||This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2012)|
|2.5 million (Rwanda and Burundi)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Tutsi (//;Rwanda-Rundi pronunciation: [tūtsī]), or Abatutsi, are an ethnic group in East Africa. Historically, they were often referred to as the Watutsi,Watusi, or the Wahuma. They are the second largest population division among the three largest groups in Rwanda and Burundi, the other two being the Hutu (largest) and the Twa (smallest). Small numbers of Hema, Kiga and Furiiru people also live near the Tutsi in Rwanda. The Northern Tutsi that live in Rwanda are called Ruguru (Banyaruguru), while southern Tutsi that live in Burundi are called Hima and the Tutsi that live on the Kivu plateau in the Congo are called Banyamulenge.
Origins and classification
The definitions of "Hutu" and "Tutsi" people may have changed through time and location. Social structures were not stable throughout Rwanda, even during colonial times under the Belgian rule. The Tutsi aristocracy or elite was distinguished from Tutsi commoners, and wealthy Hutu were often indistinguishable from upper-class Tutsi. When the European colonists conducted censuses, they wanted to identify the people throughout Rwanda-Burundi according to a simple classification scheme. They defined "Tutsi" as anyone owning more than ten cows (a sign of wealth) or with the physical feature of a longer nose, or longer neck, commonly associated with the Tutsi. A person could change from Hutu to Tutsi by obtaining enough cows to acquire the status.
The Europeans believed that some Tutsis had facial characteristics that were generally atypical of other Bantus. They sought to explain these purported divergent physical traits by postulating admixture with or partial descent from migrants of Caucasoid stock, who usually were said to have arrived in the Great Lakes region from the Horn of Africa and/or North Africa. .
By contrast, the Europeans considered the majority Hutu to be characteristic Bantu people of Central African origin. These various migration theories of foreign provenance were also in part inspired by the Tutsi's own long-held oral traditions asserting that they originally descended from "white" migrants, who subsequently "lost" their original language and culture as they intermarried with the local Bantus. The British explorer John Hanning Speke recorded one such account in his book Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile:
"The governor[...] said he thought the white men were flocking this way to retake their lost country; for tradition recorded that the Wahuma were once half black and half white, with half the hair straight and the other half curly; and how was this to be accounted for unless the country formerly belonged to white men with straight hair, but was subsequently taken by black men?"
The Tutsi have lived in the areas where they are for at the very least hundreds of years, leading to considerable intermarriage with the Bantu / Hutu people in the area. Due to the history of intermingling and intermarrying of Hutus and Tutsis, ethnographers and historians have lately come to agree that Hutu and Tutsis cannot be properly called distinct ethnic groups.
Modern-day genetic studies of the Y-chromosome suggest that the Tutsi are largely of Bantu extraction (80% E1b1a, 15% B, 4% E3). Paternal genetic influences associated with the Horn of Africa and North Africa are few (1% E1b1b), and are ascribed to much earlier inhabitants who were assimilated. The Tutsi, in general, demonstrate a close genetic kinship with neighboring Bantu populations, particularly the Hutu.
[...]generations of gene flow obliterated whatever clear-cut physical distinctions may have once existed between these two Bantu peoples -- renowned to be height, body build, and facial features. With a spectrum of physical variation in the peoples, Belgian authorities legally mandated ethnic affiliation in the 1920s, based on economic criteria. Formal and discrete social divisions were consequently imposed upon ambiguous biological distinctions. To some extent, the permeability of these categories in the intervening decades helped to reify the biological distinctions, generating a taller elite and a shorter underclass, but with little relation to the gene pools that had existed a few centuries ago. The social categories are thus real, but there is little if any detectable genetic differentiation between Hutu and Tutsi.
However, Razib Khan, based on analysis of the autosomal genetics of the Tutsi, suggests that "the Tutsi were in all likelihood once a Nilotic speaking population, who switched to the language of the Bantus amongst whom they settled."
Beginning about 1880, Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in the Great Lakes region. Later, when German forces occupied the area during World War I, the conflict and efforts for Catholic conversion became more pronounced. As the Tutsi resisted conversion, the missionaries found success only among the Hutu. In an effort to reward conversion, the colonial government confiscated traditionally Tutsi land and reassigned it to Hutu tribes, igniting a conflict that has lasted into the 21st century.
The area was ruled as a colony by Germany (before World War I) and Belgium. Both colonial powers allowed only the Tutsi to be educated and only they could participate in the colonial government. Such discriminatory policies engendered resentment.
When the Belgians took over the colony, they believed the colony could be better governed if they continued to identify the different populations. In the 1920s, they required people to identify with a particular ethnic group and classified them in censuses. European colonists viewed Africans in general as children who needed to be guided, but noted the Tutsi to be the ruling culture in Rwanda-Burundi. In 1959, Belgium reversed its stance and allowed the majority Hutu to assume control of the government through universal elections after independence. This partly reflected internal Belgian domestic politics, who later saw the discrimination against the Hutu majority as similar to oppression within Belgium suffered from the Flemish-Walloon conflict. They saw the democratization and empowerment of the Hutu as a just response to the Tutsi domination. The Belgian policies wavered and flip-flopped considerably during this period leading up to independence of Burundi and Rwanda.
The Hutu majority had revolted against the Tutsi but was unable to take power. Tutsis fled and created exile communities outside Rwanda in Uganda and Tanzania. Since the nation's independence, more extremist Tutsi came to power and oppressed the Hutus, especially those who were educated. Their actions led to the deaths of up to 200,000 Hutus. Overt discrimination from the colonial period was continued by different Rwandan and Burundian governments, including identity cards that distinguished Tutsi and Hutu.
In 1993, Burundi's first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by Tutsi officers, as was the person entitled to succeed him under the constitution. This sparked a period of civil strife between Hutu political structures and the Tutsi military, in which an estimated 800,000 Burundians, mostly Tutsi, were murdered. Since the 2000 Arusha Peace Process, today in Burundi the Tutsi minority shares power in a more or less equitable manner with the Hutu majority. Traditionally, the Tutsi had held more economic power and controlled the military.
A similar pattern of events took place in Rwanda, but there the Hutu came to power in 1962. They in turn often oppressed the Tutsi, who fled the country. After the anti-Tutsi violence around 1959-1961, Tutsis fled in large numbers. In 1965, 130 000 (one third of all Tutsis) lived in exile in Zaire, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. These exile communities gave rise to Tutsi rebel movements. Exiled Tutsis attacked Rwanda in 1990 with the intention to liberate Rwanda. The fighting culminated in the Hutu mass killings of Tutsi and Hutu in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, in which the Hutu then in power killed an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 people, largely of Tutsi origin. At the same time in 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), mostly made up of diasporic Tutsi in Uganda, advanced to Rwanda. It had experience in organized irregular warfare from the Ugandan Bush War, and got much support from the government of Uganda. The initial RPF advance was halted by the lift of French arms to the Rwandan government. Attempts at peace culminated in the Arusha Accords. The agreement broke down after the assassination of the Rwandan and Burundian Presidents. Victorious in the aftermath of the genocide, the RPF came to power in July 1994. The RPF then killed many Hutus to avenge the genocide.
Tutsis speak Rwanda-Rundi as their native tongue, which is a member of the Bantu subgroup of the Niger–Congo language family. Rwanda-Rundi is subdivided into the Kinyarwanda and Kirundi dialects, which have been standardized as official languages of Burundi and Rwanda. It is also spoken as a mother tongue by the Hutu and Twa. Additionally, many Tutsis speak French, the third official language of Rwanda and Burundi, as their lingua franca. The Hima speak the same language but call their language Hima.
In the Rwanda territory, from the 15th century until 1961, the Tutsi were ruled by a king (the mwami). Belgium abolished the monarchy in response to Hutu activism, following the national referendum that led to independence. By contrast, in the northwestern part of the country (predominantly Hutu), large regional landholders shared power, similar to Bugandan society (in what is now Uganda).
Little difference can be ascertained between the cultures of the Tutsi and Hutu; both groups speak the same Bantu language. The rate of intermarriage between the two groups were traditionally very high, and relations were amicable until the 20th century. Many scholars have concluded that the determination of Tutsi was and is mainly an expression of class or caste, rather than ethnicity. As noted above, DNA studies show clearly that the peoples are more closely related to each other than to any other. Differences arose due to social constructs, which create greater differences between the groups. During the 1980s, school principals reported that, although secondary school admissions were proportional to the groups within the country and were made by competition within ethnic groups (in accordance with quotas mandated by the Habyarimana government), the students of Tutsi origin (14% of intake) comprised nearly 50% of graduates, on average. This report provoked accusations of tribal favoritism.
Contrary to some erroneous writings, the Banyamulenge are neither an ethnic group nor a tribe from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The term Banyamulenge, which means people of Mulenge in Kinyarwanda, is rather a collective denomination of descendants of Tutsi migrants from Rwanda most of whom are concentrated on the Itombwe Plateau of South Kivu, close to the Burundi-Congo-Rwanda border. This term owes its origins to Fuliiru village, which in 1924, received the first group of Tutsi migrants before their dispersion in the highlands of South Kivu, where they were later joined, from 1959 to 1962 by successive waves of Tutsi refugees fleeing persecution. Its use has been controversial, but since the late 1990s following the Rwanda Genocide, it has been used by Congolese Tutsi, formally known as Banyarwanda (people of Rwanda) to avoid being seen as foreigners.
The Banyamulenge have an ambiguous political and social position in Congo, which has been an issue of contention with other ethnic groups. They played a key role in the run-up to the First Congo War in 1996-7 and Second Congo War of 1998-2003.
- "Tutsi". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
- Collins English Dictionary
- Leatherman, Janie. Breaking Cycles of Violence: Conflict Prevention in Intrastate Crises. p. 142.
- International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, Africa, Volume 76, (Oxford University Press., 2006), pg 135.
- Josh Kron, "Shooting star of the continent", Haaretz, 14 September 2010, accessed 14 September 2010
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