If there are only two ethnic groups or tribes most people have heard of in Africa, the Hutus and Tutsis are probably the ones. And sadly, it’s for all the wrong reasons associated with the horrific Rwandan and Burundi genocides that took place in 1994, that resulted in deaths of an estimated 1-2 million people in a matter of months. This civil war would also spill over to Zaire (now the DR Congo) to become what is now widely known as the “Great African War” or the “African World War”, such was its horrendous death toll involving several African nations and militias and ended in with a death toll approaching 5 million people. But these two tribes and ethnic groups should not – of course – be defined by a comparatively tiny period of their history which was based around a bloody genocide. A few theories exist based on the origins of Hutu and Tutsi origins, but recent theories suggest that the real distinction between Hutu and Tutsi was not racial, but instead became a class or caste division, in which Tutsi herded cattle and Hutu were mainly agricultural farmers. This theory seems to be backed up by the fact that the word “Tutsi” originally meant “a person rich in cattle”. The language that the Hutu and Tutsi’s share is commonly known as Banyarwanda. By around 1700, their were about 8 Hutu and Tutsi kingdoms. One of those Kingdom’s gave rise to the modern day state of Rwanda and was called the Kingdom of Rwanda, who were ruled by a clan called the Nyiginya clan, who were Tutsi. This kingdom became the most dominant kingdom in the 1750’s and spread via military conquest. The king at the time of the kingdom’s dominance was named King Kigeli Rwaburgiri. He created a series of laws collectively called “Ubuhake”, that gave Tutsis a higher social and economic status if they ceded cattle to either Hutu or Tutsi customers, in exchange for economic and personal service, but also a system where Hutu were forced to work for Tutsi chiefs. These changes in laws are unquestionably one of the causes of deeper divisions and disharmony between Hutu and Tutsi people. These divisions and resentments were deepened even further when Germany took control of Rwanda. The Germans believed the Tutsi were superior to Hutus because they believed Tutsis were originally from Ethiopia, and therefore more ‘Caucasian’ than the Hutu and thus racially superior. Therefore, they decided to rule Rwanda through the monarchy. The Belgians eventually took control of Rwanda after World War I but continued to rule Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi in the same way. They governed through the Tutsi monarchy like the Germans before them, but also privatised agricultural collectives belonging to Hutus, making the Tutsi even more powerful over their Hutu kin. Towards the end of the colonial era Belgium did modernise the country with infrastructure, public health and education projects, but the Tutsi supremacy over the disenfranchised Hutu remained and became even worse as the Hutu essentially became slaves indentured into large scale forced labour. After World War II, an emancipation movemnet was growing within the Hutu community in Rwanda, and the Catholic Church sympathised with the Hutu in this matter. They gave more education to Hutu people and gave them prominent positions within the church. In response, the outraged Tutsi monarchy and elite demanded independence from the Hutu, as they saw the Hutu becoming more equal and threatening to their power base. In 1957, the Hutu wrote a manifesto called the “Bahutu Manifesto” that was the first written document to distinguish the Tutsi and Hutu as two separate races. It also demanded that Tutsis transfer power to Hutus. In 1959, things began to really turn violent between the Tutsi and Hutu, with attacks and reprisal attacks occurring between the two groups. By this stage, the Catholic Church and the Belgian Colonial government supported the Hutu and wanted to overturn Tutsi dominance in both Rwanda and Burundi. By the 1960s, the Belgians forcibly replaced the Tutsi chiefs with Hutu chiefs and organised an election where the results called for a Hutu dominated republic to be created. This lead rapidly to the Rwandan Revolution and the country became independent in 1962. With the Hutu essentially reduced to the status of slaves for the past century, now that they were in power they began a series of bloody purges against the Tutsi. Years of oppression had now come out as rage and genocide. Tutsis fled the country to escape these purges, into the neighbouring nations of Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire. They were given refugee-status by these nations, and in their exile were determined to return to their native Rwanda. They formed armed militias know as Inyenzi (“Cockroaches”) who started to launch attacks into Rwanda. However, these were unsuccessful, and simply led to more bloodshed with revenge killings against Tutsi and Tutsi refugees by the Hutu. By 1964, an estimated 300,000 Tutsi had fled Rwanda and remained in exile for the next 3 decades. Meanwhile, the Hutu continued to marginalise and persecute Tutsi in Rwanda itself. During the next three decades the population of Rwanda would increase dramatically from 1.6 million to 7.5 million by 1991, which lead to increased competition for land (with Rwanda having the highest population density in Africa). This was also a triggering factor for the horrific genocide that would occur in 1994, a few years later. The Rwanda Civil War started in October of 1990, when a force of 4,000 Tutsi rebels – called the ‘Rwanda Patriotic Front’ (RPF) – from Uganda planned to invade Rwanda, however France and Zaire intervened and supported the Rwanda government and repelled the invasion within days. The RPF retreated through Uganda and into the northern mountains of Rwanda. From there, they rearmed and re-organised their militia and turned to the Tutsi diaspora to increase recruitment and build an even stronger army, built on the rage the Tutsi felt of being exiles for over three decades. The RPF began a series of hit and run attacks against Rwanda border towns and by 1993 the Rwandan government agreed to peacetalks. However, these broke down quickly due to numerous Hutu extremist groups forming militias of their own and launching attacks against the RPF. Peacetalks did eventually start again after the attacks subsided, and a UN peacekeeping force was sent in when a fragile peace agreement was agreed upon between the RPF and the Rwandan government. However, this was not to last. A movement called the Hutu Power Movement became a major political and ideological force throughout Rwanda, that was far right-wing and had several militias supporting it. These militias started to massacre Tutsi populations, and the Hutu dominated Rwandan government actively supported these massacres. This escalated to a boiling point in 1993, when members in the Rwandan government and the Hutu Power militias planned a genocide against all Tutsi people in Rwanda. A “final solution” type scenario. The Power groups began taking over media stations and stirring up racial hatred of Tutsis, and machetes were imported into the country in their millions. These machetes were handed out to the Hutu populations as weapons. In October, the Hutu president of Burundi was assassinated by Tutsi extremists, which lead to even more fear and hatred towards Tutsis. The Power movement used this opportunity to finally carry out their idea of a “final solution” against the Tutsi, exploiting the Hutu anger of this assassination. The Power leadership began arming the Hutu militias with AK-47s and other heavy weapons. The nation then descended into a grim civil war. Killings spread throughout major cities and towns in Rwanda on April 7th 1994. During April and May, militias aided by the local populations (armed with machetes) continued the genocide and mass killings at an alarming rate. It is estimated up to 800,000 Rwandans were murdered during this short period alone. The goal was to kill every Tutsi living in Rwanda, with no exceptions even for babies. The genocide only ended when the RPF took control of Kigali, on the 4th of July, and were in control of the country, with a small French-led UN force in south-west Rwanda, who had unfortunately arrived far too late to stop any of the killings. The genocide was over. However, their were now two million Hutu refugees who fled into Zaire, and a total death toll estimated to be between 1.2-2 million people, within just 100 days, which equates to between 7-10 people every minute. A terrifying statistic. The aftermath also led to a chain of events which caused the “Great African War” and the break up of Zaire into the Democratic Republic of Congo, while domestically Rwanda only finished the long process of trialling potential murders, war-criminals and conspirators in 2012. It is also thought that around 300,000 Rwandans are now left with HIV, due to militias using rape as a ‘weapon of war’. The United Nations reputation was also severely tarnished due their inaction in preventing the genocide: In fact, many U.N soldiers saw brutal acts of mass murders right in front of them, but were ordered not to intervene unless attacked first. The U.S were also heavily criticised because they knew about the plans for a genocide, but did not want to intervene because of heavily publicised failed interventions in Somalia that lead to the deaths of several US soldiers. The genocide is also a dark testament to how colonial interference still leads to problems in the global African community to this very day, and it remains one of the most horrific atrocities in human history. Sadly, the relationship between Hutu and Tutsis has almost always been one of conflict, with one group oppressing the other in periodic cycles. This was greatly magnified and made even worse under colonialism, and when colonial powers did eventually pull out and leave Africa, the resentment between both tribes had become so fierce that it eventually led to the genocide in Rwanda, which then caused the spark that caused the “African World War”, and even had an impact on the world stage, with the United Nation’s reputation heavily tarnished by the horrific tragedy.