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LOCATION: Rwanda, Burundi, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

POPULATION: Approximately 13 million

LANGUAGE: Kenya rwanda; Kirundi; French, English

RELIGION: Christianity combined with traditional beliefs

The Tutsi are a people who live in Rwanda, Burundi, and the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
They have much in common with the other groups of this region, the Twa and the Hutu. Their cultures are similar, and
they all speak the same language.

In the past, the Tutsi were cattle herders. They were a minority of the population. However, most of the upper-class
rulers were Tutsi. A system of cattle trading helped keep peace among the different groups. The wealthier people (often
Tutsi) lent cattle to the poorer ones (often Hutu). In return they gained their labour, loyalty, and political support.

Social relations in Rwanda and Burundi were changed by European rule. The Germans held power from the 1890s until
World War I (1914–18). Then the Belgians ruled until 1962. For most of this period, the Europeans treated the Tutsi
better than the Hutu. In the 1950s, however, the Belgians urged the Hutu to challenge Tutsi power. In 1959 Hutu leaders
overthrew the Tutsi monarchy in Rwanda. Many Tutsi fled to nearby countries. In Burundi, the change to independence
was more peaceful. The mwami (the Tutsi king) helped the Tutsi and Hutu sides reach an agreement. However, the
peace did not last. The Hutu tried to gain power by force, and they were defeated.

When the colonial period ended, opposite sides controlled Rwanda and Burundi. The Hutu held power in Rwanda until
1994. The Tutsi still rule Burundi. Hutu power in Rwanda ended in 1994 when Tutsi rebels overthrew the government.
However, this Tutsi victory occurred at a great cost in human lives. As many as one million people were killed.

Rwanda and Burundi are mountainous countries in east-central Africa. Their combined total area is about 20,900
square miles (54,100 square kilometres). This is about the combined size of the states of Maryland and New Jersey.

Tutsi also live in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). They live near the city of
Bukavu in the Mulenge region. Here they are known as the Banyamulenge.

The combined population of Rwanda and Burundi was about 13 million in 1994. However, many refugees fled Rwanda
that year. In addition, many Rwandese Tutsi returned from Uganda after the Hutu army was defeated in 1994.

The Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa all speak a Central Bantu language. It is called Kenya rwanda in Rwanda, and Kirundi in
Burundi. Both are dialects of the same language. Like other Bantu languages, both use nouns with prefixes. For
example, the word Banyamulenge ("Ba-nya-mulenge") can be divided into parts. The prefix "banya" means "people";
"Mulenge" is the name of a region. The whole word means "people of Mulenge."

Many Rwandese and Burundians speak French, the language of their former Belgian rulers. French is used in school.
Also, many people in both countries have French first names. Tutsi who have been refugees in Uganda may also speak

Personal names may be based on events, poetry, or beliefs. The name Ndagijimana means "God is my herder."
Hakizumwami means "only the king can save." Muvunanyambo means "the defender of noble cows."

Tutsi folklore includes poetry, proverbs, folk tales, riddles, and myths. Some Tutsis used to know the names of their
ancestors at least six generations back. Many believed they were descended from a mythical king named Gihanga.

One popular folk tale tells the story of Sebgugugu. He was a poor man who was helped by God. God performed
miracles to provide food for him and his family. However, each time Sebgugugu wanted more. Through his greed,
Sebgugugu lost everything in the end.

Today most people in Rwanda and Burundi are Christians. However, some traditional beliefs survive. These include the
belief in a distant creator called Imaana. This god has the power to grant wealth and fertility. The king shares in this
power. It can be seen in his sacred fire, royal drums, and rituals. Spirits of dead relatives, called abazima, carry
messages between Imaana and the human world. However, the abazima may bring bad luck to those who do not
respect them. People offer gifts to protect themselves from the abazima. They also try to learn the spirits' wishes by
seeing fortune-tellers.

National holidays include Independence Day, May Day, New Year's Day, and the major Christian holidays. The Tutsis'
traditional holidays were celebrated with dancing and sacred drumming. These holidays are no longer observed.

Hutu and Tutsi rites of passage are very similar. The first one, the naming ceremony, takes place seven days after a
child's birth.

Marriage is made legal by payment of the bride wealth. It is paid by the groom's family to the bride's family because they
are losing her labour. There is no ritual other than marriage to mark the beginning of adulthood.

Death is marked by prayers, speeches, and limits on many activities. Close family members are supposed to avoid
physical labour and sex after a death. When the mourning period ends, the family holds a ritual feast.

Social status is very important in both Rwanda and Burundi. Signs of status include a person's posture, body
movements, and way of speaking. Upper-class people are supposed to act with dignity and not show their emotions.

The Tutsi have different greetings for morning, afternoon, and evening.

In the past, most people had arranged marriages to someone of the same social class. Today, Tutsi may choose the
person they will marry. Group activities are more common than dating in couples. However, some young Tutsis in the
cities practice Western-style dating and go out to nightclubs.

Traditional Tutsi houses were huts of wood, reeds, and straw shaped like beehives. Around them were high hedges
that served as fences. Modern Tutsi build rectangular houses with Western-style building materials. These houses
have corrugated iron or tile roofs.

Tutsi and Hutu families are patrilineal (the family name is passed on by males).

In the past, marriage in Rwanda and Burundi was based on the relations between the two families. Today most Tutsis
choose the person they will marry.

In the past, Tutsi men and women wore robes brought in from the African coast. A woman's costume included a white
robe and white headbands. Today Western-style clothing is usually worn. Women wear dresses and scarves made
from the printed cloth popular in East Africa. Men wear pants and shirts.

12 • FOOD
Milk, butter, and meat are the most highly valued foods. However, people will only kill a cow on a special occasion. Goat
meat and goat milk are also eaten. However, they are eaten secretly because it is against Tutsi customs. Tutsi in rural
areas consume milk products, bananas, and sorghum beer. Meals are arranged around work schedules.

Alcoholic beverages are made from bananas and sorghum. People drink them on special occasions.

No more than half of Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi can read and write their native language. A smaller number can read
and write French. There are teacher training schools in Burundi. Both Rwanda and Burundi have at least one university.

Royal dancing and drumming groups performed for the kings of Rwanda and Burundi. For rituals, two dozen tall drums
were placed around a central drum. The drummers moved around the drums in a circle. Each one took a turn beating
the central drum. This style of drumming is still practised, and it has been recorded.

Singing, dancing, and drumming are important in rural life. People compose many kinds of songs—hunting songs,
lullabies, and ibicuba (songs praising cattle).

Cattle herding has always carried a higher status among the Tutsi than farming. In the past there was a special class of
herders, called abashumba, who took care of the king's prize cattle (inyambo).

The main spectator sport in Rwanda and Burundi is soccer.

A game called igisoro is popular with children and adults. It is played on a wooden board with holes for beads or
stones. Players line up their pieces in rows and capture as many of their opponents' pieces as they can. In other parts
of Africa the game is known as mancala.

Movie theaters in the capitals of Rwanda and Burundi show current European and American films.

Traditional crafts of Rwanda and Burundi include basket weaving, pottery, woodworking, metal working, and jewelry

Since the early 1960s, the peoples of Rwanda and Burundi have lived through some of the worst violence in African
history. The killings are usually called ethnic warfare between the Hutu and Tutsi. However, victims have often been
killed for their political beliefs, not just their ethnic group.

Lemarchand, Rene. Burundi: Ethnocide as Discourse and Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Nyankanzi, Edward L. Genocide: Rwanda and Burundi. Rochester, Vt.: Schenkman Books, 1997.

Twagilimana, Amiable. Hutu and Tutsi. Heritage Library of African Peoples. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1998.

Internet Africa Ltd. [Online] Available http://, 1998.
Burundi Travel Guide. Burundi. [Online]
World Travel Guide. Rwanda. [Online]
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