Ruanda-Urundi was a Belgian suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

 from 1916 to 1924, a League of Nations Class B Mandate from 1924 to 1945 and then a United Nations trust territory
United Nations Trust Territories
United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946. All of the trust territories were administered through the UN Trusteeship Council...

 until 1962, when it became the independent states of Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 and Burundi
Burundi , officially the Republic of Burundi , is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura...



The independent Kingdoms of Rwanda
Rwandan monarchy
The Kingdom of Banyarwanda was founded in the 15th century by a pastoral group, the Tutsi. It occupied approximately the territory controlled by the modern state of Rwanda. The kingdom became gradually subdued by European colonial interests starting in 1890...

 and Burundi were annexed by Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 along with the other states of the Great Lakes region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Attached to German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

, the region only had a minimal German presence.
In the First World War, the area was conquered by forces from the Belgian Congo
Belgian Congo
The Belgian Congo was the formal title of present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo between King Leopold II's formal relinquishment of his personal control over the state to Belgium on 15 November 1908, and Congolese independence on 30 June 1960.-Congo Free State, 1884–1908:Until the latter...

 in 1916. The Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 divided German East Africa with the vast majority known as Tanganyika
Tanganyika , later formally the Republic of Tanganyika, was a sovereign state in East Africa from 1961 to 1964. It was situated between the Indian Ocean and the African Great Lakes of Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika...

 going to Great Britain. The westernmost portion, which was formally referred to as the Belgian Occupied East African Territories went to Belgium. In 1924, as the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 issued a formal mandate that granted Belgium full control over the area, the area officially became Ruanda-Urundi.

The Belgians were far more involved in the territory than the Germans, especially in Rwanda. Despite the mandate rules that the Belgians had to develop the territories and prepare them for independence, the Raubwirtschaft
Raubwirtschaft is a form of economy where the goal is to plunder the wealth and resources of a country or geographical area. Raubwirtschaft is synonymous of colonialism, where there is no intention of developing the colony economically more than strictly needed for exploitation purposes...

practiced in the Belgian Congo was exported eastwards. The Belgians demanded that the territories earn profits for the motherland and any development had to come out of funds gathered in the territory. These funds mostly came from the extensive cultivation of coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

 in the region's rich volcanic soils. The populace was also extensively taxed and forced to perform corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...


To implement their vision, the Belgians used the indigenous power structure. This consisted of a largely Tutsi
The Tutsi , or Abatutsi, are an ethnic group in Central Africa. Historically they were often referred to as the Watussi or Watusi. They are the second largest caste in Rwanda and Burundi, the other two being the Hutu and the Twa ....

 ruling class controlling a mostly Hutu
The Hutu , or Abahutu, are a Central African people, living mainly in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern DR Congo.-Population statistics:The Hutu are the largest of the three peoples in Burundi and Rwanda; according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians...

 population. The Belgian administrators believed in the racial theories of the time and convinced themselves that the Tutsi were racially superior. While before colonization the Hutu had played an extensive role in governance, the Belgians simplified matters by stratifying the society on racial lines. The anger at the oppression and misrule among the population was largely focused on the Tutsi elite rather than the distant colonial power. These divisions would play an important role in the decades after independence.

After the League of Nations was dissolved the region became a United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 trust territory in 1946. This included the promise that the Belgians would prepare the areas for independence, but the Belgians felt the area would take many decades to ready for self rule.

Independence came largely as a result of actions elsewhere. In the 1950s an independence movement arose in the Belgian Congo, and the Belgians became convinced they could no longer control the territory. In 1960, Ruanda-Urundi's larger neighbour gained its independence. After two more years of hurried preparations the colony became independent on July 1, 1962, broken up along traditional lines as the independent nations of Rwanda and Burundi. It took two more years before the government of the two became wholly separate.

Royal Commissioners

  • Justin Malfeyt (November 1916-May 1919)
  • Alfred Frédéric Gérard Marzorati (May 1919-August 1926)

Governors (Deputy Governors-General of the Belgian Congo)

  • Alfred Frédéric Gérard Marzorati (August 1926-February 1929)
  • Louis Joseph Postiaux (February 1929-July 1930)
  • Charles Henri Joseph Voisin (July 1930-August 1932)
  • Eugène Jacques Pierre Louis Jungers (August 1932-July 1946)
  • Maurice Simon
    Maurice Simon
    Maurice James Simon is a jazz saxophonist.A high school classmate of Eric Dolphy Simon appears on an early 1945 Los Angeles recording in a band led by Russell "Illinois" Jacquet and which also included Teddy Edwards, Charles Mingus, Bill Davis and Chico Hamilton.In 1948, again with Jacquet as...

     (July 1946-August 1949)
  • Léon Antoine Marie Pétillon (August 1949-January 1952)
  • Alfred Claeys Boùùaert (January 1952-March 1955)
  • Jean-Paul Harroy (March 1955-January 1962)

See also

  • History of Burundi
    History of Burundi
    Burundi is one of the few countries in Africa, along with its closely linked neighbour Rwanda among others, to be a direct territorial continuation of a pre-colonial era African state.-Kingdom of Burundi:...

  • History of Rwanda
    History of Rwanda
    Human occupation of Rwanda is thought to have begun shortly after the last ice age. By the fifteenth century the inhabitants had organized into a number of kingdoms...

  • President of the Legislative Assembly of Ruanda-Urundi
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