Kingdom of Rwanda

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Kingdom of Rwanda
Ubwami bw'u Rwanda  (Kinyarwanda)
Royaume du Rwanda  (French)
Independent kingdom (?–1885)
Component of German East Africa (1885–1916)
Component of Ruanda-Urundi (1916–1962)


11th century–1962
Flag Coat of arms
Capital Nyanza
Languages Kinyarwanda, French, German (official from 1885-1916)
Government Monarchy
 •  1081 – 1114 Gihanga (1st Dyn.) (first)
 •  1959–1961 Kigeli V (3rd Dyn.) (last)
 •  Autonomy from Belgium July 25, 1959
 •  Republic declared July 1, 1962

The Kingdom of Rwanda was founded 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. Rwanda became a republic following a coup d'état and the 1961 referendum.


In the 15th century, one chiefdom managed to incorporate several of its close neighbor territories establishing the Kingdom of Rwanda after disintegration of the Bunyoro-Kitara Empire, which ruled over most of what is now considered Rwanda and surrounding 10 Kingdoms. The Hutu majority, 82–85% of the population, were mostly peasants while the kings, known as Mwamis, were generally from Tutsi. Certainly some Hutus were nobility and, equally, considerable intermingling took place.

Before the 19th century, it was believed that the Tutsis held military leadership power while the Hutus possessed healing power and agricultural skills.[1][2] 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 had become 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, 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-like status with Tutsi chiefs as their feudal masters.[3]

Under Mwami Rwabugiri, Rwanda became an expansionist 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, distinctions. In fact, one could kwihutura, or “shed Hutuness”, by accumulating wealth and rising through the social hierarchy.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mamdani 2001, 62. Mandani recounts a historical narrative indicating the importance of a Hutu diviner in the formation of the Rwandan state.
  2. ^ Manus I. Midlarsky, "The Killing Trap" (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p.162.
  3. ^ citation could be pg. 12, 13, 14 of Re-Imagining Rwanda: Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in the Late Twentieth Century, by Johan Pottier. published by Cambridge University in 2002

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