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UN War Crimes Tribunal, Arusha






Interlacustrine states
This is one of the ancient kingdoms found in the East African Lake area. With Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Burundi it shares a common history. But the first three have been incorporated in modern Uganda. With Burundi it formed the German colony of Ruanda-Urundi, after 1920 a League of Nations Mandate to Belgium.

Until recently the conventional historians' (see Oxford History of East Africa) explanation for the situation in these countries was:
In all these kingdoms a population of Bantu-speaking peasants had been conquered in the 14th or 15th century by a cattle herding people, believed to have been of Nilotic language, perhaps from the Ethiopian area or Sudan. The result was a feudal aristocracy descended from the cattle herders, the Tutsi, and a peasantry descended from the original Bantu speakers, the Hutu. All the aristocrats now speak the language of the peasants. (This has some similarities with the experience of the English, invaded by French speaking Normans in 1066.)

This theory may be discredited as DNA evidence tends to disprove a northern origin.

This theory may have originated with the early Europeans in the area, such as John Hanning Speke. The reason why the story sounds like the English experience (Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon England) may be because the early Europeans projected on to the local situation their own history. But really there is no evidence for it.

Genetic evidence shows the trace of a gene in the Tutsi that is not found in the area to the north. In any case there has never been any evidence for a non-Bantu language. This discussion may be important as much of the quasi- fascist Hutu activity depends on this notion that the Tutsi are descendants of ancient "invaders". Maybe they are just a local aristocracy. See google.

See the discussion here Egyptsearch

The kingdoms had a system of officials and ceremonies similar to those of the Sidama kingdoms of modern Ethiopia. That is, the original cultural influences seem to have come partly from that area. It is also possible that some ceremonies have been passed on from ancient Egypt of the Pharaohs.

In Rwanda there was a king, the Mwami, who was a Tutsi, one of the tall aristocrats.

In 1885 the Berlin Conference awarded Rwanda to the Germans (without asking the local people). They added it to their German East Africa colony, now Tanganyika. They called it the colony of Ruanda-Urundi. A number of massacres by Germans occurred. (Compare these with German behavior in South West Africa. Read the "Kaiser's Holocaust".)

The Belgians took over in 1916 after the Germans in Tanganyika had been defeated. It was awarded to them as a League of Nations Mandate. They ruled it alongside their colony in the Congo.

During the Belgian period it was mainly the Tutsi who got educated and filled the administrative positions. Thus what was a fluid situation of classes became frozen into "tribes" by the colonial power.

In 1959 before independence there was a war in which the Hutu drove away the Tutsi, killing many of them. The king was sent into exile. Independence came in 1962 as a Hutu republic. This paralleled a similar revolution in Burundi where the Hutu were suppressed and the Tutsi remained in power. The Tutsi in Burundi attacked Rwanda in 1963.

In the 1990s there were estimated to be 250,000 refugees, mostly Tutsi, living in Uganda and others in Zaire and Burundi. A further large number of Hutu fled to Tanzania in May 1994, possibly as many 250,000 or more. A million fled to Zaire.

In October 1990 some of the Tutsi - the Rwandan Patriotic Front - who had been serving in the Ugandan army deserted and invaded Rwanda. French and Belgian troops went to protect Europeans in the country and perhaps also the Hutu government of the late Juvenal Habyarimana. There was also a force of Zairean troops. The rebels may have been getting support from Uganda. The president of Uganda has Rwandan family connections and is a Hima by origin - the Ankole equivalent of Tutsi. It is probable that the recent Hutu government could not have resisted the rebels without the aid it received from the foreign troops.

This is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and perhaps the world. HIV is spreading in neighboring Uganda and is probably spreading here too.

Following the death of president Habyarimana in a plane crash in April 1994 the civil war flared up and got much worse as government forces - death squads - attacked Tutsi in a planned genocide, and the mainly Tutsi RPF invaded. Who killed Habyarimana - who was accompanied by the President of Burundi after peace talks in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania? A French investigating magistrate has accused the current Tutsi president Kagame of ordering the plane to be shot down by a Surface to Air Missile.

Some of the worst massacres ever recorded then took place as the government Hutu forces killed Tutsis. The RPF probably also conducted some massacres. The RPF declared they had won and appointed a government, including Hutus as PM and President. French troops occupied part of the country as a "safe zone". Why? Was it to safeguard the Francophone zone against the mainly English speaking RPF? The refugees are returning very slowly, if at all.

By October 1996 the fighting had spread into eastern Zaire where long resident Tutsis came into conflict with the refugee Hutus, some of them alleged to be among the killers of Tutsis at home. This sparked off the fall of Mobutu in Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa) and the coming to power of Laurent Kabila

The Hutu refugees suddenly returned home (those that were not massacred in Zaire).

Fighting continues in the bush.

Is Rwanda now part of a new Tutsi Empire, led by Uganda? Pres. Museveni of Uganda a Tutsi (Hima) and Paul Kagame may be disputing the leadership, as they fight in the Congo, sometimes with each other, and against the Congo government of Laurent Kabila.

A few of the perpetrators of the genocide have been tried and sentenced at the UN Special Criminal court in Arusha. Others are being tried in local courts modelled on the pre-colonial system of village assemblies.

Although Rwanda was never part of the British Empire it has applied to join the Commonwealth, perhaps out of dissatisfaction with French policy and was admitted in November 2009. It has also applied to join the East African Community. Kagame even wants the people to play Cricket, and to learn English in school, instead of French.

Here is a comment on the treatment of Hutu by Tutsis in the past by lawyers representing the alleged genocidalists. Comment on Hutu history Is it a justification for what happened? Surely, not.

Rwanda is to be a member of the restored East African Community and may adopt the East African Shilling.



French (official)

The government has announced that in future English will become the official language (Oct. 2008)

 Roland Oliver & Gervase Mathew - Oxford History of East Africa Volume 1 (OUP) 1963

History of East Africa: v. 1






Before the recent massacres there was a government of military origin but effectively a one party state, with some fascist characteristics: race hatred, violence and dictatorship.

An agreement to form a coalition government - essentially a cooperation between Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, to end the civil war had not been implemented by April 1994, when the president and prime minister were assassinated. This was followed by a period of no effective government and indiscriminate killing.

The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) is mainly Tutsi in membership but may show some signs of wanting to prevent random killings and massacres. It has appointed a government led by Hutus.

Some observers believe the victory of the RPF might result in a democratic government and that the war is really a conflict between democratic forces and a dictatorship supported by France. If so, French intervention may have been intended more to support the dictatorship than to bring peace. That's what the RPF thinks, anyway. The Hutu refugees eventually came home despite their fear of retribution.

The real leader seems to be Paul Kagame, vice President, who became president in May 2000.

An election confirmed him in August 2003. This was more or less a one-party election with an opposition candidate who had little access to media.

Education is to be in English in future, like neighboring Uganda.

Elections in 2010 show that no genuine opposition candidates are allowed to stand. Those who attempted to stand have been intimidated, murdered or sent into exile.

Interesting reading

Terry George - Hotel Rwanda
An account of the heroic success of a hotel manager in saving a group of potential victims

The Film: Hotel Rwanda






The country paid its way by coffee sales, but the world Coffee price fell cutting the income of farmers and the government. The IMF demanded government cuts: education, health, social services - the usual formula. How far is the war a result of this policy, or of dependence on one main crop? The IMF provided loans which went to the government rather than the farmers. The loans seem to have gone mainly on arms.

The wars have ruined all trade and production.

The government is now (2010) promoting broadband and modern communications as well as education.






This country is one of the main habitats for the rare mountain gorilla, now threatened by the war.

How far is the war a result of population growth? The area is fertile and has some of the densest populations in Africa, perhaps encouraged by the Catholic missionaries policy of prohibiting birth control.

Population pressure was creating land hunger and famine.





Human Rights

Genocide happened. The previous regime prepared the militia who massacred 1,000,000 Tutsis and the Hutu opponents of the previous government.

Are the RPF doing the same thing? No, they seem to be genuinely promoting reconciliation, even at the cost of not prosecuting the genocidalists who return from exile. A few of the perpetrators of the genocide have been tried and sentenced at the UN Special Criminal court in Arusha. Others are being tried in traditional village courts, because there are not enough judges in the formal system to deal with the huge number of suspected perpetrators.

However, President Kagame seems to be sponsoring fighting in the Congo, possibly in order to control various mineral sources there. No human rights norms are observed there.

Last revised 3/06/12

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