Tutsi, Hutu, and Hima

Tutsi, Hutu and Hima — Cultural Background in Rwanda
Orville Boyd Jenkins
T he original version of this article was written in the wake of the terrible ethnic cleansing massacres in Rwanda in 1994. Similar events have occurred more recently involving the same ethnic animosities, with Tutsi-Hima ethnic groups in the series of civil war in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). For months, the shocking events in Rwanda have been daily on our TV screens, on our minds and in our prayers. How does such a thing happen? The news tells us there are two tribes who dislike each other, but how and why did this come about? What is happening in Rwanda illustrates a constant problem of cultural identity throughout the history of humanity and across the geography of the world. Hutu and Tutsi
The shorter Hutu people were earlier inhabitants of the area now known as Rwanda and Burundi. They spoke a Bantu language, related to the others still known as Bantu, spoken over about two thirds of Africa south of the Sahara and by about two-thirds of the people groups. In the 1300s, a tall, thin Cushite people migrated into the area from the southern highlands of Ethiopia, coming as conquerors.
They came originally speaking a language related to Somali and Oromo. The Cushite descendants are known today by the name Tutsi.The Tutsis were cattle-herding warriors, similar in culture to the famous Maasai, but from a different racial stock. They brought with them humpless cattle, new to the area. The Bantu people were farmers and fishers, though they also kept the Zebu cattle popular all over Africa, and common among the Bantu peoples.The Cushite conquerors gradually settled into the local culture, adopted the local Bantu language, and merged generally with the Bantu Hutu. The language was changed, however, due to the culture and language of the conquerors, and it is through the many Cushite words and cultural indicators that much of the history has been clarified.Hima
The name Hima is also associated with the Tutsis, and with regions in Western Tanzania and Southern. There are still groups of people called Hima in the region. Some students of history find the Hima name associated with another invading group of warrior-herders.
This group, called the Bacwezi (pronounced Bachwezi) in legends, seems to have originally come from Nilotic stock, migrating down the Nile River to the Lakes region. The name Hima is found in Ankole, Uganda, formerly a Bacwezi kingdom.Over the centuries, the cultural and social situation of the Bacwezi and the Tutsi became similar and their associations grew. It appears they can be considered as one social group across the various languages and peoples of the region.The sub-group of Tutsi in southern Burundi are called Hima, while the northern group are called Ruguru (Banyaruguru). The Tutsi in Uganda (refugees from earlier troubles in Burundi and Rwanda) are called Hima.The languages of Burundi and Rwanda are linguistically considered dialects of the same language. They are much closer than Portuguese is to Spanish, a bit more different than British and North American English. People in the neighboring areas speak related, but more distant, languages. These include Ha in Tanzania, Ganda and Kiga (Chiga, Ciga or Kyiga) in Uganda. The people who still call themselves Hima speak the Bantu language, but call it Hima.Social History
Some sources have pointed out that these various peoples of diverse origin had lived together for centuries and that the conflicts between the classes or tribes known by the names “Tutsi” and “Hutu” have been fostered by the colonial powers, who ruled through a local elite. Some claim the colonial approach actually created the social or tribal distinction between “Hutu” and “Tutsi.”
One correspondent wrote me on this question. Hima Beekha sent me an email indicating that she is a Hima/Tutsi, and gives some insights into the meaning of some of these terms. Hima says, “In my language tusi means ‘jungle’ or ‘bush’.” He informs us further, “hima means ‘to tell something,’ or ‘the one who tells something’.” She says the verb form nahimi (from the verb root hima) means “tell me.”Hima finally tells us, “According to my tradition or culture, if I am born in the bush, my name become tusi.” This cultural insight may help us in determing the roots of the social distinctions that have now led to the two antagonistic social or racial (tribal) gorupings in the region.Tutsi Dominance
In Rwanda and Burundi the Tutsis have maintained their dominance over the centuries, even though they are in the minority. Though the language and culture of the Hutus and Tutsis merged into one, the Tutsis continued to maintain their separate autocratic identity, much like the Anglo-Norman nobility in Britain.
They remained distinct in physical features, names and other minor markers. They systematically maintained the social and political distinction. Twa Pygmies
We should not forget one further cultural factor. About 1% of each country are Twa pygmies, possibly descendants of Khoisan peoples who originally spoke a “click language” related to the Bushman languages of Southern Africa. They are thought to be even earlier inhabitants of the area, before even the Bantu settled in the lakes region. The Twa all now speak a form of the same Bantu language.
Separate Mixed Kingdoms
Burundi and Rwanda had already become separate Tutsi kingdoms before European occupation as the Tutsi-Hima empire broke up. The Tutsis were a minority in both territories, and currently make up about 15% of the Burundi population and about 9% in Rwanda.
The Tutsis and Hutus had intermarried considerably, even with the tribal class distinctions. Some Tutsis have more Bantu features than the “pure” Tutsis. But the Tutsis have commonly been referred to as “the tall ones” and the Hutus “the short ones.”The Colonial Era
Animosity between the “indigenous” people and the Tutsis increased due to the German, then the Belgian, colonial pattern of indirect rule. The colonials chose the Tutsi minority as their ruling class under the suzerainty of the Belgian Empire.
Under German colonial domination from 1890, Germany first occupied what is now Burundi until the end of World War 1, when Burundi and Rwanda were joined by the League of Nations under Belgian administration as Rwanda-Urundi.Initially Belgian indirect rule supported Tutsi power, but tension built between the two tribes. Clashes have broken out periodically in both countries. The Tutsis have remained dominant in military and politics in Burundi, though recently Hutus have been brought into the government. Massacres
Periodically massacres break out from one side or the other, in both Burundi and Rwanda, indicating the underlying racial and social resentment and distinctions between the two ethnic groups.
In Rwanda the Hutus rebelled in 1959, forcing the Belgians to abolish the Tutsi monarchy in 1961. This led to re-grouping by the Tutsis. By the current times, about 1 million Tutsi exiles lived outside the country. These were the base for the new Tutsi-led invasion force.Ethnic Prejudice and Pride
Political details are not our primary focus here. This illustrates how ethno-centric tendencies can become deadly for everybody. This is the probably the worst historical expression of such evil and destructive self-interest.
But this is the same problem encountered to various degrees between ethnic peoples all over the world. These people speak the same language, have basically the same culture have lived together and intermarried for centuries. Yet they still hate each other just beneath the surface because they originally came from different places and races!Prejudice and pride are destructive forces. Understanding this from the outside does not change what has happened, and does not even help a lot in dealing with the tragedy leaving a wake of hundreds of thousands dead and millions homeless or orphaned.It also illustrates how strong such ethnic identity is. It points up the importance of understanding how a people identify themselves. It is too easy to ignore ethnic self-identity and cover up local dynamics by imposing foreign perspectives as the working model. Local cognitive and social worldview must be understood in order for outsiders to be of help or influence.A Gospel Reflection
But reflecting on this affirms, in my opinion, that ethnic pride and prejudice are evils incompatible with Christian values. It further presents the challenge to all peoples to find that original unity in the redeeming, uniting vision of the New Humanity in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2).
How Tutsi Empire 
Myth Poisoned Great Lakes

Genocide suspects at Gisenyi prison in Rwanda.

By NDAHIRO TOM Vitriolic propaganda against Tutsis and the so-called “Hamitics of the Great Lakes region” had started long before the genocide of 1994. After the outbreak of the Rwanda civil war in October 1990, the planners and perpetrators of genocide moved to consolidate regional alliances. The manipulated clich of Hutu/Bantu was used in government propaganda. Tanzania‘s reaction to this call was evidence that the genocidaires’ propaganda was not without effect. The March 1991 edition of a Tanzanian newspaper, The Family Mirror, published “a sponsored feature” by the Rwanda embassy in Dar es Salaam. Its title was “The Whole Truth on the October 1990 War,” and it claimed to be a response to “requests for more information on the war imposed upon Rwanda by aggressors from Uganda Armed Forces.” Unfortunately, the paper’s gullible editors became agents of hate propaganda fed to innocent readers. The “sponsored feature” was a reproduction of a pamphlet of February 1991, authored by Leon Mugesera – now a fugitive from justice in Canada, then an “ideologue” working with the ruling party MRND and the Ministry for the Family and Promotion of Women. The accusations contained in the article made Mugesera sound like a man ranting in front of a mirror. Mugesera referred to the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) as aggressors who feared neither God nor man, butchers of civilians, people who took drugs and destroyed the environment. The true motives of the “aggressors,” the article alleged, was to “restore the dictatorship of the extremists of the Tutsi minority which would subsequently pave way for a genocide and the extermination of the Hutu majority– and set up an extended Hima-Tutsi kingdom in the Great Lakes Region– It should be recalled that in identification with the Aryan race– [the RPF] use the swastika of Hitler as their symbol,” he asserted.  Burundi and the region of Kivu in the former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) were the next targets of the “Tutsi-Hima Empire” propaganda. Testimony to that is the following notice at the border crossing from the southwestern Rwanda town of Cyangugu to Bukavu in Zaire seen by a British journalist. “Attention, Zaireans and Bantu people! The Tutsi assassins are out to exterminate us. For centuries the ungrateful and unmerciful Tutsi have used their powers, daughters and corruption to subject the Bantu. But we know the Tutsi, that race of vipers, drinkers of untrue blood. We will never allow them to fulfil their dreams in Kivuland.” [Leslie Crawford, “Hutus See France as Their Saviour,” Financial Times, June 27, 1994)]. This was an early warning of what was about to happen in Zaire. In enabling the majority of the genocidaires to escape across the border into Kivu and there regroup, the French government’s “Operation Turquoise,” with a mandate from the United Nations, appeared to anticipate this outcome. The government of France, even before “Operation Turquoise”, supported the regime that committed the genocide to “protect the French language” in a friendly Francophone country.  Sylvie Brunel told the 18th Franco-African meeting, held in Biarritz, France, that the country “continued to support and to arm President Habyarimana in Rwanda up until the current explosion [the genocide]– and this is why we say that France is guilty of genocide and of complicity in genocide.” [Howard W. French: “Tense Times for France-Africa Ties,” New York Times, November 9, 1994)].  France‘s protection and support to the perpetrators of genocide allowed them to develop it into a crime without borders in the Great Lakes Region. There followed pre-meditated killings and expulsions of perceived Tutsi citizens of Zaire from their homes while the killers from Rwanda looted their property. All this was done before the eyes of government officials and the army, which should have protected the victims but instead embraced the imported bigotry. As early as 1995, genocidal propaganda was alive in eastern Zaire. An article entitled “Zaire Threatened by Territorial Break-up: The Creation of a Tutsi-Hima Empire Looking Ever More Likely” was published in the Forum des As, No 511, September 1995. Another publication, Tufikiri, of October 2, 1996, repeated a version of Kangura‘s “Ten Hutu Commandments” (See Part2 Magazine, The EastAfrican, April 1-7.) For those who remained sceptical of the evil intentions of the Tutsi, the paper said, “Posters expressing the ethnic hatred felt by other tribes for the Tutsi, carried by demonstrators in marches organised recently in Southern Kivu, provide additional convincing evidence. Posters carrying slogans such as ‘The difference between a dog and a Tutsi? None!’ ‘All Tutsi must go home’, ‘Don’t marry a Tutsi’, ‘Married to a Tutsi? Get a divorce!’ ‘Unite to fight the enemy!'” Within two years, thousands of perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide who were fugitives from justice in Zaire, had killed thousands of that country’s citizens falling in the “enemy” category. Likewise, from their Zairean bases, they killed hundreds inside their own country. The Tutsi-Hima Empire, though a fetish, turned into a potent political tool in the Great Lakes. The late Congolese president, Laurent Kabila, used the obsession with this fetish to marshal support among neighbours and allies, in what Collette Braeckman called an “anti-Tutsi diatribe” [Le Soir, November 17, 1998]. But Kabila was not the only one.  In 1996, an aid worker from Oxfam-UK, then in Zaire, wrote to me, asking: “Is it that the international community has become accustomed to the ethnic cleansing? Is the suffering it causes no longer criminal? If not, why is it condoned in eastern Zaire? Are all these events allowed because the world wants the Great Lakes Region to blow up so that it can show the capacity of its humanitarian charity? Has the world accepted the anomaly that lives are only saveable after the crisis as in Rwanda in 1994, and not before?” More appalling than these complex questions, he said, was the fact that the killers were being fed and supplied by the very international community. Raphael Lemkin, the first person to coin the word genocide, put the world on alert. “The practice of genocide anywhere affects the initial interests of all civilised people. Its consequences can neither be isolated nor localised. Tolerating genocide is an admission of the principle that one national group has the right to attack another because of its supposed social superiority.” In 1997, the merchants of hate were back on the air waves. Michael Griffin saw the “shadow” of Radio T l vision Libre des Mille Collines, the station that played a crucial role in inciting the Tutsi genocide, falling once again across the region. He wrote that, “The latest in the line of Great Lakes hate media is Radio Voix du Patriote (once known as Radio Kahuzi Biega), which has been operating intermittently in the Bukavu region of South Kivu. The radio is said to have the backing of ex-Forces Arm es Rwandaises (FAR), ex-Forces Arm es Zairoises (FAZ) and the Hutu Interahamwe militia. It tells ‘the Bantu brothers’ to ‘rise as one’ to combat the Tutsi described as ‘Ethiopians and Egyptians’ who do not belong in the region.” [M. Griffin, “Rwanda: Familiar Drums,” Index on Censorship 3, 1998)]  In August 1998, a broadcast on Radio Bunia, in eastern Congo, urged the people to “jump on the people with long noses, who are tall and slim” who allegedly want “to dominate” them. On what the “people” should do, the broadcast said: “People must bring a machete, a spear, an arrow, a hoe, spades, rakes, nails, truncheons, electric irons, barbed wire, stones, and the like, in order to kill the Rwandan Tutsis.”  The then Foreign Minister in the DRC, Yerodia Ndombasi, drummed up the Congolese over the National Radio to commit yet another genocide: “Smash the vermin, the scraps, the microbes that have to be eradicated, with method, with resolution– The Tutsi are under risk of living the same sad experience as the Jews did. They are perfidious, rancorous and bloodthirsty. Vermin, yes, I call them vermin– who spoil and poison the body of our nation, which we must eradicate.” The message was clear, yet internationally it fell on deaf ears.  The Zimbabwe state-owned print media played the same obnoxious tune. African Rights, in their new book The Cycle of Conflict: Which Way out in the Kivus? describe some Zimbabwean newspaper articles as “reminiscent of Kangura, which advocated and encouraged the 1994 genocide, –urging Bantu people to stand together and counter a Hamitic conspiracy to force them into subservience.” The human rights organisation quotes The Herald, December 13, 1998 as saying: “Tutsi imperialist tendencies are well-documented.” But which documentation does the author refer to? Kangura? Like a contagious disease, racism seems to have made its way even into the body of Tanzania, a country believed to have long ago defeated racial prejudice. John Chirigati, the country’s Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, told parliament that it was advisable to avoid getting married to Hutu and Tutsi women because “there are still many Tanzanians who are beautiful.” He said this was “important in maintaining peace and national tranquility for many years to come,” because marrying the two “tribes” could introduce elements of the hatred “inherited from their grandparents and lack of proper upbringing.” [state-owned Daily News, July 25, 2001] The minister, consciously or unconsciously turned out to be another disciple of the pseudo-religion of racism. The moment Mugabe told Museveni: ‘Your intelligence is exaggerated’EVENT: it is a cold November winter of 1998 in Paris and President Jacques Chirac of France is host of a large conference of African statesmen. The presidents are assembled to discuss continuing armed conflict on the continent and the ever-increasing economic crisis of the countries in the region.In attendance at the French president’s residence, the Eiles (sic) Palace are presidents Chirac, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania. There is also Yama Jame to Gambia, Abdu Diof of Senegal, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Joachim Chisano of Mozambique, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Frederick Chiluba of Zambia to mention only a few.The conversation finally settles down of the DRC. Uganda and Rwanda which had helped Kabila have turned against their proxy and organised armed resistance against him after a failed coup. However, Kabila has called in Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia to help bolster his fledging government and it has worked. Kabila accuses Museveni and Kagame of Rwanda of a hidden plot to build a Hima-Tutsi empire.“That Bizumungu you see over there,” Kabila spits the words with disdain “he is a Hutu and just a figure head. Real power lies with Paul Kagame, his vice president. So there is no reason for Bizimungu to even sit in this meeting with other heads of state when he is only a personal assistant to Kagame.”Museveni interjects saying the meeting should discuss more serious issues. But nobody is real listening; and as matter of fact he has too many contrary minds all over the place, does Museveni.Mugabe is pissed at this talk of ‘more serious issues’ and says the threat of a Hima-Tutsi empire is a real and serious issue; in tones that suggest he is convinced it is even the only issue that should be discussed here today. “I have always heard that you are a very intelligent and popular man,” Mugabe tells Museveni right into his face, “I now think your intelligence is quite exaggerated.”And with that, the old man walks out of the meeting in protest, wagging his finger at Museveni and vowing to “fight to the death” against the “creation of a Hima-Tutsi empire.” Jameh of Gambia also interjects, telling Museveni that he thought the Ugandan president was a new hope for Africa, “not an ethnic chauvinist bent on re-creating obsolete pre-historic empires”. In the cacophony of voices, one voice is quiet. Chirac is completely taken apart by surprise at this remarkable outplay by Africa’s leading statesmen.

“Genocide” and fears of a “Tutsi empire” 

The growing risk of armed conflict feeds and is fed by heightened fear and hatred between ethnic groups, emotions that are both real and at the same time exaggerated and manipulated by political leaders for their own ends. The increasingly frequent invocation of “genocide,” beginning with Nkunda’s use of the term at the time of the Bukavu attack and continuing now in describing the Gatumba massacre is evoking on the other side increasingly frequent reference to the decades-old myth of a Tutsi intention to create a “Tutsi-Hima” empire in central Africa.Rwanda was not immediately and necessarily involved in the Gatumba tragedy in the sense that it did not involve Rwandan citizens and was not executed on Rwandan soil, yet Rwandan authorities beginning with the president made clear that Rwanda would play a major role in the developing political and ethnic struggles. Given the Rwandan capacity and readiness to participate in conflicts outside its own boundaries, such statements give heart to some seeking further Rwandan involvement in the Congo while conversely inspiring dread among other. In Rwanda itself questions of ethnic fear and hatred had been revived in April 2004 by the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the genocide.  The Rwandan parliament had also made political use of these sentiments in labeling political dissent and civil society autonomy as forms of “divisionism” and “genocidal ideology” in reports in May 2003 and June 2004. These measures in themselves and in the pretext adopted of preventing genocide risk promoting resentment and anger that could be directed into ethnic channels, particularly if a new war is fought in the immediate region.  With the rhetoric spawned by Gatumba massacre still echoing, some groups and persons turned to action.  In the ten days after the Gatumba massacre, two persons were lynched in interior provinces of Burundi after they were rumored to be Tutsi using medical injections to poison Hutu with the intention of reducing their numbers to approximate those of the Tutsi. These accusations recalled talk of a “Simbananiye plan” to gradually equalize the numbers of Hutu and Tutsi, an accusation made against Tutsi since Tutsi soldiers slaughtered massive numbers of Hutu in 1972. In Congo  RCD-Goma members from other groups refused to follow the lead of  Kinyarwanda-speaking leaders—mostly Banyamulenge and Tutsi—when they announced withdrawal from the government, suggesting the party itself has divisions along ethnic lines. Meanwhile two persons from South Kivu—a place now presumed to be hostile to RCD-Goma were killed on the road outside Goma. Although robbery appeared to be the primary motive, others from South Kivu quickly interpreted the incident in regional and ethnic terms. The story spread that the killers had said the murders were reprisals for the Gatumba killings.  Persons opposed to the presence of people from South Kivu in Goma circulated pamphlets against them and in at least one case paraded through a part of Goma largely occupied by people from South Kivu chanting threats against them.These fears and hatreds extend to personnel of the UN as well. Following the Bukavu attack in early June, Congolese elsewhere attacked UN staff and installations because MONUC was accused of having favored the Banyamulenge. Once it became known that Secretary-General Annan mentioned the apparent implication of Mai Mai and Rwandan rebels as well as FNL in the Gatumba massacre, people in Uvira again demonstrated their hostility against the UN, seen to be again favoring the “Tutsi” version of events.  Invoking “genocide” elicits an almost automatic reaction from people inside and outside the region who bear the burden of guilt for their failure to halt the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. For some survivors and Burundian authorities, the “genocidal” nature of the Gatumba massacre demonstrated that Rwandan rebel “Interahamwe” had to have been in charge of the killing at the refugee camp. Asked for more details, they talked of the brutal and intimate nature of the killing by machete and yet the vast majority of victims at Gatumba were killed or injured by gunfire delivered at a distance, sometimes from outside the tent, or by grenades also thrown from a distance. Journalists too seized on the massacre to revive once again the images of genocide, unquestioningly accepting information from the field that reinforced the clichés stored in their own minds.Those who are themselves inclined to respond quickly and positively to invocations of genocide may not be sufficiently aware that Tutsi fears of genocide are increasingly mirrored by Hutu fears of measures that may be taken on the pretext of preventing genocide. The responsibility to remain always vigilant of the danger of genocide carries the simultaneous responsibility to remain firmly rooted in the facts; overuse of the term itself stimulates further fear and raises the likelihood of violence. The killings at Gatumba, like some of those at Bukavu, were clearly done on an ethnic basis. Recognizing that raises concern that further killing will follow directed at one ethnic group or another. In this context, it is less important to arrive at a legalistic determination of the nature of the crime than it is to identify its perpetrators and to punish them.
Once, Hutus and Tutsis lived in harmony in Central Africa. About 600 years ago, Tutsis, a tall, warrior people, moved south from Ethiopia and invaded the homeland of the Hutus. Though much smaller in number, they conquered the Hutus, who agreed to raise crops for them in return for protection.Even in the colonial era — when Belgium ruled the area, after taking it from Germany in 1916 — the two groups lived as one, speaking the same language, intermarrying, and obeying a nearly godlike Tutsi king. Independence changed everything. The monarchy was dissolved and Belgian troops withdrawn — a power vacuum both Tutsis and Hutus fought to fill. Two new countries emerged in 1962 — Rwanda, dominated by the Hutus, and Burundi by the Tutsis — and the ethnic fighting flared on and off in the following decades. It exploded in 1994 with the civil war in Rwanda in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Tutsi rebels won control, which sent a million Hutus, fearful of revenge, into Zaire and Tanzania. In Burundi, the Tutsis yielded power after a Hutu won the country’s first democratic election in 1993. He was killed in an attempted coup four months later, and his successor in a suspicious plane crash in 1994, in which the Hutu leader of Rwanda was also killed.

‘It’s an unstoppable wall of people.’

The fighting between Tutsis and Hutus in central Africa has been going on for decades, ever since Belgium lost control of the area in the 1950s. In 1994, ethnic fighting in Rwanda led to the massacre of at least half a million Tutsis and sent more than a million Hutus fleeing to Zaire, Tanzania, and Burundi.For two years Hutu militants, fearful of reprisals for the massacres, kept the refugees in exile. In October and November 1996, it became a crisis, as the civil war in Zaire, sparked by Hutu-Tutsi fighting, cut off more than half a million Hutu refugees from food and medical supplies. The situation became desperate. The emissary named by the United Nations to negotiate a cease-fire warned of a possible regional war between Hutus and Tutsis, and another massacre like the one in Rwanda. There was also the threat of epidemic and mass starvation. The world’s powers began forming a peace-keeping mission when the rebels in Zaire — mostly Tutsis — took over the camps, sending the refugees streaming home. In December, Tanzania gave its Hutu refugees until the end of the year to return to Rwanda, but many fled in the other direction instead. In Burundi, Hutu-Tutsi fighting flared all year, leading to the massacre of civilians and toppling the government in July.  
In 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees — the losing side in Rwanda’s civil war — fled to Zaire the United Nations set up camps for them. Among the refugees were thousands of soldiers, loyal to the defeated Hutu government, who had massacred half a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. They began using the camps as a base to attack government forces in Rwanda and Burundi and, aided by the army and local militiamen, to attack Tutsis living in Zaire.In October, the Tutsis struck back with the help of other groups opposed to the Zairian government. They rebelled in a southern province and drove out the government army. They took three main towns in eastern Zaire, including Goma, where relief operations for the refugees were based. Zaire claimed Rwandan government troops were helping them fight. The refugees were now cut off from food, water, and medical supplies. Some fled the camps to forests to the west. Disease and hunger were setting in. A catastrophe was in the making. Canada, the United States and other nations were preparing to send troops on a rescue mission when, on November 15, the Zairian rebels stormed the largest refugee camp, routing the Hutu gunmen, and freeing the refugees to go home to Rwanda. Then followed one of the most stunning spectacles of the year, a river of people 15 miles (25 km) long, streaming toward Rwanda. They crossed the border at the rate of 70 people a minute. “It’s an unstoppable wall of people,” said Brenda Barton, a spokeswoman for the United Nations World Food Program. At year’s end, the plan for the international rescue mission was scaled down, calling only for unarmed reconnaissance planes to find refugees in eastern Zaire and for an airdrop of supplies — a plan opposed by the government and the rebels.  
More than half a million Hutus from Rwanda also fled to Tanzania after the 1994 civil war. In December 1996, after most refugees in Zaire had returned home, Tanzania gave the refugees there until the end of the year to leave. United Nations officials said it was safe to return, but many Hutus, fearing retribution for the massacre of Tutsis in 1994, headed in the other direction, to hide in the forests.But Tanzanian troops headed the refugees off and ordered them back. At the end of 1996, an estimated 300,000 refugees were returning home. There were some reports of brief fighting, and of soldiers firing in the air and using tear gas, but for the most part the exodus seemed to be peaceful. Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu — a Tutsi — welcomed some of the refugees at the border. “I came to reassure them that nothing bad will happen to them,” he said.  
Like Rwanda, the modern history of Burundi is marked by constant strife between Hutus and Tutsis. Hutus make up 85 percent and Tutsis 14 percent, but Tutsis had ruled until the country’s first democratic election in 1993, won by a Hutu.The election did not stop the civil war, and since then more than 150,000 people have been killed. On July 20, 300 people, mostly Tutsi women and children, were massacred, allegedly by Hutu gunmen. On July 25, the Tutsi-dominated military seized power, naming a new president — former military ruler Maj. Pierre Buyoya – – dissolving parliament, outlawing opposition parties, and closing the borders and airport. Much of the world denounced the coup, and Burundi’s African neighbors imposed an embargo. The United Nations reported more than 1,100 civilians were killed by the Burundian army in November and December. In most cases, Hutu refugees were the victims. TutsiThe Tutsi are one of three native peoples of the nations of Rwanda and Burundi in central Africa, the other two being the Twa and the Hutu. A Human Rights Watch analysis estimated that 77% of the Tutsi population of Rwanda was slaughtered in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. The Tutsi are currently in power in Rwanda, although they do not refer to themselves as Tutsi.[ 


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