The Tutsi or Abatutsi, are an ethnic group
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...

 in Central Africa
Central Africa
Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

. Historically they were often referred to as the Watussi or Watusi. They are the second largest caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

 in 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 other two being the 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...

 (largest) and the Twa
Great Lakes Twa
The Great Lakes Twa, also known as Abatwa or Ge-Sera, or in English Batwa, are a pygmy people who are generally assumed to be the oldest surviving population of the Great Lakes region of central Africa, though currently they live as a Bantu caste...



Conceptions of the supposed ethnic groups in Rwanda have a long history. The definitions of "Hutu" and "Tutsi" people may have changed through time and location. Social structures were not stable throughout Rwanda, even during colonial
In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception....

 times under the Belgian rule
Ruanda-Urundi was a Belgian suzerainty from 1916 to 1924, a League of Nations Class B Mandate from 1924 to 1945 and then a United Nations trust territory until 1962, when it became the independent states of Rwanda and Burundi.- Overview :...

. The Tutsi aristocracy or elite was distinguished from Tutsi commoners, and wealthy Hutu were often indistinguishable from upper-class Tutsi.

When the European colonists conducted censuses, they wanted to identify the people throughout Rwanda-Burundi according to a simple classification scheme. They defined "Tutsi" as anyone owning more than ten cows (a sign of wealth) or with the physical feature of a longer nose, or longer neck, commonly associated with the Tutsi. The Europeans noticed that some Rwandans had noses they thought characteristic of their people, so they created historical and racial theories to explain why some Africans inherited such features. Early 20th-century Europeans believed the physical feature meant that some of the Tutsi had Caucasian or European ancestry, perhaps by migrations from Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, what was called the Hamitic
Hamitic is an historical term for the peoples supposedly descended from Noah's son Ham, paralleling Semitic and Japhetic.It was formerly used for grouping the non-Semitic Afroasiatic languages , but since, unlike the Semitic branch, these have not been shown to form a phylogenetic unity, the term...

 Theory. According to their racially based ideas, they thought the Tutsi were a "superior" people of a primarily Horn African and/or North African ancestry; descent from Arabs of the Middle East was also suggested. In addition, some Tutsi believed they were descended from the ancient Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

s and had a mystical connection to Israel. The Europeans considered the majority Hutu to be characteristic Bantu people of Central African and Sub-Saharan
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...


Beginning about 1880, Catholic
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 missionaries arrived in the African Great Lakes
African Great Lakes
The African Great Lakes are a series of lakes and the Rift Valley lakes in and around the geographic Great Rift Valley formed by the action of the tectonic East African Rift on the continent of Africa...

 region. Later, when German forces occupied the area during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the conflict and efforts for Catholic conversion
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

 became more pronounced. As the Tutsi resisted conversion, the missionaries found success only among the 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...

. In an effort to reward conversion, the colonial government confiscated traditionally Tutsi land and reassigned it to Hutu tribes, igniting a conflict that has lasted into the 21st century.


Modern-day genetic studies of the Y-chromosome
Y chromosome
The Y chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in most mammals, including humans. In mammals, it contains the gene SRY, which triggers testis development if present. The human Y chromosome is composed of about 60 million base pairs...

 suggest that the Tutsi are largely of Bantu extraction (80% E1b1a, 15% B
Haplogroup B (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup B is a Y-chromosome haplogroup.-Distribution:Haplogroup B is localized to sub-Saharan Africa, especially to tropical forests of West-Central Africa. After Y-haplogroup A, it is the second oldest and one of the most diverse human Y-haplogroups...

, 4% E3
Haplogroup E1b1 (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup E1b1 is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup.-Origin:E1b1 is likely to have originated in the highlands of East Africa's Ethiopia, as this is the place with the high frequency of ancestral subclades of this haplogroup. E1b1 is the ancestor of the majority of E...

). Paternal genetic influences associated with the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent...

 and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 are few (1% E1b1b), and are ascribed to much earlier inhabitants who were assimilated. The Tutsi, in general, demonstrate a close ethnic kinship with neighboring Bantu populations, particularly the Hutu.


In the Rwanda territory, from the 15th century until 1961, the Tutsi were ruled by a king (the mwami). Belgium abolished the monarchy in response to Hutu activism, following the national referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 that led to independence. In the northwestern part of the country (predominantly Hutu), by contrast, the society more closely resembled that of Buganda
Buganda is a subnational kingdom within Uganda. The kingdom of the Ganda people, Buganda is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda, comprising all of Uganda's Central Region, including the Ugandan capital Kampala, with the exception of the disputed eastern Kayunga District...

n society (in what is now Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

); large regional landholders shared power instead of a central monarch.

Little difference can be ascertained between the cultures of the Tutsi and Hutu; both groups speak the same Bantu language
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

. The rate of intermarriage between the two groups has traditionally been very high, with historically amicable relations until the 20th century. Many scholars have concluded that the determination of Tutsi was and is mainly an expression of class or caste, rather than ethnicity. DNA studies, as noted above, show clearly that the peoples are more closely related to each other as Bantu than to any other. Differences have arisen due to social constructs, which created greater differences between the groups.

During the 1980s, school principals reported that, although secondary school admissions were in accordance with quotas mandated by the Habyarimana government (in line with the proportions of the groups within the country), and by competition within ethnic groups, the students of Tutsi origin (14% of intake) comprised nearly 50%, on average, of those who graduated. This result provoked accusations of tribal favoritism. It may have been a product of the wealthier Tutsi not needing their children's labor to contribute to family welfare and therefore being able to let them stay in school long enough to graduate.

Colonial influences

Both 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...

 (before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

) and Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 ruled the area in a colonial capacity. Like most Europeans before them, the Belgians believed that the Tutsi were originally not from sub-Saharan Africa but had migrated from Europe via northern Africa or from the Middle East, due to what they characterized as physical features they associated as Caucasian. . As a result, they allowed only the Tutsi to be educated and only they could participate in the colonial government. Such discriminatory policies engendered resentment. . When the Belgians assumed control following World War I, they asked for advice from the Germans, who told them to continue promoting the Tutsis, which they did..

When the Belgians took over the colony in 1916, they believed the colony could be better governed if they continued to identify the different populations. In the 1920s, they required people to identify with a particular ethnic group and classified them in censuses. Belgian colonists viewed Africans in general as children who needed to be guided, but noted the Tutsi to be the ruling culture in Rwanda-Burundi. In 1959, Belgium reversed its stance and allowed the majority Hutu to assume control of the government through universal elections.

The Hutu majority had revolted against the Tutsi but was unable to take power. Since the nation's independence, more extremist Tutsi came to power and oppressed the Hutu people, especially those who were educated. Their actions led to the deaths of up to 200,000 Hutus. In 1993, Burundi's first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye
Melchior Ndadaye
Melchior Ndadaye was a Burundian intellectual and politician. He was the first democratically elected and first Hutu president of Burundi after winning the landmark 1993 election...

, a Hutu, was assassinated by Tutsi officers, as was the person entitled to succeed him under the constitution. This sparked a period of civil strife between Hutu political structures and the Tutsi military, in which an estimated 800,000 Burundians died. Each side conducted indiscriminate mass killings: the Hutu against the Tutsi, and then the Tutsi retaliated against the Hutu. The UN International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi described the first slaughter as genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

, because it was undertaken by the official government.

Since the 2000 Arusha Peace Process, today in Burundi the Tutsi minority shares power in a more or less equitable manner with the Hutu majority. Traditionally, the Tutsi had held more economic power and controlled the military.
A similar patter of events took place in Rwanda, but there the Hutu came to power in 1962. They in turn often oppressed the Tutsi, giving rise to Tutsi rebel movements. This culminated in the Hutu mass killings of Tutsi and Hutu in the Rwandan Genocide
Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate...

 of 1994, in which the Hutu then in power killed an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 people, largely of Tutsi origin. Contemporary to these events in 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Rwandan Patriotic Front
The Rwandan Patriotic Front abbreviated as RPF is the current ruling political party of Rwanda, led by President Paul Kagame. It governs in a coalition with other parties...

, constituted mostly from diasporic Tutsi in Uganda, had begun a strategic move on Rwandan territory from Uganda, where they had acquired significant experience of highly organised irregular warfare in the Ugandan Bush War
Ugandan Bush War
The Ugandan Bush War refers to the guerrilla war waged between 1981 and 1986 in Uganda by the National Resistance Army against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.-Events leading to the war:Following the Uganda-Tanzania War that removed Idi Amin in 1979, a...

. Victorious in the aftermath of the genocide, the RPF came to power in July 1994.

Congolese Tutsi

In the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 (DRC), ethnic Tutsi formerly from 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...

 (Banyarwanda) are concentrated on the Itombwe Plateau of South Kivu, close to the Burundi-Congo-Rwanda border. Use of the term Banyamulenge has been controversial, but since the late 1990s following the Rwanda Genocide, it has been used to refer to all ethnic Tutsi living in North and South Kivu.

Banyarwanda may have migrated from Rwanda as early as the seventeenth century. The first significant migration of Banyarwanda into South Kivu was recorded in the 1880s. Banyarwanda migrants continued to arrive during the colonial period, particularly as labor migrants. In the early 1970s, they began calling themselves Banyamulenge to avoid being called Banyarwanda and seen as foreigners, as they had been settled there with descendants for many generations.

The Banyamulenge have an ambiguous political and social position in the Congo, which has been an issue of contention with other ethnic groups. They played a key role in the run-up to the First Congo War
First Congo War
The First Congo War was a revolution in Zaire that replaced President Mobutu Sésé Seko, a decades-long dictator, with rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Destabilization in eastern Zaire that resulted from the Rwandan genocide was the final factor that caused numerous internal and external actors...

 in 1996-7 and Second Congo War
Second Congo War
The Second Congo War, also known as Coltan War and the Great War of Africa, began in August 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo , and officially ended in July 2003 when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power; however, hostilities continue to this...

of 1998-2003.

External links

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