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Author Topic: Rwanda: The conflict and its spread in the area  (Read 11236 times)
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« on: July 01, 2003, 08:02:25 AM »

This bit of history was posted on an older board by Mutsinzi Akingeneye. Others can feel free to develop this history from here.

This is an overview of how the conflict started.

Keep in mind these words in order to understand what you are reading:

Munyarwanda = a rwandese person
Banyarwanda = rwandese people (many or simply more than one)
Murundi= a Burundian person
Barundi= Burundian people (more than one)
Mututsi= a TUTSI person
Batutsi= Tutsi people  (pronounced Bah-too-tsee)
Muhutu= HUTU person
Bahutu=  hutu people (pronounced Bah-who-too)
Mutwa=  TWA person
Batwa=   twa people (pronounced Bah-tua)

Simply these prefixes: MU means one and BA means many.

Also keep in mind the commonality of Rwanda and Burundi and their people.  They are basically one country divided in two.  Whatever happens in one country has direct effects on the other.


Rwanda and Burundi are twin countries and the people of either country are a reflection of the other.  The languages spoken in both countries (Kinyarwanda in Rwanda and Kirundi in Burundi) are slighly different.  A Murundi (a Burundian Person) does not need to learn another language to communicate with a Munyarwanda (a Rwandese person).  Their histories are also similar.  This brings me to my next point which is how the different ethnic groups came to meet in Rwanda.  Rwanda has had a long history of violence when it comes to changes in political power.

Same as in Burundi, the BATWA were the first inhabitants of Rwanda for centuries.  BAHUTU farmers (agriculturers) came second in search of fertile land and settled in Rwanda.  The third goup to arrive in Rwanda were the BATUTSI cattle herders who came in search of pasteur for their cattle.  The Tutsi settled by lake Muhazi in a place called GASABO and named their kingdom U Rwanda rwa GASABO (Rwanda of Gasabo).  After setlling down in GASABO, they started to conquer other lands that were Hutu Kingdom, and by the late 19th century, Rwanda was more than it's actual size today.  This was after more than 4 centuries after all the ethnic groups entered Rwanda.  The territory comprised some of today's Ugandan, Tanzanian, and DR Congo's (ex-Zaire) territories.  The Ethinic make up in Rwanda is similar to that of Burundi: 85% Bahutu, 14% Batutsi, and 1% Batwa. (MORE DETAILS COMING SOON)

Before the colonial period, Rwanda was ruled by a Mututsi King, assisted by a dynastic aristocracy recruited from the Tutsi ethnic group. The system of Government was feudal.  The Hutu served as serfs, providing their masters with manual work and had no say in matters pertaining to the administration of their own public affairs.

When the German colonizers(before WW1) and Belgian colonizers(after WW1) arrived in Rwanda, they supported the status quo.  In addition, they explicitly used the King and his dynasty to reinforce their territorial control. The divide and rule was facilitated by the already existing administration system.  The colonial administration used the Tutsi traditional chiefs in each hill to enforce the forced labor that served the colonial masters.  Routine beatings and corporal punishment were administered on behalf of the colonial masters by the traditional chiefs, to enforce the execution of unpaid public work. The Tutsi dynastic aristocracy was also made responsible for the collection of taxes and the administration of justice. A climate of fear and distrust was installed, communal solidarity broke down, traditional client relations were transformed to serve the interests of the colonizer. The colonialists developed a new social class, recruited among the Tutsi aristocracy. The colonizers introduced a school system to educate the sons of the chiefs and provide the local personnel required by the colonialists. Hutus were not allowe to attend school past primary scholl up until the time of Rwanda's independance on 1 July 1962.

In the late 1950, a few Educated Hutu leaders, mostly educated by Church missionaries proposed a new political framework based on a democratic system of Government. Their movement became very successful and appealing among local communities. However, the King and the Tutsi Aristocracy resisted that. In that period, political parties were formed and had 4 main parties (APROSOMA, PARMEHUTU, RADER, and UNAR).  Violence in Rwanda broke out in 1959 and gave birth to what is often referred to as the Rwanda Revolution.   It was triggered by members of UNAR (the King's and his supporters' party) who carried out an attack on one of the Hutu leaders of PARMEHUTU.  During this revolution, the monarchy was abolished, the King fled, and the Republic of Rwanda was established. In 1961, a United Nations supervised referendum was organized on the monarchy. An overwhelming 86% of the population rejected the monarchy and confirmed the Republic system of Government. The independence of Rwanda came in 1962 with democratic elections that brought to power a majority coalition government.

The first and only democratically elected president of Rwanda was Gregoire Kayibanda.  He ruled from Independance until July 5, 1973.  After fleeing, the King and some of his supporters who fled with him launched attacks on Rwanda, but were met with resistence and their attacks were unsuccessful.  The invasions started in 1961, up until 1967.  It should be noted though, that the attacks came in sequences.  There was not actual active fighting throught the years of 1961 to 1967.
Posts: 1531

« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2003, 12:24:17 PM »

by Mutsinzi Akingeneye

The source with the most detailed History of Rwanda by a writer who had no political interest in Rwanda, and who until his death was not involved in politics is:

KAGAME, A., Un abrégé de l’Histoire du Rwanda de 1853 à 1972.Tome II, Editions Universitaires du Rwanda. Collection «Muntu»

Kagame Alexi was the writer. Unfortunately, none of his books are in English. I have read many books on Rwanda, but many were politically bent. His book is written in a Rwandan Person's point of view.

I also being from Rwanda, I have learned this history in school, and out of school, and talked with people who were there during those times. And as you may or may not know, storytelling is a big part of many African cultures. So I know some of the events through story telling by relatives who lived those times.

About the relationship betweet the Hutu and the Tutsi before colonialism, apart from the rulers (Tutsi), all other people led similar life. They intermarried, traded, and lived with each other with only the highest authority belonging to the King and his surroundings. When the Belgians came, they introduced a system of identity card system, in which the person's ethnic groups. By the way, despite what a lot of people say, it is hard to distinguish a Hutu from a Tutsi. They speak the same language, live together, and Rwanda has no system of family names, so one cannot make a clear cut differenciation.

The Kings were from a clan that is a well known Tutsi clan, and they are distinguished from most Rwandans. They are tall people who measure around or even more than 2 meters in height. If you have read the post on Burundi, that is what Rock Ryckamns was based on in his statements about the height of supposedly all Tutsis according to him although his statement is inaccurate.

As the Belgian colonialists were introducing that system of identity, they decided that the tall people, and the rich people would be Tutsis and the poor and servants would be Hutu. The measure of wealth was how many cows a person owned. Anyone who owned more than 10 cows automatically became Tutsi, and they also judged by the height. Throughout Rwanda's history though, before that system of Identity, Hutus could become Tutsis which was called KWIHUTURA and Tutsis could become Hutu which was called GUCUPIRA. That was also done according to a persons wealth. A Hutu who becomes rich, could be changed by the king and become a Tutsi, and vice versa.

As the colonialists were creating that division, they said that a Tutsi is a born leader and superior to a Hutu. And that a Hutu should always be a servant to a Tutsi and never get involved in any kind of leadership. With the identity cards, everyone knew their place in Rwandan society.

The system of administration was feudal-ist.

The system was designed in the way that the king owned all of the land of Rwanda and everything and everyone that were on that land. Rwandans (mostly Hutus) had to go and work for the king and his chiefs in a system called UBUHAKE for a period time that the king determined. At the end of that period, a person could be awarded cows or not. The king deterned how many cows he would give to each servant without any basis. All the poeple belonged to the king and it was their duty to serve him or be subject to punishment. The king could go anywhere and take anyone's wife or daughter and make her his wife. He could se something and if he liked it, he would just take it. But the main reason why I said it was a feudal system, is the king's ownership of the land and the fact that people had to furnish labor for his land for him with or without pay (only at his discretion could he free a person from that manual labor or even award the person for the work). And of course the Hutu were the warriors for the King's (Rwanda's) army and the leaders of the army were Tutsi.