Wednesday, May 24, 2006

History of Rwanda

History of Rwanda. This is a brief essay on the history of the African nation of Rwanda. Unfortunately, the recent history of this country his dealt with genocide and war crimes tribunals.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes that Rwanda is a, "landlocked republic lying south of the Equator in east-central Africa. It is bounded on the west by Congo (Kinshasa) and Lake Kivu, on the north by Uganda, on the east by Tanzania, and on the south by Burundi. The capital is Kigali. Like its neighbour to the south, Rwanda is a country of minute dimensions (10,169 square miles [26,338 square kilometres]), grinding poverty, and high population density. "

From the site:

According to folklore, Tutsi cattlebreeders began arriving in the area from the Horn of Africa in the 15th century and gradually subjugated the Hutu inhabitants. The Tutsis established a monarchy headed by a mwami (king) and a feudal hierarchy of Tutsi nobles and gentry. Through a contract known as ubuhake, the Hutu farmers pledged their services and those of their descendants to a Tutsi lord in return for the loan of cattle and use of pastures and arable land. Thus, the Tutsi reduced the Hutu to virtual serfdom. However, boundaries of race and class became less distinct over the years as some Tutsi declined until they enjoyed few advantages over the Hutu. The first European known to have visited Rwanda was German Count Von Goetzen in 1894. He was followed by missionaries, notably the "White Fathers." In 1899, the mwami submitted to a German protectorate without resistance. Belgian troops from Zaire chased the small number of Germans out of Rwanda in 1915 and took control of the country.

After World War I, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and its southern neighbor, Burundi, to Belgium as the territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a UN Trust Territory with Belgium as the administrative authority. Reforms instituted by the Belgians in the 1950s encouraged the growth of democratic political institutions but were resisted by the Tutsi traditionalists who saw in them a threat to Tutsi rule. An increasingly restive Hutu population, encouraged by the Belgian military, sparked a revolt in November 1959, resulting in the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy. Two years later, the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won an overwhelming victory in a UN-supervised referendum.

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