Government (Hutu)

Rebels (Tutsi) RPF



Congo Kinshasa






Burundi war


Rwanda is in the Great Lakes area of East Africa. It is influenced by what goes on in the neighboring countries: Uganda; Burundi; Congo.

Historically the Tutsi were the ruling group in the pre-colonial kingdom. However, it is not at all clear how different they really were from the Hutu they ruled. In imagination they are tall and thin, from their supposed ancestry as wandering Nilotic cattle herders who invaded an area inhabited by Bantu farmers. But centuries of interbreeding had made them much like the general population, and their Nilotic language had long ago been lost.

(This theory of their origin has been discredited in recent times. See the main article on Rwanda.)

In the colonial period the Germans and Belgians who ruled the kingdom favoured the Tutsi, whom they perceived as an Aristocracy, thus a distinction between the two groups became more pronounced, and was registered on the Identity Cards all Africans had to carry.

At the end of the colonial period there was an uprising of Hutu against the Tutsi and a Hutu Republic was proclaimed, ending the Tutsi monarchy. Many Tutsi fled to Uganda where some of them, eventually allied to the government of Joweri Museveni, plotted their return.

There began an invasion by rebel Tutsi (Rwanda Patriotic Front) from Uganda in 1990 and a low level civil war went on for several years. It seemed unlikely that the Tutsis could restore the previous kingdom dominated by the minority, but they ended the tourist trade and disrupted the economy in a very densely populated country.

Some of the Tutsi rebels were serving in President Museveni's forces in Uganda. Did the Ugandans assist the Rwandan rebels? If so, why? The President of Uganda is of Rwandan Tutsi ancestry. Until 1994 this war seemed likely to go on indefinitely and was ignored by the rest of the world until large scale massacres and starvation occurred.

An agreement to end the war was announced in July 1993. It did not last.

Rwandan immigrants in Zaire (mainly Tutsi) are suffering more ethnic cleansing.

The war flared up following the probable assassination of the two Hutu presidents (of Rwanda and Burundi) by Hutu extremists in a plane crash 6 April 1994. (A French Juge d'instruction has now (November 2006) issued a summons to associates of President Kagame for the assassination of his predecessor Habyarimana in the plane crash. He claims that Kagame should stand trial, though there is also evidence that it was planned by the extreme Hutu parties who conducted the genocide.) Will the truth ever be known?

Massacres on a huge scale (500,000) then occurred, driving Tutsi refugees into Tanzania and Congo. These massacres seemed to be the result of an attempt by the interim government to kill all the Tutsi in the Hutu dominated areas. By contrast the invading Tutsi rebels were reported (May 1994) to be less brutal - if true.

The war has not resumed and a more or less legitimate government is now in power. However, the war has migrated into Congo-Kinshasa where the Hutu genocidalists retreated.

Rwanda is now (2012) generally reported as an economic success.

This article includes description of what happened.

Last revised 24/05/12


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