By Dennis Nyondo
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF TUTSI & THE HUTU PEOPLE IN RWANDA:
The Banyarwanda is a general name termed for the people who live in a country called Rwanda, one of the smallest landlocked and most mountainous and most densely populated country in Africa located in the Central Eastern side of Africa. It’s neighbored by Uganda from the North, Tanzania from the East, Burundi from the South and the Democratic republic of Congo from the West.
The size of Rwanda is 10,000 Square miles (25,900 sq.km) which is the size of Maryland or Massachusetts both States in USA with 10,000,000 people prior to the war.
Rwanda has a population of about ten million people with only three ethnic groups, which are:
Batwa- the earliest inhabitant in the country which makes up the smallest group of 1% (1,000,000) of the nation’s population. Physically, they are short (pygmies) and small who live by hunting and gathering wild fruits.
Bahutu- is the largest ethnic group which makes up 85% (7,000,000 million) of the population prior to the war. It was the second to arrive in the present day of Rwanda. They are farmers and belong to the Bantu group of African people. The Hutu tended to have darker complexions and be stockier.
Tutsi-were the last group to settle in that region as they were looking for fertile grazing land for their cattle. They make up 14% (about 2,000,000) of the total population. Tusti warriors led the migration and protected the cattle against raiders. Generally, the Tutsi tended to have lighter complexions and be tall and slender.
Over time, a sort of aristocracy of powerful minority people arose, and eventually became to be known as Tutsi, a word that originally used to refer to someone who owns a lot of cattle. Everyone who was not a Tutsi became a Hutu.
The Hutu and Tutsi live mainly in Rwanda and Burundi with a smaller number of them found in the neighboring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Europe and America, with the total world population of 14 million people.
The three ethnic groups all lived together in the region for nearly 1000 years ago. They all share the same common social and cultural values including the national language (Kinyarwanda) a Bantu language. Although the Hutu and Tutsi live side by side throughout Rwanda and Burundi, and there has been a great deal of intermarriage between the two groups. The Tutsi play a more prominent role in business and public affairs in the entire region though they are small in number. In addition, both groups practice the Catholic and Protestant versions of the Christian faith. Throughout Rwanda’s history, however, the ethnic labels have been synonymous with social division, and in the 20th Century this division led to discrimination, violence, and political upheavals.
The Hutu and Tutsi who live in countries other than Rwanda and Burundi are mostly refugees who fled due to ethnic persecution. Hutu and Tutsi has been a problem in Rwanda since 1959, and the most recent of 1994 whose roots of the tragic can be found in the history and culture of the Tutsi and Hutu.
In early Rwanda, court historians handed down stories selected by the Tutsi royalty. In some cases, the stories were biased or based on myths that had been created by the Tutsis support their dominance Therefore, many stories that were considered “official” Rwandan history asserted the notion that the Tutsis were supreme and they had been chosen by the gods to rule.
One ancient Rwandan myth tells the story of Gihanga, the first Rwandan, who fell from heaven with three sons- Gahutu, Gatwa and Gatutsi. According to the story, Gihanga was to choose which son would succeed him. To find out who was the most worthy, he tested them. Each son was given a pot of milk to watch over during the night. When the morning came, Gihanga found that Gatwa had drunk his milk, while Gahutu had fallen asleep and knocked over his pot. Gatutsi, however, had watched over his pot the whole night. For Gihanga this means that Gatutsi was the most responsible and thus was meant to succeed Gihanga, As a result, Gahutu was ordered to serve Gatutsi.
THE TUTSI DOMINANCE:
Although the Tutsi were greatly out numbered by the Hutus, they used their physical strength and mobility to gain control of what would become Rwanda without much fighting. The beginning of the Tutsi dominance started with a single Tutsi clan, the Nyiginya which owned a large number of cattle and wanted to expand the cattle-grazing territory. This clan also achieved political dominance in Central Rwanda and overtime expanded by incorporating other clans and taking land from the Hutus. By 1500s’, the Nyiginya had established a small monarchy- the kingdom of Rwanda, based on a small area of modern day Rwanda, under their king called the “ Mwami”. The first king of the centralized monarchy was Mwami Mibambwe 1 Mutabazi. He was considered a divine being, owned all the land within the kingdom and was in charge land distribution.
Typically he awarded land to members of his Nyiginya lineage and to the more powerful Tutsi elite. In this centralized monarchy, most Tutsi were cattle herders, soldiers and administrators, whereas most Hutus were farmers. The Tutsi elite upper class enjoyed many privileges, and created a number of myths and legends to pacify the king’s status and Tutsi’s superiority. The foundation of this monarchy was a feudal system called Ubuhake in the Southern and central regions of the kingdom and Ubukonde in the North- that offered incentives to both to the Hutus farmers and landholdings the Tutsis. The Ubuhake was an oral agreement between a client (peasant) and a patron (lord) through which the client provided crops and provided services for the lord. In return, the lord gave the client cattle, offered protection from the threatening force, and allowed the client to use his land. Most of the lords were Tutsi, and most of the clients were Hutus. A person of lower status (usually a Hutu) worked for a higher status (usually a Tutsi) in return of protection and some rewards, including cattle. The two major key roles in the Rwandan feudal system were Shebuja (lord) and Garagu (Servant) or vassal. In genera, to be a rich lord meant that one was a Tutsi, and being poor meant being a Hutu. This feudal structure gave military power and land to the Tutsi and to the very few Hutu who managed to acquire wealth and cattle. A few became Tutsi. This process of becoming a Tutsi was called Guhutura, meaning to shed Hutu status. Likewise, a Tutsi who lost land and cattle lost his rank and became a Hutu. Status in the kingdom of Rwanda was fluid and flexible. A person who was born Hutu could work to become a Tutsi. A Twa, however, remained a marginal group who were largely ignored by others. Under colonial rule the class differences between the Tutsi and Hutu came to be viewed more and more as ethnic differences. Where a person’s status had once been flexible, it was now seen as fixed at birth by the person’s ethnic background. Later, ethnic differences led to terrible violence between the two groups in Rwanda, Burundi and the neighboring countries.
Status in the kingdom of Rwanda was based on the ownership of cattle. In order of a Hutu to acquire cattle, it was necessary for him to work for a Tutsi family for several years. At the same time, the Tutsi required the Hutu to provide products. These factors placed the majority ethnic group of the Hutu in Rwanda at a great economical disadvantage and pushed them into a lower class of society.
The Europeans formed a stereotype or simplified mental pictures about the Hutu and Tutsi people. According to their description, the Tutsi were elite, tall, thin light skinned well educated rulers and were said to be quit, reserved and relaxed. Yet some Europeans described the same qualities negatively saying that the Tutsi were secretive, arrogant, and lazy, also sometimes interpreted as wealth and power, as a result of shrewd opportunistic, unscrupulous behavior in their part.
Some Europeans even suggesting that the Tutsi, rarely speak their minds and so offer lies especially when dealing with a stranger.
Nevertheless, during the early colonial period, most Europeans believed that the Tutsi were natural born leaders. They saw the Tutsi as superior to the Hutu (majority) in all aspects and believed that the Tutsi were therefore, destined to rule the Hutu. Because the Tutsi were taller and more advanced than the Hutu, the Europeans believed that the Tutsi were descended from Ham, a person mentioned in the Bible and called them Hamites.
In contrast, the Europeans described the Hutu as short, stocky, uneducated peasants who comprised the general population and darker than the Tutsi. According to the Europeans the Hutu were servile, rowdy, gluttonous and undignified.
ETHNIX STRIFE: Ethnic conflicts can be caused by one issue or by a combination of factors. For instance, different religious, social, or political beliefs can divide people. Discrimination against people based on their ethnic identity, social status, ancestry, wealth, education level, or the language they speak can also lead to conflict. In Rwanda the Hutus and the Tutsis share a common language and a set of social values and have the same religious beliefs. The clash between the two groups has resulted from social and political power struggles. The Hutus and the Tutsis have a complex history. By early 1800s’, the Tutsis were politically powerful and held much of the best land in Rwanda. Meanwhile, the Hutus were mainly peasants, farmers, and unskilled labourers who had little political and social power. As a result, the Hutus and Tutsis were divided along class lines. However, the political system was complex, and some Hutus held positions of power. In addition, intermarriage between the Hutus and the Tutsis was common, and identities were common. Hutu families that acquired wealth would come to be regarded as Tutsi. Conflicts, when they occurred, cut across ethnic lines, uniting one faction of Tutsis and Hutus against another. During the colonial government rule during the Germany and s, they favoured the Tutsi and exaggerated the existing class differences. The favouristm allowed the Tutsis to gain greater control over the Rwandan society. Tutsis acquired land and received positions and business in the colonial governments by then. With the help of the colonial powers, the Tutsis were to crash any Hutu resistance to Tutsi dominance. During that time, the Hutus became the second-class citizen with little access to education and few means of improving their lives.
A change in attitude by the Belgian colonial authorities enabled many Hutus to gain access to education in the 1050s. This change not only allowed the Hutus to move upwards in social class but also gave them an increased awareness of their human rights as Rwandan citizens. From then on, fuel for the Huts-Tutsi conflict came partly from the discrimination many Hutus felt they had suffered under centuries of Tutsi rule and European colonization.
An outgrowth of these feelings was the 1959 revolution, which led to social and political advancement for the Hutus. After 1959 ethnic discrimination was reversed and turned against the Tutsis. Hutu leaders insisted that, as the majority, the Hutu people should rule the country. Hutus came to dominate economic and political life- a situation that remained in place until the recent conflict of 1994 which was speared by the Tutsi who were in exile in Uganda from 1959 under the umbrella of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a political and military organization created and organized by Tutsi exiles in Uganda. Fred Rwigyema and Paul Kagame , two Tutsi officers in the Uganda’s national resistance Army established the RPF in the late 1080s’. For your information, Paul Kagame now the President of Rwanda came to Uganda in 1959 when he was two (2) years old, until in 1994 after they invaded Rwanda and were able to return as refugees.
N.B This is part one of the entire story. More will follow in part 11.
After reading the introductory historical phase, what do you learn from it?
The Tutsi who now have become a major problem in the Greater lakes region of Africa, are trying to expand their empire to cover the East and Central African region.
Secondly, all what is happening in Uganda like the land grabbing, making the natives poorer is a master plan for them as they did and succeeded against the majority Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi.
What should we do from the above? Let’s all put out fist together, to unite as patriotic Ugandans to prevent what happened to Rwanda to again occur in Uganda. Prevention is better than cure.
Wait for the next Phase. This information is researched from various sources of books namely:
NRM esize obukyayi eri Banayuganda olw’obusosoze obwenkukunala n’obukyayi nga esinzira ku mawanga, endowooza ze byobufuzi neddiini. Awamu ne mu mbeera yebyenfuuna. Ebyo singa tebilabukilirwa mangu byandiletaawo akabasa mu maaso naddala ebigenda mu maaso mu Buganda, ne ku Baganda kati abalinyililiddwa eddembe lyabwe elyobwebange.
Singa ekyo tekilabukilirwa mangu, abantu bandyekyawa anti bwonyigirizza ennyo ennyindo, ogizaazza emize. Banayuganda bandyegatta nebatandiika okwelwanako okulwanyisa abantu abatono abalabika nga babatudde ku nfete. Ate banayugnanda abasing bakyalemeddwa okuyiga ebyafaayo bya Uganda naddala nga zi Gavumenti zikyusiddwa kukifuba, biki ebiba biddilira.
1 The Heritage of African Peoples- Hutu & Tutsi. Authored by Dr. Amiable Twagilimana. ISBN #0-8239-1999-4 Copyright 1998.
2 World in Conflict- Rwanda Country torn Apart. Authored by Kari Bodnarchuk. ISBN# 0-8225-3557-2
3 Genocide in Modern Times- Genocide in Rwanda. Authored by Frank Spalding. ISBN # 978-1-4042-1823-9 Copyright 2009.
N.B THE NEXT ARTICLE WILL BE WHO WAS FIGHTING WHO, THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE RWANDA’S GENOCIDE AND IT’S CONSEQUENCIES: