Tutsi

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Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, French, English

Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Minority Islam

Hutu, Twa

Tutsi (pronounced /ˈtʊtsi/;[1] Rwanda-Rundi pronunciation: [tūtsī]) are an ethnic group in Central Africa. Historically they were often referred to as the Watussi or Watusi. They are the second largest population of peoples in Rwanda and Burundi, the other two being the Hutu (largest) and the Twa (smallest).

Contents

Origins

Conceptions of the supposed ethnic groups in Rwanda have a long history. The definitions of "Hutu" and "Tutsi" peoples may have changed through time and location. Social structures were not throughout Rwanda, even during colonial times under the Belgian rule. The Tutsi aristocracy or elite was distinguished from Tutsi commoners, and wealthy Hutu were often indistinguishable from upper-class Tutsi.

When the Belgian colonists conducted censuses, they wanted to identify the peoples throughout Rwanda-Burundi according to a simple classification scheme. They defined "Tutsi" as anyone owning more than ten cows (a sign of wealth) or with the physical feature of a longer nose, commonly associated with the Tutsi. The Europeans noticed that some Rwandans had noses they thought characteristic of their people, so they created historical and racial theories to explain why some Africans inherited such features. Early 20th-century Europeans believed the physical feature meant that some of the Tutsi had Caucasian or European ancestry, perhaps by migrations from Ethiopia, what was called the Hamitic Theory. According to their racially based ideas, they thought the Tutui were a "superior" people of a primarily Horn African and/or North African ancestry; descent from Arabs of the Middle East was also suggested. In addition, some Tutsi believed they are descended from the ancient Israelites and have a mystical connection to Israel.[2] The Europeans considered the majority Hutu to be characteristic Bantu people of Central African and sub-Saharan origin.

Beginning about 1880, Catholic missionaries arrived in the African Great Lakes region. Later, when German forces occupied the area during World War I, the conflict and efforts for Catholic conversion became more pronounced. As the Tutsi resisted conversion, the missionaries found success only among the Hutu. In an effort to reward conversion, the colonial government confiscated traditionally Tutsi land and reassigned it to Hutu tribes, igniting a conflict that has lasted into the 21st century.[3]

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