The country has been inhabited by the ethnic groups hutu (bantu)
and tuas (pygmies) since early times, but in the 15th
century this highland where 2 major African rivers - Congo
and the Nile - originated, invaded by warrior and cattle
people watusi ( Tutsis) who came from Ethiopia.
After subjugating the locals, the Tutsis established a
kingdom whose structures were not altered by German
colonialism that invaded the area in 1897, and
incorporated it into German East Africa, which also
consisted of Burundi and present-day
After the First World War, the area under the name of
Rwanda-Burundi was transferred to Belgium,
which administered it from the Congo (current
Democratic Republic of Congo). Among the 3 groups
living in the area, the Tutsi Warriors came to dominate the
state apparatus. But in 1959, the Hutu peasants revolted
against the Tutsi monarchy. According to
the Hutus were organized in the Hutu's Liberation Movement (Parmehutu).
After a bloody civil war, the Belgian colony
administration decided to retire. Parmehutu won the
UN-supervised elections in 1961, proclaimed the year after
the Republic of Rwanda and broke with neighboring Burundi.
The power structure that accommodated the Tutsi chiefs
was dissolved and the land distributed in private plots.
Yet, they failed to create truly national unity or overcome
the ethnic contradictions. The following year, the Civil War
broke out again. It cost 20,000 lives and resulted in
160,000 Tutsis being thrown out of the country.
Parmehutu lacked ideological foundations and instead
organized the society on the basis of ethnic criteria: the
Tua people (about 40,000) were employed in crafts, the
Tutsis by cattle farming, and ownership of the land was
reserved for the Hutus. This system hardly gave way to human
development, as the capital of Kigali's pity testifies.
President Gregoire Kayibanda spearheaded this development
and cultivated his own plot of land. The consequence was
that the population was self-sufficient in food, but there
was almost no trade.
In the late 1960s, this problem was solved by the
introduction of coffee plants. The coffee plantations had
been burned down in 1959, when (for no reason) they were
perceived as being introduced by the colonial power.
The new development strategy did not solve the country's
economic problems, but instead aggravated the social as a
rural bourgeoisie was developed that
overlaid the ethnic divisions and contradictions and led to
a series of violent uprisings.
Faced with the threat of a new civil war, Colonel Juvenal
Habyarimana overthrew President Kayibanda on July 5, 1973.
Habyarimana had until then been Secretary of Defense. He now
disbanded Parmehutu, imprisoned Kayibanda (who died a short
time later), and initiated diplomatic efforts to reconcile
Rwanda with neighboring countries, but whose relations had
been tense during the "presidential monarchy" of his
The close relations between General Habyarimana,
France and President Mobuto in Zaire (current
Democratic Republic of Congo) caused disagreement within the
ruling party, the revolutionary national movement for
Development. The more progressive sector of the movement
criticized the situation and Habyarimana's liberal politics,
but by the 1980 Congress they were thrown out of the party.
Alexis Kanyarengwe was Minister of Labor and Party
leader. He had to seek asylum in Tanzania
to escape prison. Congress's main resolution stated that the
government's economic project was based on "planned
liberalism." Still, the plan ended up being a
complete opening for foreign investment.