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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #39 of 54: Reunion | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #41 of 54: Sao Tome and Principe »

August 10, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #40 of 54: Rwanda

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
40. RWANDA
Flag of Rwanda

Formal Name: Republic of Rwanda

Term for Citizens: Rwandans.

Capital: Kigali. Population: 412, 000.

Independence Achieved: July 1, 1962, from France.

Major Cities: Kigali.

Geography:

Rwanda is in Central Africa. Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Tanzania, and Uganda border it. Rwanda is landlocked. Rwanda is estimated to have 10, 169 square miles. The land is steeply, and sloped with flat hills that drop to valleys. The climate is moderated by its high elevation so that temperature averages 73.F annually.

Society:

Rwanda’s population is estimated at 8,387,000.

Ethnic Groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Over 80% of the population is Hutu.

Languages: Kinyarawanda. Swahili, and Hausa are trade languages. French is the official language.

Religion: 70% Christian, 2% Muslim, and the remainder professing indigenous African beliefs.

Education: Schools were provided by Christian missions but largely available to all primary age children though scantly attended. Literacy rate is estimated at 70.4%.

Economy: The economy is primarily subsistence agriculture. Cash crops are coffee and cotton. Tutsi are herders of cattle. GDP estimate: $9 billion; Per Capita GDP: $1, 200. Monetary Unit: Franc (RWF)

History and Government:

Twa pigmies were the original people here. Then Hutu farmers settled among them. In the fourteenth century Tutsi cattle herders, probably from Ethiopia, settled among the Hutu and gradually established their lordship over them. The Tutsis provided the kings that ruled Rwanda. Tutsi subjugation of Hutu was total until the coming of European colonial rulers. Germany colonized Rwanda in the 19th century and ruled until its defeat during the First World War. Governance passed to France. The Europeans, for some reasons, apparently preferred the Tutsis to Hutus thereby perpetuating the hatred that is between the two groups. Upon independence, however, democratic election produced Hutu rulers and the later proceeded to vent their anger at the Tutsi. Ultimately this led to the mass massacre of Tutsis in 1994. The Tutsi eventually regained power and are currently ruling the Hutu. The issue of ethnic coexistence has not been solved. What exists now is Carthaginian peace, a peace that could be shattered at any moment. A strong president of Tutsi extraction, Paul Kagame rules Rwanda. There seems appearance of democracy but the Hutu feel subjugated and are restive, perhaps waiting for another opportunity to seek revenge. Clearly a more lasting power sharing political arrangement is to be worked out for peace to exist in the troubled land of Rwanda. Rwanda is divided into 12 prefectures, and the later subdivided into communes.




CONTEMORAY HISTORY AND POLITICS


Originally the people living in what is now called Rwanda were the Pygmies. The Bantus swept into the area during the great Bantu migration from West Africa to all parts of tropical Africa.

The Tutsis and Hutus, the two dominant groups in Rwanda, are Bantus and, in fact, speak the same language. The idea that they are two different people was probably propaganda that the ruling elements hatched to justify ruling them.

In the 19th century, Germans came to the area and bought into the notion that the two peoples are different. Indeed, at one time they claimed that Tutsis were of European origin, just as they claimed that Ethiopians were of European origin. It seems that wherever Africans seem to have had a history of ruling themselves, as the Tutsis had done for over seven hundred years, since Europeans do not visualize Africans as anything but those who are incapable of self governance, they attribute that self governance to external origin.

Let us therefore make it clear: Tutsis and Hutus are the same Bantu people.

Germany governed Rwanda until she was defeated during the First World War and her African territories were taken away from her and given to the victorious powers. Belgium was given Rwanda as a mandate territory to govern on behalf of the League of Nations. At the end of the Second World War, the United Nations took over the functions of the League of Nations and demanded that independence be given to mandated territories.

In 1962 Rwanda was given independence and thereafter the issue of who should govern her: Tutsi or Hutu became the primary question asked in Rwandan politics. The Hutus are in the majority and all things being democratic would, in elections based on ethnic voting, win and govern Rwanda. But the Tutsis had centuries of governance under their belt. Governing, like anything else in this world, is influenced by practice and experience.

The Tutsis were used to governing and did not take well to Hutu governing. The result was competition by these two people. The consequence is occasional mutual bloodbath, which culminated in the horrible killing of the Tutsis in 1994. Over 500, 000 Tutsis were murdered in cold blood by the Hutus.

Paul Kagame and his Tutsis Rwandese Patriotic Front, RPF, thereafter swept into Kigali, and the murderers, fearing for their lives, fled into neighboring countries as refugees.

Mr. Kagame, unfortunately, like other African rulers, has written a constitution and is now serving as the president (may be, for life or until he is murdered). He is increasingly authoritarian and is risking being killed by those he alienates, even by his fellow Tutsis.

Rwanda is divided into five provinces and further subdivided into 30 districts.

The economy of Rwanda is doing as well as might be expected considering the major disruptions the country has gone through. 90% of the people are engaged in subsistence farming. The primary source of foreign exchange is the selling of coffee and tea.
Rwanda is dependent on foreign aid.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at August 10, 2006 11:15 AM

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