Rwandan monarchy
The Kingdom of Banyarwanda (also known as the Kingdom of Rwanda) was founded in the 15th century by a pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 group, the 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 ....

. It occupied approximately the territory controlled by the modern state 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...

. The kingdom became gradually subdued by European colonial interests starting in 1890. It ceased to exist in 1962 when Rwanda became a republic following the 1961 referendum
Rwandan monarchy referendum, 1961
A referendum on the monarchy was held in Rwanda on 25 September 1961, concurrent with parliamentary elections. The referendum asked two questions; whether the monarchy should be retained after independence the following year, and whether the incumbent, Kigeli V should remain King...



In the fifteenth century, one chiefdom managed to incorporate several of its neighbors establishing the Kingdom of Rwanda, which ruled over most of what is now considered Rwanda. Although some Hutus were among the nobility and significant intermingling took place, the Hutu majority made up 82–85% of the population and were mostly poor peasants. In general, the kings, known as Mwami
Mwami is the chiefly title in Kirundi and Kinyarwanda, the Congolese Nande and Bashi languages, Luhya in Kenya and various other Bantu languages, such as the Tonga language . The word is usually translated as king...

s, were Tutsi.

Before the nineteenth century, it was believed that the Tutsis held military power while the Hutus possessed supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 power. In this capacity, the Mwami's council of advisors (abiiru) was exclusively Hutu and held significant sway. By the mid-18th century, however, the abiiru was increasingly marginalized.

As the kings centralized their power and authority, they distributed land among individuals rather than allowing it to be passed down through lineage groups, of which many hereditary chiefs had been Hutu. Most of the chiefs appointed by the Mwamis were Tutsi. The redistribution of land, enacted between 1860 and 1895 by Mwami Rwabugiri, resulted in an imposed patronage system
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings or popes have provided to musicians, painters, and sculptors...

, under which appointed Tutsi chiefs demanded manual labor in return for the right of Hutus to occupy their land. This system left Hutus in a serf
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

-like status with Tutsi chiefs as their feudal
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...


Under Mwami Rwabugiri, Rwanda became an expansionist
In general, expansionism consists of expansionist policies of governments and states. While some have linked the term to promoting economic growth , more commonly expansionism refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base usually, though not necessarily, by means of military...

 state. Rwabugiri did not bother to assess the ethnic identities of conquered peoples and simply labeled all of them “Hutu”. The title “Hutu”, therefore, came to be a trans-ethnic identity associated with subjugation. While further disenfranchising Hutus socially and politically, this helped to solidify the idea that “Hutu” and “Tutsi” were socioeconomic, not ethnic
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

, distinctions. In fact, one could kwihutura, or “shed Hutuness”, by accumulating wealth and rising through the social hierarchy
Social mobility
Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or economic level to another. It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to...


External links

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