Infobox Ethnic group

poptime=2.5 million (Rwanda and Burundi)
popplace=Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo
rels= Predominantly Roman Catholicism Minority Islam
langs=Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, French
related=Hutu, Twa

The Tutsi are one of three native peoples of the nations of Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa, the other two being the Twa and the Hutu.


The ideas surrounding real and supposed ethnic groups in Rwanda have a very long and complicated history. The definitions of "Hutu" and "Tutsi" may have changed through time and location. Societal structures were not identical throughout Rwanda. There was clearly a Tutsi aristocracy that was distinguished from Tutsi commoners, and wealthy Hutu were often indistinguishable from upper class Tutsi. When the German colonists conducted their censuses, they desired to classify the people throughout Rwanda-Urundi with a single classification scheme. They merely defined "Tutsi" as anyone with more than ten cows or a long nose. The "European-like" noses of some Rwandans, invoked historical and racial theories to explain how some Africans acquired such noses. According to these early twentieth-century Europeans such organization and such noses could only be explained by European descent, transmitted by way of Ethiopia. Modern day genetic studies on the y-chromosome show the Tutsi to be 100% indigenous African (80% e3a, 4% e3, 1% e3b and 15%B) with little to no East African genetic influence. [http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal/issues/v74n3/40703/40703.html] In fact, the Tutsis are most genetically similar to the Hutu. There is currently no mtDNA data available for the Tutsi.


In much of Rwanda a centralised system of monarchy, based on the Tutsi monarch, the Mwami, existed. In the northwest of Rwanda (predominantly a Hutu area), the society more resembled that of Bugandan society, with large regional landholders instead of a central monarch. Today there is little difference between the cultures of the Tutsi and Hutu; both groups speak the same language. Traditionally the rate of intermarriage has been very high, and relations between the groups were considered peaceful until the 20th century. Tutsi men rarely took Hutu wives, while Hutu men often took Tutsi wives. The ethnicity of the father determined the ethnicity of the children, however, which partially contributes to the continued larger proportion of Hutu in the region. Many have concluded that Tutsi is mainly an expression of class or caste, therefore, rather than ethnicity. Experts dispute whether similarities between Hutus and Tutsis are from common ancestry, frequent intermarriage, or both. The separation of the groups are sufficiently profound, however, that in any community in Rwanda, everyone knows who is Hutu and who is Tutsi; the genocide demonstrated a level of ethnically-based hatred that is hard to explain simply on colonial "definitions".

One cultural difference noted by school principals during the 1980s was that although secondary school intakes were governed by quotas mandated by the Habyarimana government (in line with the proportions of the tribes within the country), and by competition within tribes, the students of Tutsi origin (14% of intake) on average demonstrated a much stronger drive to succeed,Fact|date=June 2007 with the result that by the end of secondary school, the Tutsi usually were nearer 50% of graduands. (This argument was the same one used by the apartheid government in South Africa to justify educational favoritism for Europeans in that country.) This tended to result in accusations of "favouring the Tutsis", and was a contributor to the animosity of some in the genocide.Fact|date=June 2007

The Tutsi were ruled by a king (the "mwami") from the 15th century until 1961. The monarchy was abolished by the Belgians, in response to the desires of both Tutsi and Hutu, following a national referendum leading up to independence.

Colonial influences

Both Germany (before World War I) and Belgium ruled the area in a colonial capacity. The Germans theorized that the Tutsi were not originally from sub-saharan Africa at all. They thought that they had immigrated from somewhere elseFact|date=May 2008. When the Belgians took over the colony in 1916 from the Germans, they felt that the colony would be better governed if they continued to classify the different races in a hierarchical form. They felt that Africans in general were children who needed to be guided, but noted the Tutsi to be the ruling culture in Ruanda-Urundi. In 1959 the Belgian reversed their stance and allowed the majority Hutu to assume control of the government through universal elections. The Hutu and Tutsi relationship is very different in Burundi and Rwanda. In Rwanda, a backlash of oppression against the Tutsi by the Hutu led to many cultural conflicts, including the Rwandan Genocide. In Burundi, the Tutsi led a genocide [Citation
last1 = Lemarchand | first1 = Rene
last2 = Martin | first2 = David
title = Selective Genocide in BurundiS
publisher = Minority Rights Group
date = 1974-07-
year = 1974
url = http://www.burundi-agnews.info/agnews_selectgenobur.htm
accessdate = 2008-06-29
] that killed an estimated 500,000 Hutus in 1972.

When Rwanda and Burundi were German colonies (known as German East Africa) the colonial government gave special status to the Tutsi, in part because they believed them to possess racial superiorityFact|date=October 2008. They appeared to the Germans tall and handsome, while they thought the Hutu short and homely. As a result it became colonial policy that only Tutsis could be educated, and only Tutsis could participate in the colonial government. Needless to say, since the Hutus were in the majority such policies engendered some intense hostility between the groups, who had been peaceful enough with each other before colonization. The situation was exacerbated when the Belgians assumed control following World War I. Recognizing their ignorance of this part of Africa, they sought advice from the Germans, who told them to stay with the Tutsis, which they didFact|date=October 2008. This is the colonial backstory to the horrific events in 1994Fact|date=October 2008.


External links

* [http://www.weareone.org.uk/rwandahistory.htm Rwanda history]
* [http://www.newint.org/issue260/keynote.htm A personal note by a Tutsi academic]
* [http://www.africaaction.org/bp/ethcen.htm A case study of the conflict between Tutsi and Hutu]
* [http://www.starshipdiaries.com/ebola.html A traveler learns about the Hutu and Tutsi conflict and reflects on it]
* [http://www.ictr.org The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (the status and judgments of all cases before the ICTR are available here)]
* [http://academic.udayton.edu/race/06hrights/GeoRegions/Africa/Rwanda01.htm Sexual Violence against Tutsi Women]
* [http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Brazil-to-Congo-Republic-of/Tutsi.html Tutsi]
* [http://www.britannica.com/worldsapart/4_timeline_print.html Worlds Apart: The Roots of Regional Conflicts]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/808528.stm Ex-Rwandan PM contests genocide conviction]
* [http://www.tutsi.de The Tutsi Blog]

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