There are three different groups of people in Rwanda and Burundi, The Hutu Tutsi and the Twa. These different groups all had different types of economies along with different types cultural backgrounds. All the groups have many similarities however their rich history of a cast system and strong racial or prejudice beliefs have caused conflict in the area. The groups all lived in close proximity to one another and in some cased amongst each other. This review will cover the economies and modes of production of the Hutu and the Tutsi, the social and political structure of the two groups before and after colonization and under their own control, and some of the key parts of their ideology and religion that shaped the culture they are.
The to start we need to describe the the different groups. There are the Twa who were the first group to inhabit this region, they only make up one percent of the population. They are hunter gatherers and had no way of making a living they only survived. The Hutu and the Tutsi make up the rest of the population in the area. All the groups together as a whole are known as “Banyarwanda”. We will focus on the Hutu and the Tutsi for the remainder of the paper because the Twa have nothing to do with the focus of the conflict. The Hutu who came to the area a long time after the Twa, and brought with them new ideas and a new way of life to the area. They brought with them horticulture, as a way of subsistence, which helped them reach the number of people that will eventually call themselves Hutu. The Hutu people were able to feed every one in their tribe or group which caused people to live longer and reproduce. Probably why the Twa have such a small population. The Tutsi people brought with them the same type of horticulture as the Hutu but were pastoralists and were able to overcome hunger and other issues because of this. “Most reciently, pastoral peoples migrated into or conquered (depending on the particular version of the events) Hutu/Twa regions and eventually established themselves as the culturally, economically, and usually politically dominant segment of a mixed society.”(Eller 199) The new Tutsi culture paved the way for the new way of life for the region. The Tutsi saw their way of life to be dominant and they then started the prevailing economy. In most cases it was not force that caused this, it was the capital that the Tutsi had which made this transition possible. Most of the Tutsi had cattle or some sort of live stock that produced either a larger crop or milk for their family, because they came into the area already stronger and smarter farmers, it was natural for the rest of the people of the area to follow and participate in what they could afford or what they could to provide for themselves and their family.
The Hutu people were generally stereotyped racially as “short and thick-set with a big head, a jovial expression, a wide nose and enormous lips”(Eller 200) The Tutsi were stereotyped racially as “very tall, 1.8 meters, at least, often 1.9 meters or more. He is very thin His features are very fine: a high brow, thin nose and fine lips framing beautiful shining teeth.”(Eller 200) It is not the looks that started the dominance that the Tutsi's had, they had thought of themselves as a superior group for their entire existence. It was the different distinctions between the groups that set themselves apart from each other. The Hutu were farmers and planted crops to survive where as the Tutsi were pastoralists and did not have to work as hard to get as much as the Hutu. This lack of effort cause the Tutsi to be, economically, more rich because they did not have to give up as much or work as hard to get the same amount. This sense of “better than the rest” spilled over into the social structure of the Hutu and thus created a Caste system in the area, with Tutsi people being at the top Hutu next and the, lone, Twa holding down the bottom of society. With this new caste system in place it brought up new social standards in the Hutu and the Tutsi. From the view of the Tutsi, you don't marry Hutu person, and they say that it rarely happens but it occurs from time to time. From the view of the Hutu, they say it is not looked down upon but marrying a Tutsi is not the normal thing to do, and they say it happens frequently. As the abundance of Hutu and Tutsi people grew the Name Tutsi or Hutu was not necessarily specific to any one race as it was in the beginning. “A Tutsi, a Hutu, or a Twa is a person who regarded himself, and was regarded by all those who knew him, as a Tutsi, Hutu or Twa.”(Eller 202) This sense of class structure forced people into a life in which they could not move to the next level of the caste system. One way that people could move up to the level of Tutsi was to own cattle or some sort of live stock, because the Tutsi were pastoralists, owning any sort of producing animal would bump you up the ladder. Controversially just because you had cattle or looked like a Tutsi did not mean that you are one. The culture through out the region was decentralized at the least, some in the western world would even call it anarchist. The Hutu or Tutsi were small groups that were, but not in all cases, completely independent of each other. The decentralized chiefdom that the Hutu were accustomed to forced themselves to stick with each other, weather it was from their family or from the other group members, and the same thing applies to the Tutsi as well. The chiefs made decisions that were best for the individual group not what was best for the entire region, which is why the the two groups were able to co-exist for such a long period of time with out large scale problems or conflict. When one group retained enough power and tried to make decisions that effected the entire region, we saw a conflict on the largest scale. The Tutsi saw the Hutu as hardworking but not intelligent, Tutsi people even go as far as to say that they are unmannerly and obedient. These views not only demonstrate the social structure of the region but give an insight as to why these practices came into existence. After hundreds of years of this treatment it is understandable as to why the Hutu were oppressed, they really felt like they were less than the people of the Tutsi group. This pattern of Hutu submitting to the Tutsi's continued and the Hutu started working for Tutsi either for protection or out of fear.
In the beginning there were no controversial ideas between the groups. They had different life styles and different activities that each enjoyed however they did not differ to any extreme. Being that they occupied the same area it is understandable that they would participate in activities that were the same in nature. The differences came mostly in ideology. “In the past our proper name was Bantu. We are Bantu. “Hutu” is no tribe, no nothing. Muhutu is a [Tutsi] word which means “servant” It's a name that the Tutsi gave us”(Eller 195) The Ideological differences, caused by a superior feeling or nature by the Tutsi, had an effect on the entire region. Both groups, or all groups, speak the same language and look relatively similar. There are two things to consider when looking at the Hutu and the Tutsi that distinguish them from most other indigenous groups; because in the beginning all of the groups were called or called themselves “Banyarwanda” “how should we conceptualize the lower level of Hutu or Tutsi?”(Eller 196) Secondly “The Banyarwanda are not limited to the territory of Rwanda and Burundi but are found also in Zaire, Tanzania, and Uganda.”(Eller 197) This shows that the group identity is spread though out this entire area of Africa and not just specific to one region, or one cultural difference. Since the beginning of the tribe of Banyarwanda, no one person considered themselves better or of a higher class than any one else in their Hutu or Tutsi group. The only person in the group that had any sort of leadership or power was the chief. This type of social structure continued on into the modern era of Rwanda, which caused one of the biggest conflicts in Africa. The Hutu and the Tutsi had become accustom to having one person in charge of the group, therefore, when it came around to becoming centralized or starting a governing body they decided to have a king. As you can guess that king ended up being a Tutsi, which, because of past history did not go over well with the majority of the population being Hutu.
This paper does not focus on the new era of the Hutu and the Tutsi, we are leaving many parts of the story out. So far this paper has focused on the tribes as they were in the beginning, or the people of the region as indigenous and not what they have transitioned into over time. The Hutu and the Tutsi are so similar in their ever day life that it is hard to characterize each. They started as the same and grew apart rapidly, as the Tutsi became more and more powerful. Each of the different tribes have the same language and can communicate with each other. It is the deep sense of prejudice that the Tutsi have for any person that they feel is below them in the social class that started the conflict and the resentment that the Hutu have, for being disrespected through out their existence. With out deciphering these subtle differences we would not be able to understand the nature of the conflict we will discuss in the later stages of this paper. Over all the biggest differences in the two groups is just race itself. It has become more and more apparent that race plays the biggest role in conflict and their class system. Through economics we can understand some of the reasons that the Tutsi thought of themselves as superior. It is the overwhelming amount of decentralized governing or the independence of each group that gives the Hutu and the Tutsi their social structure, and it is their social differences that gives each group their own ideology on how to live their lives and what they do together as a group.
Use your Facebook login and see what your friends are reading and sharing.
Now bringing you back...
Please enter your email address below to reset your password. We will send you an email with instructions on how to continue.