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This article discusses the history of Rwandamarker.

Early history

The territory of present day Rwanda has been green and fertile for many thousands of years, even during the last ice age, when part of Nyungwe Forestmarker was above the ice sheet. It is not known when the country was first inhabited, but it is thought that humans moved into the area shortly after that ice age, either in the Neolithic period, around ten thousand years ago, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC. The earliest inhabitants of the region were the Twa, a group of aboriginal Pygmy forest hunters and gatherers, who still live in Rwanda today.

Archaeological excavations conducted from the 1940s onwards have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter gatherers in the late stone age, followed by a larger population of early iron age settlers. These later groups were found to have manufactured artifacts, including a type of dimpled pottery, iron tools and implements.

Several hundred years ago the Twa were partially supplanted by the immigration of a Bantu group, the forebearers of the agriculturalist ethnic group, today known as the Hutus. The Hutu began to clear forests for their permanent settlements. The exact nature of the third major immigration, that of a predominantly pastoralist people known as Tutsi, is highly contested. By the fifteenth century, many of the Bantu-speakers, including both Hutu and Tutsi, had organized themselves into small states. According to Ogot, these included at least three. The oldest state, which has no name, was probably established by the Renge lineages of the Singa clan and covered most of modern Rwanda, besides the northern region. The Mubari state of the Zigaba (Abazigaba) clan also covered an extensive area. The Gisaka state in southeast Rwanda was powerful, maintaining its independence until the mid-nineteenth century. However, the latter two states are largely unmentioned in contemporary discussion of Rwandan civilization.

In the nineteenth century, the state became far more centralized, and the history far more precise. Expansion continued, reaching the shores of Lake Kivumarker. This expansion was less about military conquest and more about a migrating population spreading Rwandan agricultural techniques, social organization, and the extension of a Mwami's political control. Once this was established camps of warriors were established along the vulnerable borders to prevent incursions. Only against other well developed states such as Gisaka, Bugesera, and Burundimarker was expansion carried out primarily by force of arms.

Under the monarchy the economic imbalance between the Hutus and the Tutsis crystallized, a complex political imbalance emerged as the Tutsis formed into a hierarchy dominated by a Mwami or 'king'. The King was treated as a semi-divine being, responsible for making the country prosper. The symbol of the King was the Kalinga, the sacred drum hung with the genitals of conquered enemies or rebels against the King.

The Mwami main power base was in control of over a hundred large estates spread through the kingdom. They would include fields of banana trees and many heads of cattle and formed the base of the rulers' wealth. The most ornate of these estates would each be home to one of the king's wives, monarchs having up to twenty. It was between these estates that the Mwami and his retinue would travel.

All the people of Rwanda were expected to do tribute to the Mwami, and this tribute was collected, in turn, by a Tutsi administrative hierarchy. Beneath the Mwami was also a Tutsi ministerial council of great chiefs, the batware b'intebe, while below them was a group of lesser Tutsi chiefs who for the large part governed the country in districts, each district having a cattle chief and a land chief. The cattle chief collected tribute in livestock, and the land chief collected tribute in produce. Beneath these chiefs were hill-chiefs and neighborhood chiefs. Again, over 95% of hill and neighborhood chiefs were of Tutsi descent.

Also important were military chiefs who had control over the frontier regions. They played both defensive and offensive roles, protecting the frontier and making cattle raids against neighboring tribes. Often, the Rwandan great chief was also the army chief. Lastly, the biru or "council of guardians" was also an important part of the administration. The Biru advised the Mwami on his duties where supernatural king-powers were involved. These honored people advised also on matters of court ritual.

Taken together, all these posts from great chiefs, military chiefs and Biru members existed to serve the powers of the Mwami, and to reinforce the control of the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The military, located in the border camps, were a mix of Hutu and Tutsi drawn from across the kingdom. This intermixing helped produce a uniformity of ritual and language in the region, and united the populace behind the Mwami. Most evidence suggests that relations between the Hutu and Tutsi were mostly peaceful at this time. Some words and expressions suggest there may have been friction, but other than that evidence supports peaceful interaction.

A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict, rendering justice and reconciliation. The Tutsi king was the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases that ever reached him. Despite the traditional nature of the system, harmony and cohesion had been established among Rwandans and within the kingdom.

The distinction between the three ethnic groups was somewhat fluid, in that Tutsis who lost their cattle due to a disease epidemic such as Rinderpest sometimes would be considered Hutu. Likewise Hutu who obtained cattle would come to be considered Tutsi, thus climbing the ladder of the social strata. This social mobility ended abruptly with the onset of colonial administration. What had hitherto been often considered social classes took a fixed ethnic outlook.

Colonial era

Unlike much of Africa, the fate of Rwanda and the Great Lakesmarker region was not decided by the 1884 Berlin Conference. Rather the region was divided in an 1890 conference in Brussels. This gave Rwanda and Burundimarker to the German Empiremarker as colonial spheres of interest in exchange, renouncing all claims on Uganda in exchange for being given the island of Heligolandmarker. The poor maps referenced in these agreements left Belgium with a claim on the western half of the country, and after several border skirmishes the final borders of the colony were not established until 1900. These borders contained the kingdom of Rwanda as well as a group of smaller kingdoms on the shore of Lake Victoriamarker.

In 1894 Rutarindwa inherited the kingdom from his father Rwabugiri IV, but many of the king's council were unhappy. There was a rebellion and the family was killed. Yuhi Musinga inherited the throne through his mother and uncles, but there was still dissent.

German colonialism

The first European to set foot in Rwanda was Count Gustav Adolf von Götzen, who from 1893 to 1894 led an expedition to claim the hinterlands of the Tanganyika colony. Götzen entered Rwanda at Rusumo Falls, and then travelled right through Rwanda, meeting the mwami (king) at his palace in Nyanza, and eventually reaching Lake Kivumarker, the western edge of the kingdom. However, with only 2,500 soldiers in East Africa, Germany did little to change societal structures in much of the region, especially in Rwanda.

War and division seemed to open the door for colonialism, and in 1897 German colonialists and missionaries arrived in Rwanda. The Rwandans were divided with a portion of the royal court being very wary and the other seeing the Germans as a welcome alternative to the dominance of Buganda or the Belgianmarker. Backing their faction in the country a pliant government was soon in place. Rwanda put up far less resistance than Burundi to German rule.

In the early years the Germans had little control in the region and were completely dependent on the indigenous government. The Germans didn't encourage modernization and centralization of the regime.

During this period many Europeans had become obsessed with the study of race, and this had an impact on life in Rwanda. Now to the Germans, the Tutsi ruling class was a superior racial type who, because of their apparent "Hamitic" origins on the Horn of Africa, were more "European" than the Hutus they oppressed. Because of their seemingly taller stature, more "honorable and eloquent" personalities, and their willingness to convert to Roman Catholicism, the Tutsis were favored by colonists and powerful Roman Catholic officials, and were put in charge of the farming Hutus (almost in a feudalistic manner), the newly formed principalities, and were given basic ruling positions. Eventually, these positions would turn into the overall governing body of Rwanda. Thus the Tutsi oppression of the Hutus seemed somehow normal and expected. As with later Belgian colonizers, the Germans romanticized Tutsi origins.

Before the colonial period about 15-16% of the population was Tutsi; many of these were poor peasants, but the majority of the ruling elite were Tutsi. A significant minority of the political elite were Hutu, however. Europeans simplified this arrangement and decided that the Hamitic Tutsi were racially superior and should thus make up the entire ruling class, while the inferior Bantu Hutu should become a permanent underclass.

The Germans, simply out of their need for a streamlined administration, helped the Mwami gain greater nominal control over Rwandan affairs. But there were forces that entered with the German colonial authority that had the opposite effect. For instance, Tutsi power weakened through the exposure of Rwanda to capitalist European forces. Money came to be seen by many Hutus as a replacement for cattle, in terms of both economic prosperity and for purposes of creating social standing. Another way in which Tutsi power was weakened by Germany was through the introduction of the head-tax on all Rwandans. As some Tutsis had feared, the introduction of this tax also made the Hutus feel less bonded to the will of their Tutsi patrons and more dependent on the European foreigners, any head-tax necessarily implying equality between any of those heads being counted - whether Hutu or Tutsi. Thus, despite Germany's attempt to uphold traditional Tutsi domination of the Hutus, the Hutus were now getting a slight taste of autonomy from Tutsi rule.

By 1899 the Germans exerted some influence by placing advisors at the courts of local chiefs. Much of the Germans' time was spent fighting uprisings in Tanganyika, especially the Maji Maji war of 1905-1907. On May 14, 1910 the European Convention of Brussels fixed the borders of Uganda, Congo, and German East Africa which included Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi. In 1911, the Germans helped the Tutsi put down a rebellion of Hutus in the northern part of Rwanda who did not wish to submit to central Tutsi control.

World War I

While the agreements dividing the region had called for the region to remain neutral in the event of any European war, this was disregarded after the outbreak of World War I. Small forces of Europeans, backed by large numbers of locals fought for control of the region. The main offensive was by the Belgians who in 1916 advanced from the Congo into Germany's East African colonies, quickly forcing the German forces out of the region. A British offensive from Uganda came next, British machine gunners preventing the Germans from mounting a successful counter-attack. The German army was now in almost a full panic and retreat. The Belgians then released Congolese raiders who proceeded to loot and pillage the region. A great number of Rwandans, who were fighting alongside the Germans, were killed in the long German retreat.

Belgian colonialism

At the end of the war Belgium accepted the League of Nations Mandate of 1923 to govern Rwanda as the territory Ruanda-Urundi along with its existing Congo colony to the west. The portion of the German territory, never a part of the Kingdom of Rwanda, was stripped from the colony and attached to Tanganyika, which had been mandated to the British.

The Belgian government continued to rely on the Tutsi power structure for administering the country, though their involvement in the region was far more direct than German involvement and extended its interests into education and agricultural supervision. The latter was especially important in the face of two droughts and subsequent famines in 1928-29 and in 1943. These famines forced large migrations of Rwandans to neighboring Congo. The Belgians insisted that the colony turn a profit, and this meant forcing the population to grow large quantities of coffee. Each peasant was required to devote a certain percentage of their fields to coffee and this was enforced by the Belgians and their local, mainly Tutsi, allies. An onerous corvée was also introduced, labour that was enforced by the whip - eight strokes before work each morning. This forced labour approach to colonization was condemned by many internationally, and was extremely unpopular in Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans immigrated to the British protectorate of Uganda, which was much wealthier and did not have the same draconian policies.

As mentioned above, Hutus and Tutsis lived together as neighbors before the colonial period. However, Belgian rule solidified the racial divide. The Belgians then gave political power to the Tutsis. Due to the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States, the colonial government became concerned with the differences between Hutu and Tutsi. Scientists arrived to measure skull—and thus, they believed, brain—size. Tutsi's skulls were bigger, they were taller, and their skin was lighter. As a result of this, Europeans came to believe that Tutsis had caucasian ancestry, and were thus "superior" to Hutus. Each citizen was issued a racial identification card, which defined one as legally Hutu or Tutsi. The Belgians gave the majority of political control to the Tutsis. Tutsis began to believe the myth of their superior racial status, and exploited their power over the Hutu majority. In the 1920s, Belgian ethnologists analysed (measured skulls, etc) thousands of Rwandans on analogous racial criteria, such as which would be used later by the Nazis. In 1931, an ethnic identity was officially mandated and administrative documents systematically detailed each person's "ethnicity,". Each Rwandan had an ethnic identity card. The Belgians considered the Tutsis to be the superior race and systematically imposed their authority over the Hutus across the colonial administration and the access to education, engendering great frustration among the other Rwandans.

A history of Rwanda that justified the existence of these racial distinctions was written. No historical, archaeological, or above all linguistic traces have been found to date that confirm this official history. In fact, as those who have looked for such evidence have remarked, the observed differences between the Tutsis and the Hutus are about the same as those evident between the different French social classes in the 1950s. The way people nourished themselves explains a large part of the differences: the Tutsis, since they raised cattle, traditionally drank more milk than the Hutu, who were farmers.

Some observers have also noted an induced replica of the Belgian linguistic conflict in the Rwandan problem. It is undeniable that the Walloons, who were the majority in the beginning in Rwanda, and the Flemish continued their ideological fights and also tried to gain supremacy over one another on Rwandan soil. In the 1950s and 60s, the back and forth of Belgian support for the Tutsis over the Hutus was articled at the same time over Tutsis demands for political independence, like everywhere in Africa, and over the development of the presence of Flemish people in Rwanda who would see in the Hutu a people who were repressed just as they had been (recalling the Armenian genocide).

The fragmenting of Hutu lands angered Mwami Yuhi IV, who had hoped to further centralize his power enough to rid himself of the Belgians. In 1931 Tutsi plots against the Belgian administration resulted in the Belgians deposing the Tutsi Mwami Yuhi. This caused the Tutsis to take up arms against the Belgians, but because of their fear of the Belgians' military superiority, they did not openly revolt. Yuhi was replaced by Mutara III, another Tutsi, who later (in 1943) became the first Mwami to convert to Catholicism.

From 1935 on, "Tutsi", "Hutu" and "Twa" were indicated on identity cards. However, because of the existence of many wealthy Hutu who shared the financial (if not physical) stature of the Tutsi, the Belgians used an expedient method of classification based on the number of cattle a person owned. Anyone with ten or more cattle was considered a member of the aristocratic Tutsi class. The Roman Catholic Church, the primary educators in the country, subscribed to and reinforced the differences between Hutu and Tutsi. They developed separate educational systems for each, although throughout the 1940s and 1950s the vast majority of students were Tutsi.


Following World War II, Rwanda-Urundi became a UN trust territory with Belgium as the administrative authority. Reforms instituted by the Belgians in the 1950s encouraged the growth of democratic political institutions but were resisted by the Tutsi traditionalists who saw in them a threat to Tutsi rule.

From the late 1940s King Rudahigwa, a Tutsi with democratic vision abolished the "ubuhake" system and redistributed cattle and land. Even though the majority of pasture lands remained under the control of the Tutsi, the Hutus began to feel yet a deeper sense of liberation from Tutsi rule established by the Belgian "divide and rule" policy. Through the reforms, the Tutsis were no longer perceived to be in total control of cattle, the long-standing measure of a person's wealth and social position. Thus, these reforms marked the beginning of a long period of ethnic tension in Rwandan history.

In addition, the Hutus began to develop a group consciousness as the Belgians instituted ethnic identity cards (in 1933, Belgium required all its Rwandan and Burundian subjects to self-identify as Tutsi, Hutu or Twa; this data appeared on the cards themselves). Yet a further step was Belgium's system of electoral representation for Rwandans. At first, the Tutsis retained total control, and then Belgium decided to make the electoral process function by means of secret ballots. Thereafter, Hutus made enormous gains within the country. The Catholic Church, too, began to oppose Tutsi mistreatment of Hutus, and began promoting equality. Tutsis were about to be removed from their traditional role as masters in Rwanda.

Mwami Mutara took steps to end the destabilization and chaos he saw in the land. Mutara made many changes — in 1954 he shared out the land between the Hutu and the Tutsi, and agreed to abolish the system of indentured servitude (ubuhake and uburetwa) the Tutsis had practised over the Hutu until then.

Strife and independence

In the 1950s and early 1960s, a wave of Pan-Africanism swept through Central Africa, with leaders such as Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. Anti-colonial sentiment stirred throughout central Africa, and a socialist platform of African unity and equality for all Africans was forwarded. Nyerere himself wrote about the elitism of educational systems, which Hutus interpreted as an indictment of the elitist educations provided for Tutsis in their own country.

Encouraged by the Pan-Africanists, Hutu advocates in the Catholic Church, and by Christian Belgians (who were increasingly influential in the Congo), Hutu sentiment against the aristocratic Tutsi was increasingly inflamed. The United Nations mandates, the Tutsi overlord class, and the Belgian colonialists themselves added to the growing unrest. The Hutu "emancipation" movement was soon spearheaded by Grégoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU, who wrote his "Hutu Manifesto" in 1957. The group quickly became militarized. In reaction, in 1959 the UNAR party was formed by Tutsis who desired an immediate independence for Ruanda-Urundi, to be based on the existing Tutsi monarchy. This group also became quickly militarized. Skirmishes began between UNAR and PARMEHUTU groups. Then in July 1959, the Tutsi Mwami (King) Mutara III Charles was believed by Rwandan Tutsis to have been assassinated when he died following a routine vaccination by a Flemish physician in Bujumbura. His younger half-brother then became the next Tutsi monarch, Mwami (King) Kigeli V.

In November 1959, The Tutsis, enraged by their gradual loss of power, made an attempt on the life of Grégoire Kayibanda. Tutsi forces also beat up a Hutu politician, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, and rumours of his death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as "the wind of destruction." An estimated 20,000 to 100,000 Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighboring Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence. Several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in the violence. The report of a United Nations special commission reported racism reminiscent of "Nazism against the Tutsi minorities" that had been engineered by the government and Belgian authorities.

The revolution of 1959 marked a major change in political life in Rwanda. Some 150,000 Tutsis were exiled to neighbouring countries. Those Tutsis that remained in Rwanda were excluded from having any political power in a state becoming more and more centralized under Hutu power. Tutsi refugees also fled to the South Kivu province of the Congo, where they called themselves Banyamalenge.

In 1960, the Belgian government agreed to hold democratic municipal elections in Rwanda-Urundi, in which Hutu representatives were elected by the Hutu majorities. This precipitous change in the power structure threatened the centuries-old system by which Tutsi superiority had been maintained through monarchy. An effort to create an independent Rwanda-Urundi with Tutsi-Hutu power sharing failed, largely due to escalating violence. The Belgian government, with United Nations urging, therefore decided to divide Rwanda-Urundi into two separate countries, Rwanda and Burundimarker. On 25 September 1960, a referendum was held to establish whether Rwanda should become a republic or remain a kingdom. The result indicated an overwhelming support for a republic. After elections in 1961, the first Rwandese Republic was declared, with Grégoire Kayibanda as prime minister. Dominique Mbonyumutwa, who had survived his previous attack, was named the first president of the transitional government. This attack was the pretext used to explain that Tutsis were dangerous and had to be killed.

Between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi guerrilla groups staged attacks into Rwanda from neighboring countries. Rwandan Hutu-based troops responded and thousands more were killed in the clashes.

On July 1, 1962, Belgium, with UN oversight, granted full independence to the two countries. Rwanda was created as a republic governed by the majority Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU), which had gained full control of national politics by this time. The Tutsis were often used as national scapegoats. The previous history of Rwanda under the Tutsi monarchy and then as a colony was rejected as a long period of darkness. The new Rwanda was Hutu and Catholic and thus believed to be a complete break with the past.

In 1963, a Tutsi guerrilla invasion into Rwanda from Burundi unleashed another anti-Tutsi backlash by the Hutu government in Rwanda, and an estimated 14,000 people were killed. In response, a previous economic union between Rwanda and Burundi was dissolved and tensions between the two countries worsened. Rwanda also now became a Hutu-dominated one-party state. In excess of 70,000 people had been killed. It was thought for a while that British Royal Marines then stationed in Tanzania might be sent to Rwanda to stop the horrific loss of life there.

Grégoire Kayibanda became Rwanda's first elected president, leading a government chosen from the membership of the directly elected unicameral National Assembly. Peaceful negotiation of international problems, social and economic elevation of the masses, and integrated development of Rwanda were the ideals of the Kayibanda regime. Relations with forty-three countries, including the United Statesmarker, were established in the first ten years. Despite the progress made, inefficiency and corruption began festering in government ministries in the mid-1960s.

Under President Kayibanda, a system of quotas was established. Thenceforth, the Tutsis would be allowed only nine percent of school and university seats. The quotas also extended to the civil service. In these posts too, the Tutsis would only be allotted a 9% take. At the time, employment was bad, and competition for the available seats only exacerbated ethnic tensions.

The Kayibanda government also continued the Belgian colonial government's policy of labeling people with ethnic identity cards, and used this practice to attack mixed marriages.

Another bout of violence followed in 1964, and for years a system of legal inequality was instituted. Opposition political parties UNAR and RADER were banned and their Tutsi members executed. Tutsi militants called themselves "inyenzi", or "cockroaches", because of their intention to infiltrate the entire country; the name would eventually be used as a term of denigration by Hutu militants. Hundreds of thousands fled as refugees into neighbouring countries. While some in the West (most notably Bertrand Russell) asserted that this was the worst event since the Holocaust and called for something to be done, these calls were ignored.

The Rwandan government was friendly to the West and provided a base for CIA operations in the successful effort to oust the left-leaning Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. The Catholic Church was closely intertwined with Parmehutu. They shared local resources and on the ground networks, and through the church the government maintained links and support with those in Belgium and Germany. The country's two newspapers, both strong supporters of the government, were both staunchly Catholic publications.

Military rule

On July 5, 1973, while serving as defense minister, Maj. Gen. Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu native of the northwestern province of Gisenyimarker, overthrew Grégoire Kayibanda, a native of central province of Gitarama. Habyarimana claimed the government to have been ineffective and riddled with favoritism. He installed his own political party into government. This occurred partially as a reaction to the Burundi genocide of 1972, with the resultant wave of Hutu refugees and subsequent social unrest. Rwanda enjoyed relative economic prosperity during the early part of his regime.

Habyarimana dissolved the National Assembly and the Parmehutu Party, and abolished all political activity. Still, the issue of ethnicity remained powerful. Each ethnic group held onto the memories of massacres in the past, and for the predominantly Hutu establishment, Tutsis remained scapegoats of convenience. For instance, Kayibanda was born in a southern region of the country, while Habyarimana came from the north. Southerners, however, blamed Habyarimana's perhaps favoritism for the north on Tutsi plots and machinations.

In 1974, a public outcry developed over Tutsi over-representation in professional fields such as medicine and education. Thousands of Tutsi were forced to resign from such positions, and many were forced into exile. In associated violence, several hundred Tutsi were killed.

In 1975, President Habyarimana formed the Mouvement Révolutionaire National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRND) whose goals were to promote peace, unity, and national development. The movement was organized from the "hillside" to the national level and included elected and appointed officials.

Under MRND aegis, Rwandans went to the polls in December 1978, overwhelmingly endorsed a new constitution and confirmed Habyarimana as president. President Habyarimana was re-elected in 1983 and again in 1988, when he was the sole candidate. Responding to public pressure for political reform, President Habyarimana announced in July 1990 his intention to transform Rwanda's one-party state into a multi-party democracy.

Inter-relationship with events in Burundi

The situation in Rwanda had been influenced in great detail by the situation in Burundi. Both countries had a Hutu majority, yet an army-controlled Tutsi government in Burundi persisted for decades. After the assassination of Rwagasore, his UPRONA party was split into Tutsi and Hutu factions. A Tutsi Prime Minister was chosen by the monarch, but, a year later in 1963, the monarch was forced to appoint a Hutu prime minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, in an effort to satisfy growing Hutu unrest. Nevertheless, the monarch soon replaced him with another Tutsi prince. In Burundi's first elections following independence, in 1965, Ngendandumwe was elected Prime Minister. He was immediately assassinated by a Tutsi extremist and he was succeeded by another Hutu, Joseph Bamina. Hutus won 23 of the 33 seats in national elections a few months later, but the monarch nullified the elections. Bamina was soon also assassinated and the Tutsi monarch installed his own personal secretary, Leopold Biha, as the Prime Minister in his place. This led to a Hutu coup from which the Mwami fled the country and Biha was shot (but not killed). The Tutsi-dominated army, led by Michel Micombero brutally responded: almost all Hutu politicians were killed. Micombero assumed control of the government and a few months later deposed the new Tutsi monarch (the son of the previous monarch) and abolished the role of the monarchy altogether. He then threatened to invade Rwanda. A military dictatorship persisted in Burundi for another 27 years, until the next free elections, in 1993.

Another seven years of sporadic violence in Burundi (from 1965 - 1972) existed between the Hutus and Tutsis. In 1969 another purge of Hutus by the Tutsi military occurred. Then, a localized Hutu uprising in 1972 was fiercely answered by the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army in the largest Burundi genocide of Hutus, with a death toll nearing 200,000.

This wave of violence led to another wave of cross border refugees into Rwanda of Hutus from Burundi. Now there were large numbers of both Tutsi and Hutu refugees throughout the region, and tensions continued to mount.

In 1988, Hutu violence against Tutsis throughout northern Burundi again resurfaced, and in response the Tutsi army massacred approximately 20,000 more Hutu. Again thousands of Hutu were forced into exile into Tanzania and Congo to flee another genocide of Hutu.

Civil war

In 1986, Yoweri Museveni's guerrilla forces in Uganda had succeeded in taking control of the country, overthrowing the Ugandan dictatorship of Milton Obote. Many exiled refugee Rwandan Tutsis in Uganda had joined its rebel forces and had then become part of the Ugandan military, now made up from Museveni's guerrilla forces.

However, Ugandans resented the Rwandan presence in the new Ugandan army, and in 1986 two Rwandan Tutsis, deputy minister of defence Fred Rwigema and Paul Kagame, who had become head of military intelligence in Museveni's new Ugandan army, founded the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They began to train their army to invade Rwanda from Uganda, and many Tutsis who had been in the Ugandan military now joined the RPF. Kagame also received military training in the United States. In 1991, a radio station broadcasting RPF propaganda from Uganda was established by the RPF.

Ultimately, a new wave of ethnic tensions were unleashed in 1990. Causes included a slumping economy and food shortages, political pressure for democratic reform from Francemarker and demands by exiled Tutsis to be recognized as Rwandans with the right to return. However, the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) proved unwilling to wait for the Rwandan government to come through on its promises. On October 1, 1990, the RPF invaded Rwanda from their base in neighboring Uganda. The rebel force, composed primarily of ethnic Tutsis, blamed the government for failing to democratize and resolve the problems of some 500,000 Tutsi refugees living in diaspora around the world.

The Tutsi diaspora miscalculated the reaction of its invasion of Rwanda. Though the Tutsi objective seemed to be to pressure the Rwandan government into making concessions, the invasion was seen as an attempt to bring the Tutsi ethnic group back into power. The effect was to increase ethnic tensions to a level higher than they had ever been. Some members allied with the military dictatorship government of Habyarimana in 1993 launched a radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda and with programs against Tutsis, who it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus.

Nevertheless, after 3 years of fighting and multiple prior "cease-fires," the government and the RPF signed a "final" cease-fire agreement in August 1993, known as the Arusha accords, in order to form a power sharing government. Neither side appeared ready to accept the accords, however, and fighting between the two sides continued unabated. By that time, over 1.5 million civilians had left their homes to flee the selective massacres against Hutus by the RPF army. They were living in camps, the most famous of them was called Nyacyonga.

The situation worsened when the first elected Burundian president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army in October 1993. In Burundi, a fierce civil war then erupted between Tutsi and Hutu following the army's massacre, and tens of thousands, both Hutu and Tutsi, were killed in this conflict. This conflict spilled over the border into Rwanda and caused the fragile Rwandan Arusha accords to quickly crumble. Tutsi-Hutu hatred rapidly intensified. Although the UN sent a peacekeeping force named the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), it was underfunded, under-staffed, and largely ineffective in the face of a two country civil-war, as detailed in Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil. Dallaire requested additional troops and changes to the rules of engagement to prevent the coming genocide. The UN denied his request.

The Rwandan genocide

On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying Juvénal Habyarimana, the President of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu President of Burundi, was shot down as it prepared to land at Kigali. Both presidents were killed when the plane crashed. It is not known who was responsible for the shooting. Some allege it was by missiles from the Ugandan army, A French tribunal has blamed this action on Kagame's RPF forces. Kagame and several members of Habyarimana's government, however, have claimed that disgruntled Hutus killed their own Hutu president, as well as the Hutu president of Burundi, to justify the upcoming genocide. Yet others have claimed US involvement in the "crash"/assassination in an effort to undermine French influence in the region and improve US access to Congolese natural resources.

Military and militia groups began rounding up and killing all Tutsis they could capture, as well as political moderates irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. The killing swiftly spread from Kigalimarker to all corners of the country; between April 6 and the beginning of July, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness left between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead at the hands of organized bands of militia (Interahamwe) or organized rebels (Inkotanyi). Even ordinary citizens were called on by local officials to kill their neighbors. The president's MRND Party was implicated in organizing many aspects of the genocide. Hotel des Milles Collines was a small hotel in Rwanda where just over 1,000 Tutsi took refuge from the genocide. UNAMIR Commander Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 32,000 Tutsis and Hutus. While the rest of the world abandoned Rwanda, Roméo Dallaire refused to follow the order to evacuate the UN Troops from Rwanda.

The RPF battalion stationed in Kigali under the 1993 Arusha accords was engaged in fierce battles with government and Hutu forces after the shooting down of the president's plane. The battalion fought its way out of Kigali and joined up with RPF units in the north. The RPF renewed its civil war against the Rwanda Hutu government when it received word that the genocidal massacres had begun. Its leader Paul Kagame directed RPF forces in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Tanzania to invade the country, battling the Hutu forces and Interahamwe militias who were committing the massacres. The resulting civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for two months. The Tutsi-led RPF continued to advance on the capital, and soon occupied the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country by June. Thousands of additional civilians were killed in the conflict. UN member states refused to answer UNAMIR's requests for increased troops and money.

Meanwhile, although French troops were dispatched during Opération Turquoise to "stabilize the situation," they were only able to evacuate foreign nationals and in some cases the genocide continued in zones they occupied while many high-profile Hutu war criminals escaped the RPF though French-controlled areas

Aftermath and peace

Between July and August, 1994, Kagame's Tutsi-led RPF troops first entered Kigali and soon thereafter captured the rest of the country. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the genocide, but approximately two million Hutu refugees - some who participated in the genocide and fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundimarker, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zairemarker. This exodus became known as the Great Lakes refugee crisis.

After the Tutsi RPF took control of the government, in 1994, Kagame formed a government of national unity headed by a Hutu president, Pasteur Bizimungu. Kagame became Minister of Defence and Vice-President, and was the de facto leader of the country.

Following an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi, sometimes referred to as a whole as Banyamulenge (although this term only represents people from one area in eastern Zaire—other ethnic Tutsi Kinyarwanda-speaking people include the Banyamasisi and the Banyarutshuru, as an example) people in eastern Zaire in October 1997, a huge movement of refugees began which brought more than 600,000 back to Rwanda in the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 1996 by the return of another 500,000 from Tanzania, again in a huge, spontaneous wave. Less than 100,000 Rwandans are estimated to remain outside of Rwanda, and they are thought to be the remnants of the defeated army of the former genocidal government, its allies in the civilian militias known as Interahamwe, and soldiers recruited in the refugee camps before 1996. There are also many innocent Hutu who remain in the forests of eastern Congo, particularly Rutshuru, Masisi and Bukavu, who have been misinformed by rebel forces that they will be killed upon return to Rwanda. Rebels also use force to prevent these people from returning, as they serve as a human shield.

In northwest Rwanda, Hutu militia members killed three Spanish aid workers, three soldiers and seriously wounded one other on January 18, 1997. Since then, most of the refugees have returned and the country is secure for tourists.

Rwandan coffee began to gain importance after international taste tests pronounced it among the best in the world, and the U.S. responded with a contribution of 8 million dollars. Rwanda now earns some revenue from coffee and tea export, although it has been difficult to compete with larger coffee-producing countries. The main source of revenue, however, is tourism, mainly mountain gorilla visitation. Their other parks, Nyungwe Forest (one of the last high-altitude tropical forests in the world) and Akagera National Park (a safari game park) have also become popular on the tourism circuit. The lakeside resorts of Gisenyi and Kibuye are also gaining ground.

When Bizimungu became critical of the Kagame government in 2000, he was removed as president and Kagame took over the presidency himself. Bizimungu immediately founded an opposition party (the PDR), but it was banned by the Kagame government. Bizimungu was arrested in 2002 for treason, sentenced to 15 years in prison, but released by a presidential pardon in 2007.

The postwar government has placed high priority on development, opening water taps in the most remote areas, providing free and compulsory education, and promulgating progressive environmental policies. Their Vision 2020 development policy has the aim of achieving a service-based society by 2020, with a significant middle class. There is remarkably little corruption in the country.

Hutu Rwandan genocidal leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandamarker, in the Rwandan National Court system, and, most recently, through the informal Gacaca programme. Recent reports highlight a number of reprisal killings of survivors for giving evidence at Gacaca. These Gacaca trials are overseen by the government established National Unity and Reconciliation Commission. Gacaca is a traditional adjudication mechanism at the umudugudu (village) level, whereby members of the community elect elders to serve as judges, and the entire community is present for the case. This system was modified to try lower-level génocidaires, those who had killed or stolen but did not organize massacres. Prisoners, dressed in pink, stand trial before members of their community. Judges accord sentences, which vary widely, from returning to prison, to paying back the cost of goods stolen, to working in the fields of families of victims. Gacaca is expected to conclude in December 2008. For many, gacaca has been a vehicle for closure, and prisoners' testimonies have helped many families locate victims. Gacaca takes place once a week in the morning in every village across Rwanda, and is compulsory.

Ethnicity has been formally outlawed in Rwanda, in the effort to promote a culture of healing and unity. One can stand trial for discussion of the different ethnic groups.

Rwanda has become a President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) focus country, and the United States has been providing AIDS programming, education, training, and treatment. Rwandans who have been infected can now receive free antiretroviral drugs in health centers across the country, as well as food packages.

First and Second Congo Wars

In order to protect the country against the Hutu Interahamwe forces, which had fled to Eastern Zaire, Kagame's RPF forces invaded Zaire in 1996, following talks by Kagame with US officials earlier the same year. In this invasion Kagame allied with Laurent Kabila, a progressist revolutionary in Eastern Zaire who had been a foe of Zaire's long-time dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. In addition to Rwandan forces, Laurent Kabila's AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) forces were also supported by Ugandan forces, with whom Kagame had trained in the late 1980s, which then invaded Eastern Zaire from the northeast. This became known as the First Congo War.

In this war, militarized Tutsi elements in the South Kivu area of Zaire, known as Banyamulenge to disguise their original Rwandan Tutsi heritage, allied with the Tutsi RDF forces against the Hutu refugees in the North Kivu area, which included the Interahamwe militias.

In the midst of this conflict, Kabila, whose primary intent had been to depose Mobutu, moved his forces to Kinshasa, and in 1997, the same year Mobutu Sese Seko died of prostate cancer, Kabila captured Kinshasa and then became president of Zaire, which he then renamed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With Kabila's success in the Congo, he no longer desired an alliance with the Tutsi-RPF Rwandan army and the Ugandan forces, and in August 1998 ordered both the Ugandans and Tutsi-Rwandan army out of the DRC. However, neither Kagame's Rwandan Tutsi forces nor Museveni's Ugandan forces had any intention of leaving the Congo, and the framework of the Second Congo War was laid.

During the Second Congo War, Tutsi militias among the Banyamulenge in the Congo province of Kivu desired to annex themselves to Rwanda (now dominated by Tutsi forces under the Kagame government). Kagame also desired this, both to increase the resources of Rwanda by adding those of the Kivu region, and also to add the Tutsi population, which the Banyamulenge represented, back into Rwanda, thereby reinforcing his political base and protecting the indigenous Tutsis living there, who had also suffered massacres from the Interhamwe.

In the Second Congo War, Uganda and Rwanda attempted to wrest much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Kabila's forces, and nearly succeeded. However, the DRC being a member of the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) organisation, President Laurent Kabila called this regional organisation to the rescue. Armies were sent to aid Kabila, most notably those of Angola and Zimbabwe. These armies were able to beat back Kagame's Rwandan-Tutsi advances and the Ugandan forces.

In the great conflict between 1998 and 2002, during which Congo was divided into three parts, multiple opportunistic militias, called Mai Mai, sprang up, supplied by the arms dealers around the world that profit in small arms trading, including the US, Russia, China, and other countries. Over 5.4 million people died in the conflict, as well as the majority of animals in the region.

Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the DRC (Congo) in 2001, and was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. The latter was chosen unanimously by the political class because of the role he played in the army, being the "de facto' officer in charge of the well trained batailions that defeated the Mobutu army and were fighting along side SADC coalition forces. Joseph speaks fluent French, English and Kiswahili, one of the four national languages of the DRC. He studied in Tanzania and Uganda in his earlier years. He completed his military training in Chinamarker. After serving 5 years as the transitional government president, he was freely-elected in the Congo to be president, in 2006, largely on the basis of his support in the Eastern Congo.

Ugandan and Rwandan forces within Congo began to battle each other for territory, and Congolese Mai Mai militias, most active in the South and North Kivu provinces (in which most refugees were located) took advantage of the conflict to settle local scores and widen the conflict, battling each other, Ugandan and Rwandan forces, and even Congolese forces.

The war was ended when, under Joseph Kabila's leadership, a ceasefire was signed and the all-inclusive Sun City (South Africa) talks were convened to decide on a two years transition period and the organisation of free and fair elections.

Rwandan RPF troops finally left Congo in 2002, leaving a wake of disease and malnutrition that continued to kill thousands every month. However, Rwandan rebels continue to operate (as of May 2007) in the northeast Congo and Kivu regions. These are claimed to be remnants of Hutu forces that cannot return to Rwanda without facing genocide charges, yet are not welcomed in Congo and are pursued by DRC troops. In the first 6 months of 2007, over 260,000 civilians were displaced. Congolese Mai Mai rebels also continue to threaten people and wildlife. Although a large scale effort at disarming militias has succeeded, with the aid of the UN troops, the last militias are only being disarmed in 2007. However, fierce confrontations in the northeast regions of the Congo between local tribes in the Ituri region, initially uninvolved with the Hutu-Tutsi conflict but drawn into the Second Congo War, still continue.

Rwanda today

Rwanda today struggles to heal and rebuild, but shows signs of rapid development.

The major markets for Rwandan exports are Belgium, Germany, and People's Republic of China. In April 2007, an investment and trade agreement, four years in the making, was worked out between Belgium and Rwanda. Belgium contributes €25-35 million per year to Rwanda. Belgian co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry continues to develop and rebuild agricultural practices in the country. It has distributed agricultural tools and seed to help rebuild the country. Belgium also helped in re-launching fisheries in Lake Kivu, at a value of US$470,000, in 2001.

In Eastern Rwanda, The Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, along with Partners in Health, are helping to improve agricultural productivity, improve water and sanitation and health services, and help cultivate international markets for agricultural products.

Since 2000, the Rwandan government has expressed interest in transforming the country from agricultural subsistence to a knowledge-based economy, and plans to provide high-speed broadband across the entire country. Rwanda has applied to join the Commonwealth of nations, a sign that is trying to distance itself from French foreign policy . In 2007 it applied unsuccessful to join at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kampala in Uganda, it is set to apply again in 2009 at the Commonwealth heads of Government meeting in Port Spain, Trinidad.[8975]

Notes & References

  • Jean-Pierre Chrétien. The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History trans Scott Straus
  • In the Tall Grass, a 57 minutes documentary made in co-operation by USA and Rwanda, directed by J. Coll Metcalfe and "tells the story of Rwanda's search for redemption as the country sits down to reckon with the genocide using a network of traditional community courts called gacaca. The films follows a genocide survivor named Joanita Mukarusanga through this historic process as she confronts the neighbor she says killed her family, and the community that sanctioned their murders". (See also:

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