In just 100 days in 1994, about 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin. What is it about these tribes of Rwanda that got the whole world talking?
The Republic of Rwanda is located in Central and East Africa in the Africa Great Lakes Region. Its geography is dominated by mountains and Savannas with several lakes spread throughout the country. Rwanda has an estimated population of 11.2 million with 43 per cent of the population aged 15 years and below. The first language for the majority of Rwandans is Kinyarwanda which is also the national language while English and French are the official languages.
There are three main ethnic groups in Rwanda. These ethnic groups include;
Hutu is an ethnic group found in the African Great Lakes regions in Rwanda, Burundi, and some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Hutus are the ethnic majority in Rwanda and Burundi. According to the 2015 census, 84 per cent of the population in Rwanda is Hutu.
History has it that the Hutu immigrated into the Great Lakes region from the great Bantu expansion in West Africa. The Hutu are almost similar to the Tutsi who are also an ethnic majority in Rwanda. The two tribes share a common ancestry or origin. The Hutu people speak Rwanda-Bundu as their native language. Rwanda-Bundu is divided into two dialects; Kinyarwanda which is the official language of Rwanda and Kirundi, the official language of Burundi respectively.
Some of the Hutus also speak French. In the post-colonial era, the transfer of power from the minority Tutsi to the Hutu led to the Hutu violence against the Tutsi with thousands of Tutsi killed and several displaced to other countries in what has been described as the deadliest genocide in the history of Africa.
The Tutsi are a sub-ethnic group of the Banyarwanda who are found primarily in Rwanda and Burundi. They are the second largest ethnic group in Rwanda accounting for 15 per cent of the population. The Northern Tutsi residing in Rwanda are known as Ruguru while the Southerners living in Burundi are called Hima.
The Tutsi have lived in the Rwanda for over 400 years and have intermarried with the Hutu. Before the arrival of the colonialist, Rwanda was ruled by the Tutsi Monarchy. However, the Tutsi were replaced by the Hutu after the 1962 independence in anti-Tutsi violence. During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, an estimated one million people, largely Tutsi, were killed. The Tutsi’s native language is the Rwanda-Rundi which is subdivided into Kinyarwanda and Kirundi. Many Tutsi also speak French as a second or third language.
Twa is the longest surviving people of the Great Lakes region currently living as Bantu caste in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Twa are an ethnic minority in Rwanda accounting for only one per cent of the population. They are semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers living in association with agricultural communities. The Twa arrived in Rwanda alongside the Hutu as distinct people and also mixed ancestry in the 15th century AD. The expansion of agriculture and increased logging has forced the Twa to leave the mountain forests for new homes. They have been marginalized with little access to basic amenities like schools. They continue to suffer discrimination and prejudice due to their pygmy ancestry.
Today, there are many young people in Rwanda of mixed ethnicity due to the ongoing intermarriages, in particular between the Hutu and the Tutsi. These young people are confronted with many challenges and decisions with their background affecting their interactions and social identities. Intermarriage is encouraged in Rwanda to dilute ethnic purity and is seen as a way of preventing Genocide in the future.
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