Last updated
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Rwanda.svg  Rwanda 11.1–12 million (84%–90% of the total population) [1]
Flag of Burundi.svg  Burundi 10.4 million (85% of the total population)
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  DR Congo 2 million (2% of the total population)
Kinyarwanda, Kirundi
Predominantly Christianity,
minority Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Rwanda-Rundi peoples

The Hutu ( /ˈht/ ), also known as the Abahutu, are a Bantu ethnic or social group which is native to the African Great Lakes region. They mainly live in Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they form one of the principal ethnic groups alongside the Tutsi and the Great Lakes Twa.



The Hutu is the largest of the three main population divisions in Burundi and Rwanda. Prior to 2017, the CIA World Factbook stated that 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians are Hutu, with Tutsis being the second largest ethnic group at 15% and 14% of residents of Rwanda and Burundi, respectively. However, these figures were omitted in 2017 and no new figures have been published since then. [2] [3]

The Twa pygmies, the smallest of the two countries' principal populations, share language and culture with the Hutu and Tutsi. They are distinguished by a considerably shorter stature. [4] [5]


The Hutu are believed to have first emigrated to the Great Lake region from Central Africa in the great Bantu expansion. [6] Various theories have emerged to explain the purported physical differences between them and their fellow Bantu-speaking neighbors, the Tutsi. The Tutsi were pastoralists and are believed to have established aristocratic control over the sedentary Hutu and Twa. Through intermarriage with the Hutu, the Tutsi were gradually assimilated, culturally, linguistically, and racially. [7]

Others suggest that the two groups are related but not identical, and they also suggest that the differences between them were exacerbated by Europeans, [8] or they were exacerbated by a gradual, natural split, as those who owned cattle became known as the Tutsi and those who did not own cattle became known as the Hutu. [5] Mahmood Mamdani states that the Belgian colonial power designated people as Tutsi or Hutu on the basis of cattle ownership, physical measurements and church records. [9]

The debate over the ethnic origins of the Hutu and Tutsi within Rwandan politics predates the Rwandan genocide, and it continues to the present day, [10] with the government of Rwanda no longer using the distinction.


Y-DNA (paternal lineages)

Modern-day genetic studies of the Y-chromosome suggest that the Hutu, like the Tutsi, are largely of Bantu extraction (83% E1b1a, 8% E2). Paternal genetic influences associated with the Horn of Africa and North Africa are few (3% E1b1b and 1% R1b), and are ascribed to much earlier inhabitants who were assimilated. However, the Hutu have considerably fewer Nilo-Saharan paternal lineages (4.3% B) than the Tutsi (14.9% B). [11]

Autosomal DNA (overall ancestry)

In general, the Hutu appear to share a close genetic kinship with neighboring Bantu populations, particularly the Tutsi. However, it is unclear whether this similarity is primarily due to extensive genetic exchanges between these communities through intermarriage or whether it ultimately stems from common origins:

[...] generations of gene flow obliterated whatever clear-cut physical distinctions may have once existed between these two Bantu peoples – renowned to be height, body build, and facial features. With a spectrum of physical variation in the peoples, Belgian authorities legally mandated ethnic affiliation in the 1920s, based on economic criteria. Formal and discrete social divisions were consequently imposed upon ambiguous biological distinctions. To some extent, the permeability of these categories in the intervening decades helped to reify the biological distinctions, generating a taller elite and a shorter underclass, but with little relation to the gene pools that had existed a few centuries ago. The social categories are thus real, but there is little if any detectable genetic differentiation between Hutu and Tutsi. [12]

Tishkoff et al. (2009) found their mixed Hutu and Tutsi samples from Rwanda to be predominately of Bantu origin, with minor gene flow from Afro-Asiatic communities (17.7% Afro-Asiatic genes found in the mixed HutuTutsi population). [13]


A traditional Hutu throwing knife. Hutu.jpg
A traditional Hutu throwing knife.

Hutus speak Rwanda-Rundi as their native tongue, which is a member of the Bantu subgroup of the Niger–Congo language family. Rwanda-Rundi is subdivided into the Kinyarwanda and Kirundi dialects, which have been standardized as official languages of Rwanda and Burundi, respectively. It is also spoken as a mother tongue by the Tutsi and Twa.[ citation needed ]

Additionally, a small portion of Hutu speak French, the other official language of Rwanda and Burundi, as a lingua franca, although the population is dwindling given the poor relations between Rwanda and France.[ citation needed ]

Post-colonial history

The Belgian-sponsored Tutsi monarchy survived until 1959 when Kigeli V was exiled from the colony (then called Ruanda-Urundi). In Burundi, Tutsis, who are the minority, maintained control of the government and military. In Rwanda, the political power was transferred from the minority Tutsi to the majority Hutu. [14]

In Rwanda, this led to the "Social revolution" and Hutu violence against Tutsis. Tens of thousands of Tutsis were killed, and many others fled to neighboring countries, such as Burundi, Uganda, and expanding the Banyamulenge Tutsi ethnic group in the South Kivu region of the Belgian Congo. Later, exiled Tutsis from Burundi invaded Rwanda, prompting Rwanda to close its border to Burundi.

In Burundi, a campaign of genocide was conducted against the Hutu population in 1972, [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] and an estimated 100,000 Hutus died. [20] In 1993, Burundi's first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, who was Hutu, was believed to be assassinated by Tutsi officers, as was the person constitutionally entitled to succeed him. [21] This sparked a counter-genocide in Burundi between Hutu political structures and the Tutsi military, in which an estimated 500,000 Burundians died.[ citation needed ] There were many mass killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus; these events were deemed to be a genocide by the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi. [22]

While Tutsis remained in control of Burundi, the conflict resulted in genocide in Rwanda as well. [23] A Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, invaded Rwanda from Uganda, which started a civil war against Rwanda's Hutu government in 1990. A peace agreement was signed, but violence erupted again, culminating in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when Hutu extremists killed [24] an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis. [25]

About 30% of the Twa pygmy population of Rwanda were also killed by the Hutu extremists. [26] At the same time, the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the country and is still the ruling party as of 2020. Burundi is also currently governed by a former rebel group, the Hutu CNDD–FDD.

As of 2006, violence between the Hutu and Tutsi had subsided, but the situation in both Rwanda and Burundi was still tense, and tens of thousands of Rwandans were still living outside the country (see Great Lakes refugee crisis). [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Human occupation of Rwanda is thought to have begun shortly after the last ice age. By the 11th century, the inhabitants had organized into a number of kingdoms. In the 19th century, Mwami (king) Rwabugiri of the Kingdom of Rwanda conducted a decades-long process of military conquest and administrative consolidation that resulted in the kingdom coming to control most of what is now Rwanda. The colonial powers, Germany and Belgium, allied with the Rwandan court.

The Tutsi, also called Watusi, Watutsi or Abatutsi, are an ethnic group of the African Great Lakes region. They are a Bantu-speaking ethnic group and the second largest of three main ethnic groups in Rwanda and Burundi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rwandan genocide</span> 1994 genocide in Rwanda

The Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, occurred between 7 April and 19 July 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War. During this period of around 100 days, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa, were killed by armed Hutu militias. Although the Constitution of Rwanda states that more than 1 million people perished in the genocide, the actual number of fatalities is unclear, and some estimates suggest that the real number killed was likely lower. The most widely accepted scholarly estimates are around 500,000 to 800,000 Tutsi deaths.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burundian Civil War</span> Inter-ethnic conflict within Burundi from 1993 to 2005

The Burundian Civil War was a civil war in Burundi lasting from 1993 to 2005. The civil war was the result of longstanding ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tutsi ethnic groups. The conflict began following the first multi-party elections in the country since its independence from Belgium in 1962, and is seen as formally ending with the swearing-in of President Pierre Nkurunziza in August 2005. Children were widely used by both sides in the war. The estimated death toll stands at 300,000.

Banyamulenge is a community from the Democratic Republic of the Congo's South Kivu province. The Banyamulenge are culturally and socially distinct from the Tutsi of North Kivu, with most speaking Kinyamulenge, a mix of Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Ha language, and Swahili. Banyamulenge are often discriminated against in the DRC due to their Tutsi phenotype, similar to that of people living in the Horn of Africa, their insubordination towards colonial rule, their role in Mobutu's war against and victory over the Simba Rebellion, which was supported by the majority of other tribes in South Kivu, their role during the First Congo War and subsequent regional conflicts (Rally for Congolese Democracy–Goma, Movement for the Liberation of the Congo, National Congress for the Defence of the People, and more importantly for the fact that two of the most influential presidents of their country declared them as enemy of the State both in 1996 and 1998.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rwandan Civil War</span> 1990–1994 armed struggle between government forces and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in Rwanda

The Rwandan Civil War was a large-scale civil war in Rwanda which was fought between the Rwandan Armed Forces, representing the country's government, and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) from 1 October 1990 to 18 July 1994. The war arose from the long-running dispute between the Hutu and Tutsi groups within the Rwandan population. A 1959–1962 revolution had replaced the Tutsi monarchy with a Hutu-led republic, forcing more than 336,000 Tutsi to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. A group of these refugees in Uganda founded the RPF which, under the leadership of Fred Rwigyema and Paul Kagame, became a battle-ready army by the late 1980s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1993 ethnic violence in Burundi</span> 1993 killings of mostly Tutsis in Burundi

Mass killings of Tutsis were conducted by the majority-Hutu populace in Burundi from 21 October to December 1993, under an eruption of ethnic animosity and riots following the assassination of Burundian President Melchior Ndadaye in an attempted coup d'état. The massacres took place in all provinces apart from Makamba and Bururi, and were primarily undertaken by Hutu peasants. At many points throughout, Tutsis took vengeance and initiated massacres in response.

The Banyarwanda are a Bantu ethnolinguistic supraethnicity. The Banyarwanda are also minorities in neighboring Burundi, DR Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The origins of the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa people is a major issue of controversy in the histories of Rwanda and Burundi, as well as the Great Lakes region of Africa. The relationship among the three modern populations is thus, in many ways, derived from the perceived origins and claim to "Rwandan-ness". The largest conflicts related to this question were the Rwandan genocide, the Burundian genocide, and the First and Second Congo Wars.

Hutu Power is racial supremacist ideology that asserts the ethnic superiority of Hutu, often in the context of being superior to Tutsi and Twa, and that therefore they are entitled to dominate and murder these two groups and other minorities. Espoused by Hutu extremists, widespread support for the ideology led to the 1994 Rwandan genocide against Tutsi and their family members, the moderate Hutu who opposed the killings, and Twa who were deemed traitors. Hutu Power political parties and movements included the Akazu, the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic and its Impuzamugambi paramilitary militia, and the governing National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development and its Interahamwe paramilitary militia. The theory of Hutu people being superior is most common in Rwanda and Burundi, where they make up the majority of the population. Due to its sheer destructiveness, the ideology has been compared to historical Nazism in the Western world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Racism in Africa</span> Overview of racism in Africa

Racism in Africa has been a recurring part of the history of Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burundi</span> Country in Central Africa

Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley at the junction between the African Great Lakes region and East Africa. It is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and southeast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Lake Tanganyika lies along its southwestern border. The capital cities are Gitega and Bujumbura, the latter being the country's largest city.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethnic groups in Burundi</span>

Ethnic groups in Burundi include the three main indigenous groups of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa that have largely been emphasized in the study of the country's history due to their role in shaping it through conflict and consolidation. Burundi's ethnic make-up is similar to that of neighboring Rwanda. Additionally, recent immigration has also contributed to Burundi's ethnic diversity. Throughout the country's history, the relation between the ethnic groups has varied, largely depending on internal political, economic and social factors and also external factors such as colonialism. The pre-colonial era, despite having divisions between the three groups, saw greater ethnic cohesion and fluidity dependent on socioeconomic factors. During the colonial period under German and then Belgian rule, ethnic groups in Burundi experienced greater stratifications and solidification through biological arguments separating the groups and indirect colonial rule that increased group tensions. The post-independence Burundi has experienced recurring inter-ethnic violence especially in the political arena that has, in turn, spilled over to society at large leading to many casualties throughout the decades. The Arusha Agreement served to end the decades-long ethnic tensions, and the Burundian government has stated commitment to creating ethnic cohesion in the country since, yet recent waves of violence and controversies under the Pierre Nkurunziza leadership have worried some experts of potential resurfacing of ethnic violence. Given the changing nature of ethnicity and ethnic relations in the country, many scholars have approached the topic theoretically to come up with primordial, constructivist and mixed arguments or explanations on ethnicity in Burundi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethnic groups in Rwanda</span>

The largest ethnic groups in Rwanda are the Hutus, which make up about 85% of Rwanda's population; the Tutsis, which are 14%; and the Twa, which are around 1%. Starting with the Tutsi feudal monarchy rule of the 10th century, the Hutus were a subjugated social group. Belgian colonization also contributed to the tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis. The Belgians and later the Hutus propagated the myth that Hutus were the superior ethnicity. The resulting tensions would eventually foster the slaughtering of Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide. Since then, policy has changed to recognize one main ethnicity: "Rwandan".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rwandan Revolution</span> 1959–61 period of ethnic violence in Rwanda

The Rwandan Revolution, also known as the Hutu Revolution, Social Revolution, or Wind of Destruction, was a period of ethnic violence in Rwanda from 1959 to 1961 between the Hutu and the Tutsi, two of the three ethnic groups in Rwanda. The revolution saw the country transition from a Tutsi monarchy under Belgian colonial authority to an independent Hutu-dominated republic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great Lakes Twa</span> Pygmy ethnic group of the African Great Lakes region

The Great Lakes Twa, also known as Batwa, Abatwa or Ge-Sera, are a Bantu speaking group native to the African Great Lakes region on the border of Central and East Africa. As an indigenous pygmy people, the Twa are generally assumed to be the oldest surviving population of the Great Lakes region. Current populations of Great Lakes Twa people live in the states of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2000 they numbered approximately 80,000 people, making them a significant minority group in these countries. The largest population of Twa is located in Burundi estimated in 2008 at 78,071 people.

Rwanda's prehistory is a relatively unexplored concept as compared to other regions of Africa. Most archaeological works regarding Rwanda past 1994 are associated with conflict and ethnic violence. However more recently, archaeologists have been attempting to focus on archaeological works from the first and second millennia A.D. For example, some archaeological research has been focusing on the Nyiginya Kingdom, which is the pre-colonial predecessor of the current Rwandan state. Other research has been focusing on the excavations of the earliest agricultural sites, likely from the Iron Age, as well as ceramics to indicate chronology of when certain agricultural groups migrated to Rwanda.

The Kamenge incidents or Kamenge riots were a series of armed raids and murders conducted in the Kamenge quarter of Bujumbura, Burundi in January 1962. They were perpetrated by militants of the Jeunesse Nationaliste Rwagasore against Hutu leaders of the Syndicats Chrétiens trade union and the Parti du Peuple. The Kamenge incidents were the first major instance of ethnic violence in modern Burundi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burundi–Rwanda relations</span> Bilateral relations

Relations between Burundi and Rwanda have existed for at least as long as the states themselves. Before contact with Europeans, Rwanda and Burundi were kingdoms competing to gain control over nearby territory. In the 1880s, the two kingdoms were placed under colonial authority, first by Germany, and then by Belgium after 1919.


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