A BRIEF HISTORY
Rwanda is a small country located in Central Africa. Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of Rwanda is at high elevation, with a geography dominated by mountains in the west, savanna in the east, and numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons every year.
Pre-colonial Rwandan Chiefs
Traditionally, Rwanda has been inhabited by three seperate groups; the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa. The Hutu make up the majority of the population, around 84%, and historically have been farmers. The Tutsi make up around 15% of the population and historically have been land owners. The third group, the Twa, make up around 1% of the Rwandan population. For many years these groups lived in relative harmony in Rwanda despite the division of social classes which placed the land/cattle owning Tutsi on top, and the Hutu and Twa towards the bottom. Social mobility was possible and intermarriage was not uncommon.
Tutsi Chiefs and Belgian Colonists
Big changes came to Rwanda as the era of European Colonialism came to Africa. As a result of the Berlin Conference in 1884, much of Africa was divided up by and among the European industrial powers. Rwanda however, was not officially colonized until 1890, when it was given to the German Empire. Because Europeans had become obsessed with racial superiority at this time, the dynamics of Rwanda changed. It is believed that the colonial powers seemed to favor the Tutsis because of their more "European" appearance when compared to the Hutu. Because of their seemingly taller stature, more "honorable and eloquent" personalities, and their willingness to convert to Roman Catholicism, Tutsis were placed in positions of power over the Hutus. This relationship continued as control of Rwanda shifted from the Germans to the Belgians after World War I.
Rwandan ID Card identifying the holder as Tutsi.
Under Belgian control things in Rwanda got worse and class divisions became more distinct. Tutsis were given increased power over Hutus and began embracing that power and believing in the myth of Tutsi racial superiority. The Belgians also instituted a policy that required all Rwandans to carry ID cards that stated their ethnic status, Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa. This tactic would later be used by the Nazi government in in the early 1930's.