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Rwanda

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Rwanda, together with other peoples of the Eastern African interior, namely Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, had neither their own system of writing, nor written observations from visitors into the 19th century, leaving therefore much of our understanding to research in linguistics and archaeology.1

Oral traditions are available from about the 15th century, which add life to the drier archaeological and linguistic studies, but are often limited to succession of rulers, but when compared with stories of their neighbors, nevertheless provide good insight into the past.2

Cattle had become important and led to the arising of numerous small kingdoms west of Lake Victoria.  Burundi and Rwanda are among these and the Ba-Tutsi became specialist cattle herders and gained dominance in the region southwest of Lake Victoria.3 At first they traded cattle with local farmers and then later developed a system of loaning cattle for farm products, and in effect, the farm products became a kind of tribute to an evolving aristocratic warrior class who in exchange offered protection from rival clans. Two major kingdoms evolved in time, Burundi and Rwanda, together with “elaborate rituals and myths of ancient origin to justify their dominant position over the subservient ‘Ba-Hutu’ peasantry.”4

“In pre-colonial times ‘Hutu’ and Tutsi’ were social and economic terms rather than ethnic descriptions as such.”5

The Germans, and then the Belgians “hardened these flexible terms into rigid ethnic identities”6

The Tutsi origin myths were recorded as fact and utilized as proof of Tutsi “superior racial identity” and after two generations of colonial rule, the separation of racial identities was widely accepted.  The Tutsi’s became a “junior partner” in the colonial project and the Hutu majority was the underclass.  The whole society came to be defined in terms of ethnicity which erupted in bitterness upon independence.7

Belgium ruled ‘Ruanda-Urundi’ as a League of Nations then United Nations Mandate with a responsibility to prepare them for independence, and, therefore, political activity was allowed during the 1950s.8

“In Rwanda, political parties were ethnically based from the start.”9

Tutsi’s wished to retain their position of privilege and domination.  Hutu’s wished for majority rule, they being the majority.  Belgium supported the Hutus who began to persecute the Tutsi’s, which persecution turned into a massacre between 1959 and 1960, “which has been described as a Belgian sponsored revolution.” 10 “Tens of thousands were driven into exile in Burundi, Tanganyika and Uganda.”11Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 413[/efn_note]

  The 1st president packed the key offices with Hutus.

War induced famine affected Rwanda although its territory was not in the theater of war.12

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Footnotes

  1. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 122
  2. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 122,123
  3. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 215
  4. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third
    Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 216
  5. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 412
  6. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 412
  7. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan),
    page(s) 412, 413
  8. Kevin
    Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 412
  9. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition,
    (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 413
  10. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 413
  11. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 413
  12. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 355