The Republic of Rwanda (Repubulika y’u Rwanda in Kinyarwanda, or République du Rwanda in French), is a sovereign state in Central and East Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland after Gambia, Swaziland, and Djibouti. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year.
The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda, although within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people descended from Rwanda’s earliest inhabitants. Scholars disagree on the origins of and differences between the Hutu and Tutsi; some believe differences are derived from former social castes within a single people, while others believe the Hutu and Tutsi arrived in the country separately, and from different locations.
Christianity is the largest religion in the country; the principal language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by most Rwandans, with English and French serving as official languages. Rwanda has a presidential system of government. The president is Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who took office in 2000. Rwanda today has low corruption compared with neighboring countries, although human rights organizations report suppression of opposition groups, intimidation and restrictions on freedom of speech. The country has been governed by an ordered administrative hierarchy since pre-colonial times; there are five provinces delineated by borders drawn in 2006. Rwanda is one of only two countries with a female majority in the national parliament.
Hunter gatherers settled the territory in the stone and iron ages, followed later by Bantu peoples. The population coalesced first into clans and then into kingdoms. The Kingdom of Rwanda dominated from the mid-eighteenth century, with the Tutsi kings conquering others militarily, centralizing power and later enacting anti-Hutu policies. Germany colonized Rwanda in 1884 as part of German East Africa, followed by Belgium, which invaded in 1916 during the First World War. Both European nations ruled through the kings and perpetuated a pro-Tutsi policy. The Hutu population revolted in 1959. They massacred numerous Tutsi and ultimately established an independent, Hutu-dominated state in 1962. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front launched a civil war in 1990. Social tensions erupted in the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to 1.3 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The RPF ended the genocide with a military victory.
Rwanda’s economy suffered heavily during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, but has since strengthened. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely, and visitors pay for gorilla tracking permits. Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture, particularly drums and the highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country.
Modern human settlement of what is now Rwanda dates from, at the latest, the last glacial period, either in the Neolithic period around 8000 BC, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter gatherers in the late stone age, followed by a larger population of early Iron Age settlers, who produced dimpled pottery and iron tools. These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, aboriginal pygmy hunter-gatherers who remain in Rwanda today. Between 700 BC and 1500 AD, a number of Bantu groups migrated into Rwanda, clearing forest land for agriculture. The forest-dwelling Twa lost much of their habitat and moved to the mountain slopes. Historians have several theories regarding the nature of the Bantu migrations; one theory is that the first settlers were Hutu, while the Tutsi migrated later to form a distinct racial group, possibly of Nilo-hamitic origin. An alternative theory is that the migration was slow and steady, with incoming groups integrating into rather than conquering the existing society. Under this theory, the Hutu and Tutsi distinction arose later and was a class distinction rather than a racial one.
The earliest form of social organization in the area was the clan (ubwoko). The clans were not limited to genealogical lineages or geographical area, and most included Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. From the fifteenth century, the clans began to coalesce into kingdoms; by 1700, around eight kingdoms existed in present-day Rwanda. One of these, the Kingdom of Rwanda, ruled by the Tutsi Nyiginya clan, became increasingly dominant from the mid-eighteenth century. The kingdom reached its greatest extent during the nineteenth century under the reign of King Kigeli Rwabugiri. Rwabugiri conquered several smaller states, expanded the kingdom west and north, and initiated administrative reforms; these included ubuhake, in which Tutsi patrons ceded cattle, and therefore privileged status, to Hutu or Tutsi clients in exchange for economic and personal service, and uburetwa, a corvée system in which Hutu were forced to work for Tutsi chiefs. Rwabugiri’s changes caused a rift to grow between the Hutu and Tutsi populations. The Twa were better off than in pre-Kingdom days, with some becoming dancers in the royal court, but their numbers continued to decline.
The Berlin Conference of 1884 assigned the territory to Germany as part of German East Africa, marking the beginning of the colonial era. The explorer Gustav Adolf von Götzen was the first European to significantly explore the country in 1894; he crossed from the south-east to Lake Kivu and met the king. The Germans did not significantly alter the social structure of the country, but exerted influence by supporting the king and the existing hierarchy and delegating power to local chiefs.
Belgian forces took control of Rwanda and Burundi in 1916, during World War I, beginning a period of more direct colonial rule. Belgium ruled both Rwanda and Burundi as a League of Nations ‘mandate’ called Ruanda-Urundi; the Belgians also simplified and centralized the power structure, and introduced large-scale projects in education, health, public works, and agricultural supervision, including new crops and improved agricultural techniques to try to reduce the incidence of famine. Both the Germans and the Belgians promoted Tutsi supremacy, considering the Hutu and Tutsi different races. In 1935, Belgium introduced identity cards labelling each individual as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or Naturalised. While it had previously been possible for particularly wealthy Hutu to become honorary Tutsi, the identity cards prevented any further movement between the classes.
Belgium continued to rule Ruanda-Urundi (of which Rwanda formed the northern part) as a United Nations Trust Territory after the Second World War, with a mandate to oversee eventual independence. Tension escalated between the Tutsi, who favored early independence, and the Hutu emancipation movement, culminating in the 1959 Rwandan Revolution: Hutu activists began killing Tutsi as well as moderate Hutus, forcing more than 100,000 people to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1961, the suddenly pro-Hutu Belgians held a referendum in which the country voted to abolish the monarchy.
Rwanda was separated from Burundi and gained independence on July 1, 1962. Cycles of violence followed, with exiled Tutsi attacking from neighboring countries and the Hutu retaliating with large-scale slaughter and repression of the Tutsi. In 1973, Juvénal Habyarimana took power in a military coup. Pro-Hutu discrimination continued, but there was greater economic prosperity and a reduced amount of violence against Tutsi. The Twa remained marginalized, and by 1990 were almost entirely forced out of the forests by the government; many became beggars. Rwanda’s population had increased from 1.6 million people in 1934 to 7.1 million in 1989, leading to competition for land.
On October 1, 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed of nearly 500,000 Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from their base in Uganda, initiating the Rwandan Civil War. The group condemned the Hutu-dominated government for failing to democratize and confront the problems facing these refugees. Neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage in the war, but by 1992 it had weakened Habyarimana’s authority; mass demonstrations forced him into a coalition with the domestic opposition and eventually to sign the 1993 Arusha Accords with the RPF. The cease-fire ended on April 6, 1994, when Habyarimana’s plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing him. The shooting down of the plane served as the catalyst for the Rwandan Genocide, which began within a few hours. Over the course of approximately 100 days, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in well-planned attacks on the orders of the interim government. Many Twa were also killed, despite not being directly targeted.
The Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive, and took control of the country methodically, gaining control of the whole country by mid-July. The international response to the genocide was limited, with major powers reluctant to strengthen the already overstretched United Nations peacekeeping force. When the RPF took over, approximately two million Hutu fled to neighboring countries, in particular Zaïre, fearing reprisals; additionally, the RPF-led army was a key belligerent in the First and Second Congo Wars. Within Rwanda, a period of reconciliation and justice began, with the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the reintroduction of Gacaca, a traditional village court system. Since 2000 Rwanda’s economy, tourist numbers, and Human Development Index have grown rapidly; between 2006 and 2011 the poverty rate reduced from 57% to 45%, while life expectancy rose from 46.6 years in 2000 to 59.7 years in 2015.
The first stamps of independent Rwanda were issued on July 1, 1962, a set of eight marking independence (Scott #1-8). Scott #551 was released on September 15, 1973, featuring an overprint in silver to mark African Weeks, held in Brussels, Belgium, from September 15-30, 1973, applied to the previously-issued Scott #399. This had been released on February 15, 1970, as part of a set of eight stamps featuring African headdresses. The 30 centimes denomination, lithographed and perforated 13, features a young Toubou woman.
The Toubou or Tubu (from Old Tebu, meaning “Rock People”) are an ethnic group inhabiting northern Chad, southern Libya, northeastern Niger and northwestern Sudan. The Toubou people have historically lived in northern Chad, northwestern Niger and southern Libya. They are distributed across a large area in the central Sahara, as well as the north-central Sahel. They are particularly found north of the Tibesti mountains, which in Old Tebu means “Rocky Mountains.” Their name is derived from this. The Toubou people have sometimes been called the “black nomads of the Sahara”. They speak the Tebu languages, from the Saharan branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family.
The Toubou number approximately 725,000 and are Muslims. They live either as herders and nomads, or as farmers near oases. Their society is clan-based, with each clan having certain oases, pastures and wells.
Toubou life centers on raising and herding their livestock, or on farming the scattered oases where they cultivate dates and grain and legumes. Their herds include dromedaries, goats, cattle, donkeys and sheep. The livestock is a major part of their wealth, and they trade the animals. The livestock is also used as a part of dowry payment during marriage, either as one where the groom’s family agrees to pay to the bride’s family in exchange for the bride, or, states Catherine Baroin, it is given by the bride’s kin to supply the young couple with economical resources in order to start a family.
In a few places, the Toubou also mine salt and natron, a salt like substance which is essential in nearly all components of Toubou life from medicinal purposes, as a mixture in chewing tobacco, preservation, tanning, soap production, textiles and for livestock. Literacy rates among the Toubou is quite low.
As nomadic pastoralists, many Toubou move. Those who prefer a settled life, typically live in palm-thatched, rectangular or cylindrical mud houses. The Toubou are patrilineal, with an elder male heading the lineage. After the family, a Toubou belongs to the clan.
According to Jean Chapelle, a professor of History specializing on Chadian ethnic groups, the clan system developed out of necessity. Nomadic life means being scattered throughout a region; therefore, belonging to a clan means that the individual is likely to find hospitable clan people in most settlements or camps of any size. A second factor is the maintenance of ties with the maternal clan. Although the maternal clan does not occupy the central place of the parental clan, it provides ties. The third factor is protective relationships at the primary residence.
Despite shared linguistic heritage, few institutions among the Toubou generate a broader sense of identity than the clan. Regional divisions do exist, however. During the colonial period (and since independence in 1960), Chadian administrations have conferred legality and legitimacy on these regional groupings by dividing the Toubou and Daza regions into corresponding territorial units called cantons and appointing chiefs to administer them.
Toubou legal customs are generally based on Islamic law, that allows restitution and revenge. Murder, for example, is settled directly between the families of the victim and the murderer. Toubou honor requires that someone from the victim’s family try to kill the murderer or a relative; such efforts eventually end with negotiations to settle the matter. Reconciliation follows the payment of the Goroga (Islamic tenet of Diyya), or blood money. Among the Tomagra clan of the Teda people in the Tibesti region, there is a derde (spiritual head). He is recognized as the clan judge, who arbitrates conflict and levies sanctions.
The Toubou people, states Jean Chapelle, have been socially stratified with an embedded caste system. The three strata have consisted of the freemen with a right to own property, the artisanal castes and the slaves.
The endogamous caste of Azza (or Aza) among Toubou have the artisanal occupations, such as metal work, leather work, salt mining, well digging, dates farming, pottery and tailoring, and they have traditionally been despised and segregated by other strata of the Toubou, much like the Hadahid caste in southeastern Chad among the Zaghawa people. According to Paul Lovejoy – a professor of African History, the nineteenth century records show that these segregated Toubou castes followed the same customs and traditions as the rest of the Toubou, but they were independent in their politics and beliefs, much like the artisan castes found in many ethnic groups of eastern Chad such as Kanembu, Yedina, Arab, Kouri and Danawa peoples.
Marriage between a member of the blacksmith caste and a member from a different strata of the Toubou people has been culturally unacceptable. The language used by the Azza people is a variant of the Tebu language, but mutually intelligible.
The strata locally called Agarah were the slaves. The slaves entered the Toubou society from raids and warfare on other ethnic groups in lands to their south, they were the property of their masters, were endogamous and their status was inherited by birth.
The Toubou culture forbids marriage between first cousins that is common in many Muslim ethnic groups in Africa. A man may marry and have multiple wives according to Islamic tenets, the prevalence of this practice is moderate.
The ownership of land, animals, and resources takes several forms. Within an oasis or settled zone belonging to a particular clan, land, trees (usually date palms), and nearby wells may have different owners. Each family’s rights to the use of particular plots of land are recognized by other clan members. Families also may have privileged access to certain wells and the right to a part of the harvest from the fields irrigated by their water. Within the clan and family contexts, individuals also may have personal claims to palm trees and animals.