Tribes in Rwanda. Rwanda is a small landlocked country located in the heart of Africa bordered by Uganda in the north, the Democratic republic of Congo in the west, Burundi in the south and Tanzania in the east. Rwanda is recognized on the world map for a number of reasons such as the numerous hills thus its reference, the land of a thousand hills, the Switzerland of Africa. Rwanda is also one of the world’s only homes of the last remaining mountain gorillas located in the Volcanoes national park.

Rwanda welcomes big numbers of tourists looking for a mountain gorilla trekking experience, a wildlife safari experience or a primate safari however on these visits, some guests are more interested in blending in a cultural experience to learn more about the people of Rwanda. This piece shares some insights about the people of Rwanda.

The original or rather primary natives of Rwanda are classified into three tribes and these are the Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa people. The three tribes currently live in this small but developing country at peace and in harmony. The 1994 Rwanda genocide was fueled by the clashes between two of these people however the feud is now history. These three people are all Rwandan and have similar cultures but are differed by a few traits.

The Twa people;

The twa people are believed to have been the first people in Rwanda and these are the traditional group that survived in the forested areas and visiting a family of these is possible on your Rwanda safari Tour. They have a close relation with the people of the Central Africa staying in the forested lands as well. The twa people community is the smallest in numbers of all the three tribes in Rwanda.

The twa can not be easily distinguished from the other tribes as their beliefs and language spoken is familiar. These Twa people though up to date today have managed to keep in their cultural and traditional setting with almost minimal western world influence. There was an estimated number of about 3,000 Twa people currently living in Rwanda in about 600 household in the year of 2004.

They were previously forest dwellers and kept within the forested land however you are likely to find a few living away from the forest and in the towns of Rwanda in much smaller groups though. The Twa people often work as handymen in pottery and are classified to be the laborers and almost none are cattle or land owners in the traditional setting.

Tribes in Rwanda
Tribes in Rwanda

The Hutu people;

The Hutu tribe of Rwanda is considered the second biggest in numbers and these stay in Rwanda and some are also living in Burundi. The Hutu people are estimated to be around 10 million individuals and majorly Christians. The Hutu people share a number of their culture and traditions with the Tutsi and the Twa people for example they are all Bantu speakers.

The Hutu people were previously the leaders of Rwanda with the major leadership positions held by the Hutu up until 1994 where the Tutsi people wanted to take power and this is where the 1994 Rwanda genocide started from as the two fought for power until the Tutsi came out victorious.

The common Bantu language spoken by all the three is Kinyarwanda as referred to in Rwanda and Kirundi in Burundi. The dialects are close however you can tell the differences in pronunciation and some words also differ. They are mainly Christians but this doesn’t rule out their traditional beliefs of the abazima who are the spirits of the ancestral people who determine the luck of the living people. There are some who still pray to these spirits for guidance and protection.

The staple foods of the Hutu people are more than one and these are beans, corn, millet, sorghum, sweet potatoes and cassava. Milk is also a treasured food however goat meat and goat milk are often associated with poverty or those of a low social status. The Hutu people are farmers and they tend to prefer to have herds of cattle as compared to crop growth.

The Tutsi people;

The Tutsi people of Rwanda are the current leaders of the country as they took on leadership in 1994 after the Rwanda genocide. The Tutsi people can be found in Rwanda, Burundi and also in the north eastern part of the Democratic republic of Congo formerly known as Zaire. There was an estimated population of 13 million Tutsi people living in the world in 1994.

The Tutsi people are typical cattle herders and those with cattle were considered the wealthy ones in society. In the old setting, the Tutsi people would exchange their cattle for labor from the Hutu or even to gain loyalty and favor politically. These also speak the common Bantu language, Kinyarwanda and some speak French which is commonly used in schools or formal setting.

The Tutsi are Christian however the older people still pray to “Imaana” who is associated with providing wealth and fertility to the women and the power of Imaana is equated to the power that the King holds. The Tutsi also believe in abazima and they are referred to with high regard and those who do not respect them are said to be up for punishment.

The Tutsi often married among themselves the fellow Tutsis however with the current change in lifestyle, there have been a number of tribal intermarriages in the Tutsis and other tribes. The most consumed foods by the Tutsis are milk, butter and cow meat. The cows are only killed on special occasions for consumption.

The cultural heritage of these tribes of Rwanda can be witnessed and enjoyed more on a visit to one or a number of the cultural heritage sites such as the Iby’iwachu cultural center close to the Volcanoes national park or the Nyanza King’s palace enroute Nyungwe forest national park. There are a number of these sites and can be included on your Rwanda safari as you explore Rwanda Tours. Get in touch with us and let us organize for you the well amalgamated Rwanda tours.

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