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German Colonization

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1899 - 1916

"German colonialists arrived in Rwanda [in 1897]." Soon Germany had put up a "pliant government . . . Rwanda put up far less resistance than Burundi to German rule." At first, Germany was relied completely "on the indigenous government."
"During this period many Europeans had become obsessed with the study of race, and this had an impact on life in Rwanda. To the Germans, the Tutsi ruling class was a superior racial type who . . . were more 'white' than the Hutus they oppressed, and thus the Tutsi oppression of the Hutus seemed somehow normal and expected . . .
"Before the colonial period . . . the majority of the ruling [class] were Tutsi. [However,] a significant minority of the political elite were Hutu . . . Europeans simplified this arrangement and decided that the . . . Tutsi were racially superior and should thus make up the entire ruling class, while the inferior Bantu Hutu should become a permanent underclass."
Although the Germans wanted to strengthen and support Tutsi rule in Rwanda, they ended up weakening it just by their mere presence in the region. "For instance, Tutsi power weakened through the exposure of Rwanda to capitalist European forces. Money came to be seen by many Hutus as a replacement for cattle, in terms of both economic prosperity and for purposes of creating social standing. Another way in which Tutsi power was weakened by Germany was through the introduction of the head-tax on all Rwandans. As some Tutsis had feared, the introduction of this tax also made the Hutus feel less bonded to the will of their Tutsi patrons and more dependent of the European foreigners, any head-tax necessarily implying equality between any of those heads being counted - whether Hutu or Tutsi. Thus, despite Germany's attempt to uphold traditional Tutsi domination of the Hutus, the Hutus were now getting a slight taste of autonomy from Tutsi rule." (History of Rwanda)


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Its Colonial Past and Independent Present