such as the kenya Luo, who also have no chiefs. Perhaps what is here called "cultural lag" consists rather of certain ore obsecure cultural values, developed under quite different former conditions yet not methods which the ethnographer failed to notice. These speculations are only mentioned in order to raise an interesting problem to be borne in mind in relation to the material which follows