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Little of Rwanda's history is written down but generally the country has a rich oral traditional history. However a few historians who have ventured into this aspect have established it that Rwanda's first group of inhabitants were the Twa (meaning indigenous hunters or gatherers). These very people still form part of the population today and still much known for their skill in pottery.

Around the 700BC, the Twa were joined by a group of Bantu speaking farmers that had traversing across central Africa searching for fertile land to cultivate. Indeed fertile Rwanda began a destination for the present day Hutu whose presence, devoid to say, was agony for the Twa that saw the new comers as enemies coming to annex their hunting land.

The next group of people to enter into Rwanda was the tall and slander Hamites migrating from the horn of Africa, present day Ethiopian Highlands. They were particularly cattle keepers who crossed into central Africa searching for greener pastures for their animals.

Forerunners of the people who are now known as Hutu and Tutsi settled in the region over a period of two thousand years. Originally organized in small groups based on lineage or on loyalty to an outstanding leader, they joined in building the complex state of Rwanda. They developed a single and highly sophisticated language, Kinyarwanda, crafted a common set of religious and philosophical beliefs, and created a culture which valued song, dance, poetry, and rhetoric and celebrated the same heroes.

For a long time period of time, the three different ethnic groups lived harmoniously. The accepted their different forms of responsibilities as kings and herdsmen (Tusti), servants and agriculturists (Hutu) and the far more distanced Twa.

Although it was not usual, Hutu and Tutsi sometimes intermarried. The practice declined in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the gap widened between Tutsi elite and Hutu commoners, but rose again after Tutsi lost power in the 1959 revolution. With the increase in mixed marriages in recent decades, it has become more difficult to know a person's group affiliation simply by looking at him or her. Some people look both "Hutu" and "Tutsi" at the same time.

The Twa, a people clearly differentiated from Hutu and Tutsi, formed the smallest component of the Rwandan population, approximately 1 percent of the total before the genocide. Originally forest dwellers that lived by hunting and gathering, Twa had in recent decades moved closer to Hutu and Tutsi, working as potters, laborers, or servants. Physically distinguishable by such features as their smaller size, Twa also used to speak a distinctive form of Kinyarwanda. While the boundary between Hutu and Tutsi was flexible and permeable before the colonial era, that separating the Twa from both groups was far more rigid. Hutu and Tutsi shunned marriage with Twa and used to refuse even to share food or drink with them. During the genocide, some Twa were killed and others became killers. They remain so dew in number with limited data.

As years went by, gradually whether by conquest or by assimilation a hierarchy class emerged in Rwanda in which the cattle raisers (Tutsi) were superior to the farmers (Hutu) and the minority Twa. A monarchy system emerged and a Tusti king ruled for as long as the monarchy existed.

The origin of the ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tusti is quite debatable. However oral history portrays a feudal system with one group, the Tusti occupying a superior status with the social and political structures and the groups, Hutu, serving as serfs to Tusti chiefs.

It should be noted that the king (Mwami) was an absolute monarch, deeply revered and seen to embody Rwanda physically. The hierarchy below him was complex with different categories of chiefs in charge of different aspects of administration. His power covered most of Rwanda, although some Hutu enclaves in the North, northwestern and South Western of the country clung to their independence until the 20th century.

The colonial era and its impact
During the Berlin conference of 1885 that sought to demarcate Africa into smaller portions for Europeans to colonize, Rwanda and Burundi then under the names of Ruanda and Urundi were assigned to Germans as part of the German East Africa.
The Germans, -the very first of colonizers of Ruanda, and the Belgians, who replaced them after the First World War, ended the occasional open warfare that had taken place within Ruanda and between her neighbors. Both Germans and Belgians sought to rule Rwanda with the least cost and the most profit. At the time of colonization the Kingdom was larger than the present Rwanda. It stretched from as far as lake Edward in the north and beyond lake Kivu in the west and reduced to the present day after the 1910 Brussels conference.
The Germans were surprised to find that their new colony was a highly organized country, with tight, effective power structures and administrative divisions. Making use of the impressive indigenous state was the obvious way to do so, but the colonialists found its complexities troublesome. The multiple hierarchies that had allowed the ruler to maximize his control by playing off rival officials now permitted both ruler and his subordinates to evade control by the colonialists. The dense administration within central Rwanda-with the least important representatives of the ruler sometimes governing only a few hundred people-required a relatively high proportion of local goods and labor for its support. The colonialists preferred to have these resources at their own disposal, to cover their expenses and to pay the costs of building an infrastructure to link Rwanda to the world economy. At the same time, the Belgians saw the autonomous enclaves, where central control was light, as anomalies potentially disruptive of good order.
Germany had little time to make its mark on the colonies in 1916, Belgium invaded Ruanda-Urundi and occupied the territories until the end of world war1. The Belgians began to alter the Rwandan State in the name of administrative efficiency. Always professing an intention to keep the essential elements of the system intact, they eliminated the competing hierarchies and regrouped the units of administration into "chiefdoms" and "sub-chiefdoms" of uniform size. They used force to install state officials in the autonomous enclaves, destroying the power of the heads of lineages and of local small states. They fixed and made uniform the goods and services that local officials could demand, thus-they thought-reducing the burdens on the population.
Rwandan officials were not helpless pawns but rather real players in the game of administrative reform. Politically astute, they understood how to evade the intent of European orders even while apparently conforming to them. Chiefs and sub-chiefs seemed to accept the reduction in numbers of officials, but in fact kept on using unofficial representatives out on the hills who continued living off the local people. As a result, the density of administration and consequent customary burdens on the people diminished little, if at all, in the central part of the country, while in the north and southwest, they actually increased because of the installation of resident officials. At the same time, the chiefs and sub-chiefs-and later other administrative agents-enforced a series of wholly new demands imposed by the colonialists as part of their effort to integrate Rwanda into the world economy. They often found ways to turn these new requirements, such as building roads or planting cash crops, to their personal profit.

The beginning of categorization.
By assuring a Tutsi monopoly of power, the Belgians set the stage for future conflict in Rwanda. They believed Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa were three distinct, long-existent and internally coherent blocks of people. Unclear whether these were races, tribes, or language groups, the Europeans were nonetheless certain that the Tutsi were superior to the Hutu and the Hutu superior to the Twa-just as they knew themselves to be superior to all three. Because Europeans thought that the Tutsi looked more like themselves than did other Rwandans, they found it reasonable to suppose them closer to Europeans in the evolutionary hierarchy and hence closer to them in ability. Believing the Tutsi to be more capable, they found it logical for the Tutsi to rule Hutu and Twa just as it was reasonable for Europeans to rule Africans.

Belgians were intrigued by the sharply differing physical characteristics of their colony inhabitants and enthusiastically measured, recorded and commented on the facial and bodily proportions of Rwanda's three ethnic groups. In the early 1930s, the Belgians embarked on a census to identify all the indigenous inhabitants on the basis of physical appearance as Tutsi, Hutu or Twa and subsequently issued them with identity cards.

From 1950s as the number of educated Hutu increased, their voice grew stronger. The elite among them like Gregoire Kayibanda (Rwanda's first post independence President) pressed for recognition.

In 1957, a Hutu manifesto drawn up by a group of Hutu intellectuals was presented to the vice-governor Jean Paul Harroy. It called for political power to be placed in the hands of Hutu majority, pointed out injustices and inequalities. It was at this very time that a pro-catholic party APROSOMA (Association pour la Promotion Sociale des Masses) was formed with Gregoire Kayibanda as the leader. It was purely sectarian championing Hutu interests strongly.

The social revolution

Belgium continued its support for the Tutsi until the 1950s. Then, faced with the end of colonial rule and with pressure from the United Nations, which supervised the administration of Rwanda, the colonial administrators began to increase possibilities for Hutu to participate in public life. They named several Hutu to responsible positions in the administration, they began to admit more Hutu into secondary schools, and they conducted limited elections for advisory government councils. Hardly revolutionary, the changes were enough to frighten the Tutsi, yet not enough to satisfy the Hutu. With independence approaching, conservative Tutsi hoped to oust the Belgians before majority rule was installed. Radical Hutu, on the contrary, hoped to gain control of the political system before the colonialists withdrew.
In 1959, Mwami (King) Mutara Rudahigwa died in hospital in circumstances that remained mysterious. A young half-brother, Kigeri Ndahindurwa, who appeared to be heavily influenced by the most conservative Tutsi group, succeeded him. Moderate parties that sought to organize across the Hutu-Tutsi divide lost ground as the Parmehutu (Parti du mouvement de l'émancipation des Bahutu), identified exclusively with Hutu, and the Union Nationale Rwandaise (UNAR), a royalist Tutsi party, and gained in strength.
The beginning of calamities between the Tutsi and Hutu were sparked by an incident in November of 1959 when a Hutu sub-Chief was confronted and beaten in present day Gitarama province by young Tutsi members belonging to UNAR. Highly organized Hutu gangs reiterated going on streets in villages and towns, looting, burning and killing mainly the Tutsi. Several hundred people were killed before the Belgian administration restored order. The Belgians then replaced about half the Tutsi local authorities by Hutu. It should be noted that this was the first form of violence between the two ethnic groups, the revolution had started, and Tutsi started to flee the country in big numbers and out bursts of violence spread through out the country.
In 1960, the PARMEHUTU won highly manipulated elections. This was followed by a referendum organized by the Belgians under the auspices of the United Nations on the monarchy. Some 25000 people were assembled in Gitarama, home area to the first Rwanda president (Gregoire Kayibanda) where it is estimated that 80 percent of Rwandans voted to end the monarchy, thus confirming the proclamation of a republic. These events form part of the so-called Hutu revolution that had started a long in 1959.
The new republican government continued labeling all Rwandans as Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa, but the identity cards which had once served to guarantee privilege to Tutsi now served as a means to discriminate against them, both in employment and in education. Following the revolution, the percentage of Tutsi in the Rwandan population declined sharply, partly because many had been massacred or fled and partly because some found ways to redefine themselves as Hutu.

The period 1962 to 1994

Political turmoil and ethnic tensions in the country characterized the period 1962 to early 1970s. The Hutu dominated government of Gregoire Kayibanda sought to reinforce its supremacy and sections of Tutsi continued to flee to neighboring countries as the pattern of violence continued.
In 1965, Kayibanda was re-elected as the president of Rwanda and subsequently appointing Maj. Gen. Juvenal Habyalimana as the minister for Defense. Kayibanda later moved on to win the 1969 elections which were followed with change in name of the ruling party from PARMEHUTU to MDR (Mouvement Democratique Republican). However, the increasingly dictatorial tendencies of Gregoire Kayibanda, became unbearable to ordinary Rwanda, including the Hutu themselves. The quota system leveled on the Tusti and cleansing measures going on throughout the country began to be enforced so autocratically that the Hutu themselves became uneasy. In 1973, President Kayibanda was overthrown by his defense minister Juvenal Habyalimana in a coup d'etat.
Two years after the coup, in 1975, Habyalimana made Rwanda officially a single-party state under the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour le Development, (MRND). All Rwandans of whatever age were automatically members of the party. Over the years, Habyarimana constructed a cohesive monolith, with himself as president of the republic and president of the party and, at each level below him, the relevant government official simultaneously heading the corresponding level of the party.
The Habyarimana government continued the use of identity cards and also required people moving from one location to another to register with the local authorities. Each commune submitted monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports of births, deaths, and movement into and out of the commune. The burgomaster kept agents of the secret service informed of any suspicious persons seen in his district. In his first months in office, Habyarimana ordered important government employees with master's degrees or higher to take military training, apparently with the intention of providing one more channel for instilling habits of obedience to orders.
Habyalimana was reconfirmed as president in 1978, 1983 and 1988 in election where he was the only candidate. The Hutu-Tutsi conflict was for sometime was for sometime replaced with the conflict between the Hutu of the North and those of the South. The ruling Hutu led by president Habyalimana were from the North.

In 1979, the Rwanda Refuge welfare Foundation (RRWF) was formed by a group of exiled Rwandans that had fled to Uganda but later turned into the Rwandan Alliance for National Unity (RANU). This was basically a group of Rwandans opposed to the government of Rwanda and agitating for a return to their country either peacefully or forcefully.

In Uganda, a guerrilla war led by one Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was staged to oust the dictatorial regime of the then president Dr. Milton Obote-among the group with the new rebel movement were two key Rwandan refugee young men, Paul Kagame and Fred Rwigyema. Obote had been very oppressive and hostile to the Rwandan refugees residing in gazzetted camps mainly in the western part of the country.

Many Rwandans in Uganda thus picked up arms to fight the then dictatorial regime of Dr. Milton Obote. The Ugandan guerrilla war lasted for six years and in January of 1986, Museveni toppled the leadership in Uganda. Rwandans that had been part of the Museveni guerrilla war changed RANU into the Rwanda Patriotic front (RPF) which was supported by both the Tutsi in exile and the Hutu opposed to the Habyalimana government back in Kigali.

On the 1st October 1990, RPF led by Maj.Gen. Fred Rwigyema staged an armed struggle to oust out Habyalimana regime and bring to halt the dictatorial regime. Many foreign troops including the French and Zairean were brought to fight alongside the government forces. The Habyalimana regime took the RPF threat seriously. With in a spell of time, the government embarked on a massive recruitment exercise-the army expanded from 5,000 in 1990 to 35,000 by 1993. Thousands of Tutsi with in the country and southern Hutu were held under the guise of being collaborators. Many more lost their lives. It was at this period that the Rwandan army began to train militia groups known as the interahamwe who later on played a key role in the manslaughter of 1994.

On the other hand, the RPF under the leadership of Paul Kagame was now advancing in positions and numbers. The force was now under the leadership of Maj. Paul Kagame who had succeeded Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema soon after his death in 1990. The RPF worked hard to sell its image as all-inclusive movement not necessarily a pro- Tutsi movement. Its stated aim was to always bring democracy in Rwanda other than claim supremacy. It incorporated many Hutu into its regular force, notably, the chairman of RPF political wing was a Hutu by the names of Col. Alex Kanyarengwe. Many more members of the government forces continued to defect into the RPA and were received cordially, occasionally being given positions of responsibility.

With mounted pressure from the international community president Juvenal Habyalimana was forced to the negotiating tables in what later came to be known as the Arusha agreement. It committed president Habyalimana to a number of reforms that included establishment of the rule of law and political power sharing. However, both parties to the agreement showed resent in implementing the terms of the agreement. Hostilities increased, people continued to disappear mysteriously as independent media houses with negative propaganda began spreading the gospel of hatred.

On the 6th of April 1994, a plane-carrying president Juvenal Habyalimana and his Burundian counter part Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down near Kigali international Airport as they returned from peace talks in Arusha. This ignited what came to be known as they worst manslaughter in modern history. The genocide had began had began until the RPF government captured power on the 4th July 1994.

The genocide and post genocide Rwanda.

Rwanda leaped to fame in 1994 after the mayhem that befell the country. In a record of one hundred days characterized with anarchy, Rwanda had lost 1 million people as a result of ethnic clashes between the two main ethnic groups of majority Hutu and minority Tutsi. The 1994 tragedy was indeed the climax of a long established political system that was bent on ethnic divisions and political manipulation and suppression of the minority few.

The Rwandan catastrophe was well planned for a long period of time. The then army (Forces Armee du Rwanda) and Interahamwe militia group went into action, on a rampage of killing, torture, rape, looting and total destruction. The genocide left one million people dead in a record time of one hundred days and a fragile society that had been completely shattered. It was characterized by massive destruction of social fabric and physical infrastructure. Rwanda is remembered simply today as the land of Genocide- the site of senseless massacre, which dominated world headlines over the later part of 1994.

The genocide is history, recent history perhaps but all the same history. The political administration that took over power eight years ago has restored peace at last. Over the subsequent years, Rwanda has blossomed in an atmosphere of renewed political stability and economic progress.

Government has embarked on a long-term program of redressing the division that characterized the Rwandan society. A unity and reconciliation commission was instituted championed with uniting the Rwandan society. Today the country is busy writing a new constitution that should guide government come the end of the transition in 2003. Many more refugees have been repatriated back to the country and security has been restored to all corners of the country.

The government of recent has put in place in restorative traditional form of Justice known as Gacaca to try the thousands of genociders still held for genocide related cases. The economy though still poor has over the years shown steady growth. Indeed considering the magnitude of the problems that Rwanda went through and bearing in mind its economic potential, there's no doubt that country has done a tremendous work to deserve credit.

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