History Of The Hutu And Tutsimac's History

Landlocked and mountainous, Rwanda is a small but strikingly beautiful country in east-central Africa. It is also one of the continent’s most densely populated countries. The capital and largest city is Kigali, located on the Ruganwa River in the center of the country. Area 10,185 square miles (26,379 square kilometers). Population (2019 est.) 12,374,000.

The origins of the Hutu and Tutsi people is a major controversial issue in the histories of Rwanda and Burundi, as well as the Great Lakes region of Africa.The relationship between the two modern populations is thus, in many ways, derived from the perceived origins and claim to 'Rwandan-ness'. The story of Monica, a Hutu survivor. Monica is 50 and has two young children. “I am a Hutu woman who was married to a Tutsi man. During the genocide my family was attacked by my brothers and father – they forced me to witness their slaughtering my six children and husband with pangas and traditional weapons to create the maximum pain.

Land and Climate

  • Hutu and Tutsi are two groups in Africa that became known to most in other parts of the world through the grisly 1994 Rwanda genocide, but the history of conflict between the two ethnic groups reaches back further than that.
  • History of the Tutsi and the Hutu: In order to comprehend the genocide it is necessary to examine its causes and hence the history of Rwanda. This is due to the fact that the incidents, all the differences and difficulties that occurred in the past are the bases of what eventually happened between these Tutsi and the Hutu.

Rwanda ranks among Africa’s smallest countries. It is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lake Kivu on the west, Uganda on the north, Tanzania on the east, and Burundi on the south.

Rwanda’s landscape consists mostly of steep hills alternating with deep valleys. Most of the country lies at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). The Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes, is in the northwest. In the Virungas is the country’s highest peak, Karisimbi, which reaches 14,787 feet (4,507 meters). In the west is the Ruzizi River, through which Lake Kivu empties into Lake Tanganyika. The Kagera River, in the east, is a headstream of the Nile River.

Although Rwanda lies in the tropics, temperatures are generally mild because of the elevation. There are significant variations, however, between the region of the volcanoes in the northwest, where heavy rainfalls are accompanied by lower average temperatures, and the warmer and drier interior highlands.

Only a small percentage of Rwanda’s land is covered by natural forest. The Virunga Mountains, however, have dense bamboo forests that are home to the rare mountain gorilla. Other wildlife includes buffaloes, zebras, impalas, baboons, warthogs, lions, and hippopotamuses. The animals are protected in national parks and reserves.

The main ethnic groups in Rwanda are the Hutu and the Tutsi. The Hutu account for more than four fifths of the population and the Tutsi make up almost all the rest. The Twa, a tribe of hunters and gatherers, make up less than 1 percent. Despite cultural similarities between the Hutu and Tutsi, they have been enemies for many years. In both Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, the Tutsi minority historically has dominated the Hutu majority. Resentments between the two peoples culminated in a brutal civil war and genocide in 1994.

Rwanda has three official languages: Rwanda, French, and English. The Rwanda language, also called Kinyarwanda, belongs to the widespread African language group called Bantu. Swahili is commonly spoken as a second language for communication with other African peoples. The dominant religion is Christianity, with Roman Catholicism as the primary denomination. Muslims form a small religious minority.

Primary education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 13. The National University of Rwanda is in Butare. The Rwanda National Museum at Butare exhibits traditional artifacts.


Rwanda is a poor country with an economy based on agriculture. Farming is very labor intensive because most of the work is done with hand tools such as hoes and machetes. The leading food crops include plantains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cassava, beans, sorghum, and corn (maize). Coffee, tea, and pyrethrum (a flower used to make pesticide) are grown for export. Commonly raised livestock includes goats, cattle, sheep, and pigs. Fishing is widespread in Lake Kivu as well as in the smaller lakes of the interior.

Rwanda has a small industrial sector. The largest industry is the processing of agricultural products such as coffee, tea, and sugar. In addition to food, manufactured products include beer, soft drinks, cement, soap, textiles, and shoes. The main mineral resources are tin (cassiterite), tungsten (wolfram), and tantalite, all of which are exported.

Services are a growing part of Rwanda’s economy. Among the important service industries are banking, information technology, and tourism, which is based on the country’s landscape and wildlife. In an effort to boost trade with neighboring countries, Rwanda joined the East African Community in 2007.

Rwanda has a well-developed road network, but there are no railways. There are international airports at Kigali and at Kamembe.

The land that became Rwanda was originally inhabited by the Twa. They were closely followed by the Hutu, who were well established there when the Tutsi appeared in the 14th century. The Tutsi conquered the Hutu and in the 16th century founded a kingdom near Kigali. The kingdom expanded steadily until Germany made Rwanda, along with Burundi, part of its colony called German East Africa. The Belgians occupied the region in 1916, and the League of Nations created Ruanda-Urundi as a Belgian mandate in 1922. The mandate became a United Nations trusteeship after World War II.

The Tutsi retained their dominance until 1961, when a Hutu-led revolution overthrew the monarchy. Rwanda declared itself a republic and became independent in 1962. The Hutu took control of the government and stripped the Tutsi of much of their land. Thousands of Tutsi fled Rwanda; by early 1964 at least 150,000 were in neighboring countries.

Tension between the Hutu and Tutsi escalated in 1990, when rebels of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) invaded from Uganda. A peace agreement signed by the FPR and the government in 1993 called for the creation of a new government that would include the FPR. Hutu extremists strongly opposed this plan.

In April 1994 the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were returning from Hutu-Tutsi peace talks in Tanzania when their plane was shot down near Kigali; both men were killed. This act of terrorism ignited a civil war. The FPR took control of the country by July, but not before the army and Hutu militia groups massacred more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. After the FPR’s victory, 2 million Rwandans, mostly Hutu, fled to neighboring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Hutu extremists used that country as a base for launching attacks on Rwanda.

In late 1996 Rwandan troops entered Zaire to expel the Hutu extremists. Frustrated by the lack of support from Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko, the troops also intervened in the rebellion taking place in that country. Their support helped Laurent Kabila and his forces to topple Mobutu. Rwanda soon became disillusioned with Kabila, however, and gave support to rebels trying to oust him from the presidency of what was now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda faced much international criticism over its involvement in Congo’s civil war, including a suspension of foreign aid.

History Of The Hutu And Tutsimac's History War

Displaced by the conflict in Congo, the great majority of the Hutu refugees who had fled Rwanda returned home. In 2003 Rwanda’s government, facing ongoing Hutu insurgencies, adopted a new constitution aimed at preventing further ethnic strife. Later that year the country held its first multiparty democratic elections since independence. However, the events of 1994 continued to weigh heavily in the early 21st century, as trials continued for those accused of taking part in the genocide.

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 wasn’t an isolated event. It was the most horrific in a string of mass murders perpetrated by the Hutu against the Tutsi, and vice versa, since 1962, when Belgium granted independence to Rwanda and Burundi, two neighboring nations in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Who’s a Hutu, Who’s a Tutsi?

Together, Hutus and Tutsis account for nearly all the people of Rwanda and Burundi. Roughly 90 percent of Rwandans are Hutu, while 9 percent are Tutsi. About 85 percent of Burundians are Hutu, and 14 percent are Tutsi. (The rest are mainly Twa, an indigenous pygmy people.)

Contact between the two groups dates back to the Tutsis’ arrival in Hutu territory six centuries ago. But, until the 20th century, they apparently got along well – so well, in fact, that experts now disagree, sometimes vehemently, about the nature of the differences between them.

Nature, or Nurture?

History Of The Hutu And Tutsimac

Some say there are racial differences. Tutsis are supposedly taller, thinner, and lighter-skinned, while Hutus are supposedly shorter, thicker, and darker-skinned. Yet others say these biometric measures are groundless, if not racist garbage. They point out that years of intermarriage have long since blurred racial boundaries – if they existed at all.

The Hutu and the Tutsi aren’t much different ethnically, either. They speak the same languages (which used to be the Hutus’), follow essentially the same clan and kinship systems (borrowed from Tutsi traditions), and practice the same religions. Many in both groups are now Roman Catholic.

Ancient History, or Recent?

Hutu language and customs were well established in the Great Lakes region when the cattle-herding Tutsi started arriving around 1400. But the Tutsi brought more than livestock. They also brought a more sophisticated understanding of war, which eventually helped them dominate despite smaller numbers.

The Tutsi social and political system centered on a quasi-divine king (the “mwami”), who was surrounded by chiefs and sub-chiefs, each in charge of a single hill. Scholars have compared it to a feudal or caste system, with Hutus at the bottom and Tutsis at the top of the socioeconomic heap. Unlike some such systems, however, there seems to have been a fair amount of movement up and down the heap – at least until westerners arrived at the turn of the 20th century.

The westerners – mainly Belgians – used race not only for classification, but also for colonial administration. They issued ethnic identity cards and discriminated in favor of the minority Tutsi, who they perceived as closer to white. They then repeatedly played the race card to divide and rule Rwanda and Burundi. Whatever animosity existed between the Hutu and Tutsi before, the Belgians made it much worse.

Scylla, or Charybdis?

By the time Rwanda and Burundi officially came into being in 1962, Hutu-Tutsi antagonism was causing trouble for both nations. A Rwandan Hutu revolt ousted the Tutsi king, who fled the country with some 200,000 other Tutsis. Many ended up in Burundi where, fearing a similar fate, the Tutsi powers-that-be cracked down hard on the local Hutu.

In 1963, a group of exiled Rwandan Tutsis returned home as a rebel army, attempting to overthrow the Hutu government. They failed, but the effort prompted a large-scale massacre of Tutsis by Hutus, followed by smaller-scale reprisals. Then, in 1972, a Hutu uprising in Burundi resulted in widespread massacres by Tutsi-led forces, who killed at least 100,000 people, most of them Hutu.

Worse Comes to Worst

Horrific as they were, these massacres pale in comparison to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Hutu extremists carefully planned, then led, the murder of some 800,000 fellow Rwandans, mostly Tutsi. Hutus who refused to go along were murdered, too. A Hutu-controlled radio station repeatedly urged the nationwide slaughter on, shouting “The graves are not yet full!”

Tutsi-led military forces eventually turned the tables, ousting the Hutu-dominated government and chasing the extremists (along with thousands of other Hutus) out of Rwanda. Across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fighting continued, helping to precipitate a complex regional war that has claimed 3 million lives.

History Of The Hutu And Tutsimac

History Of The Hutu And Tutsimac's History On This Day

Officially, the Rwandan government now refuses to distinguish between Hutu and Tutsi. In this case, forcing everyone to toe the party line just might be a good idea.

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