Rwanda History and Politics

Rwanda History

Who are the Hutu and the Tutsi?

The first inhabitants of Rwanda were probably the Twa. These lived as hunters and gatherers.

From around the 8th century, the Bantu people of the Hutu immigrated and displaced the Twa from their traditional areas. Then there were the Tutsi, also known as “Watussi” or “Hima”. However, it is disputed whether they immigrated at all or whether they developed from the peoples already living in Rwanda as a kind of upper class.

The Tutsi were in the minority, but better armed and better trained than the Hutu. In this way they also managed to rule over the majority as a minority. The Tutsi established a kingdom called Banyarwanda in the 15th century. The Tutsi subjugated the Hutu, who in the following years mostly had to perform low services for the Tutsi rulers.

It is actually not a matter of different ethnic groups with their own traditions and customs, but of a division according to property. It is obvious that this did not create a good atmosphere between the two groups. Later this hostility turned out to be fatal for both Hutu and Tutsi.

Time of the Colonies – Rwanda as part of German East Africa

In the 19th century, Europeans discovered the area in Rwanda. This included researchers like David Livingstone and Sir Henry Morton Stanley, both of whom had set out in search of the sources of the Nile. But it didn’t just stop with the explorers. The European powers divided Africa among themselves towards the end of the 19th century.

During the colonial period, Rwanda belonged to German East Africa together with the neighboring country Burundi. With the colonial rule came the missionaries.

Since the German Empire was one of the losers of the First World War, the Belgians took over Rwanda as a mandate of the League of Nations after the Treaty of Versailles in 1920. Belgian troops marched in here as early as 1916.

The way to independence

As in many other African countries, the people of Rwanda also strived for independence and their own state. At the same time they wanted to abolish the monarchy, because Rwanda was still a kingdom, which was usually headed by a Tutsi as king.

In 1956 there were administrative reforms and elections, from which the Tutsi emerged victorious again. They were also supported by the Belgians and held the important posts in the administration. The Hutu did not want to put up with this and the conflict intensified. Even then, there was fighting between the two groups and many Tutsi were murdered or fled to neighboring countries. So there was another reform, after which Hutu were also given greater consideration in the administration.

Rwanda achieved independence as a republic in 1962. The country’s first president was Grégoire Kayibanda. His reign lasted until 1973, when the military put on a coup and ousted him. He had previously tried to expand his power and set up a one-party system. The conflicts between Hutu and Tutsi persisted.

1994: the year of genocide

The new president of Rwanda was General Juvénal Habyarimana and he was a Hutu. He was to remain in office until 1994. But he too created a unity party and banned all other parties. But he tried hard to come to an agreement with the Tutsi. So the head of government became a Tutsi. There was also a new peace treaty in 1993. But the president was killed in a plane crash.

As a result, there was a revolt of the Hutu in 1994, who acted cruelly against the Tutsi. They were accused of deliberately causing the crash. The Hutu killed so many Tutsi that one speaks of genocide.

The Tutsi finally occupied the capital Kigali and now killed the Hutu there and drove many people to flight. More than a million had to flee. In the period that followed, there were repeated fights and disputes, although attempts were made in the meantime to bring about an end to the conflict using peacekeeping forces.

Genocide in Rwanda

In 1994, 800,000 people died in Rwanda within just three months. The traces of this terrible time are still visible today and shape people’s everyday lives, even if many Rwandans have not lived through this time.

Rwanda today

Paul Kagame has been the head of state of Rwanda since 2000. However, it was not elected by the people, but appointed by the members of the National Assembly. That is why one speaks of non-free elections.

As a country located in Africa according to computergees, Rwanda is a member of the United Nations, the African Union and the East African Community. Interestingly, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, although it was never a British colony.

Human rights are restricted in Rwanda and the government is authoritarian. However, the state is now trying to improve both the economic situation and the educational situation in the country. The President did a lot for the country, but at the expense of people’s freedom.

What many may not know either, in Rwanda most women sit in parliament, over 60%, in Germany it is just under 30%.

Situation today

Even if today there is no longer any official distinction between Hutu and Tutsi and the state strives for unity and reconciliation, the difference in minds and hearts unfortunately still remains. Only the next generations, who have not lived to see the genocide, will hopefully find reconciliation and common ground.

Rwanda History