Today, Rwanda, with the densest population in Africa, struggles to bring more prosperity to its approximately 9 million people by attracting investments, promoting tourism and boosting its agricultural output.
-- and this distinction is most commonly used in connection with the Rwandan civil war or the genocide in 1994. However, the Rwandan people have historically belonged, using common culture and language as criteria, to one ethnic group called Banyarwanda (people of Rwanda).5 Dr. Anastase Shyaka, a professor at the University of Rwanda writes that prior to European colonization, all the Hutus, Tutsis and Twas were united and swore allegiance to one monarch, "Umwami". Further cementing this bond were the myths and folktales and clan-based identity, in which every Rwandan would trace his genealogy to one ancestor, called "Kanyarwanda". While the first king of Rwanda in the 15th century was identified as a Tutsi - the ethnic identity as explained by Prof. Shaka was more in connection with certain economic activities, and a Tutsi could lose his "Tutsiness" and become a Hutu and be deprived of his possessions. Therefore, the distinction was more economic and social, rather than strictly genetic - a fact boosted by subsequent intermarriages, making the genetic basis moot and academic. All of Rwandans currently speak the same language (Kinyarwanda), and most are Christians (majority of whom are Catholic), with a sprinkling of Muslims.
Prior to the coming of European colonizers (first the Germans in 1894 and the Belgians in 1917), Rwanda was under a monarchy and its society was cohesive and stable. Political power was vested i the King who was in turn recognized and respected as protective of the interests of the citizens of Rwanda.6 To ensure checks and balances, three or four ministers were in-charge of different spheres of economic activity - for pasture, agriculture and hunting.7 When the Belgians ruled Rwanda, the political culture built on trust of the monarchical power to ensure fairness and equality was destroyed. Instead of three or four chiefs to oversee the different areas of livelihood, a single chief was installed, bringing the socio-economic foundation in service to the interests of the colonizers and its appointed rulers, while introducing forced labor.8 In 1935, the Belgian Colonial Administration issued identification cards clearly categorizing Rwandans as "Hutu", "Tutsi" and "Twa" on the basis on the number of heads of cattle they owned, with Tutsis classified as those with 10 or more cows. From then on, Rwandans came to see that their ethnicity is linked to opportunities for jobs and positions of power - as if identity comes first and was the primary factor over and above legitimate efforts to achieve success in society. That ethnicity became the crux of achieving or