Rwanda: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Rwanda, the hatred between Hutu and Tutsi tribes, the culture, government and ballet.



Batutsi (members of the Tutsi tribe; a single tribesman is called a Watutsi): These people are extraordinarily tall (many over 6'6" in height), slim, and very handsome. Four hundred years of absolute rule (in an 18-generation dynasty) has made them proud, sophisticated, and not particularly strong-looking. They are, however, arrogant and powerful warriors.

The Batutsi have always been seminomadic cattlemen. At home they are exotic, aristocratic, and elegant; they are extremely graceful, and their facial features are delicate. The women bind the heads of infant females to accentuate the elongation of their heads.

Bahutu (members of the Hutu tribe): Peasant farmers, indigenous to the region, these tribespeople have for centuries been oppressed by the Batutsi. The Bahutu are, by comparison, short and coarse-featured and unsophisticated. They are a Bantu people.

Batwa: Pygmies of the Twa tribe, they are dying out in Africa. They have always inhabited dense tropical forests, hunting and finding nuts and berries to live on.

The deep and abiding hatred which has grown between the Bahutu and Batutsi over the centuries has, in the last 2 decades, erupted continually into massacres, tribal wars, and genocide. The recent wars began in 1959, when the Bahutu finally rebelled against the Tutsi tribe. Encouraged and armed by the Belgians, the Bahutu had the advantage in numbers as well as in weaponry. They slaughtered their former overlords, who fought back with bows and arrows, knives and swords. Five thousand Batutsi were killed and hundreds of thousands wounded; finally they fled--150,000, plus the Mwami (King) Kigeri V, to Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Zaire.

With independence in 1962, the Tutsi monarchy was officially abolished; the Batutsi did not give up, though. Armed at the borders for an invasion, the Batutsi attacked and murdered the Bahutu in the night, bands of them running into the country after dark, ravaging and torturing the Hutu villagers. These Tutsi bands were called inyenzi, the Swahili word for cockroach. Finally, in 1963, the inyenzi staged a full-force attack, invading from 3 borders and engaging in bloody battle with the Hutus. The Hutus, still more powerful in numbers and machinery, massacred thousands of the invading Batutsi. Encouraged by their easy victory over the people who had oppressed them for centuries, the Bahutu went on to perform a systematic mass murder--actually genocide--against the Batutsi.

The surviving Batutsi went into exile again, and the Mwami set up a government-in-exile outside Rwanda. Ten years later, in 1973, militant Bahutus, not content with the Batutsi suppression, forced private employers to dismiss Batutsi employees, and forced Batutsi students to quit the University of Rwanda (the 175 Tutsis made up half of the school's total enrollment). A fresh massacre took the lives of 750 to 3,000 Batutsis.

Meanwhile, thousands of exiled Batutsis are encamped along the borders of their homeland. They are being armed and trained in guerrilla warfare by the communist Chinese, and the young Batutsis are pursuing their educations abroad, preparing themselves for leadership, in the hope of reclaiming Rwanda as a Tutsi Kingdom.

The Royal Ballet: For centuries, the sons and proteges of chieftains and notables of the Tutsi aristocracy have been trained to fill the posts of the elite court dancers. All 6'6" to 7' tall, the dancers are magnificently trained, and learn to control the very details of facial expression as part of their graceful, acrobatic dance. One popular dancer in the 1950s was Butera who was famous for his stature--7'5" and 300 lbs.--and so well-loved for his high jumping that his portrait appeared for a time on local banknotes.

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