Ruzagayura famine

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Ruzagayura famine
Country Ruanda-Urundi
(modern-day Rwanda and Burundi)
Location Kingdom of Rwanda
Total deaths36,000–50,000
ConsequencesMass emigration to surrounding countries; political destabilisation

The Ruzagayura famine was a major famine which occurred in the Belgian mandate of Ruanda-Urundi (modern-day Rwanda and Burundi) during World War II. It led to a large number of deaths and a huge population migration out of the territory and into the neighboring Belgian Congo and surrounding areas. The famine is considered to have begun in October 1943 and ended in December 1944. [1]

Belgian colonial empire Former colonies of Belgium, 1908—1962

Belgium controlled two colonies during its history, the Belgian Congo from 1908 to 1960, and Ruanda-Urundi from 1922 to 1962. It also had a concession in China, and was a co-administrator of the Tangier International Zone in Morocco.

League of Nations mandate Territories administered by countries on behalf of the League of Nations

A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League of Nations. These were of the nature of both a treaty and a constitution, which contained minority rights clauses that provided for the rights of petition and adjudication by the International Court.

Ruanda-Urundi 1922-1962 League of Nations/United Nations mandate in East Africa

Ruanda-Urundi was a territory in the African Great Lakes region, once part of German East Africa, which was ruled by Belgium between 1922 and 1962. Occupied by the Belgians during the East African Campaign during World War I, the territory was under Belgian military occupation from 1916 to 1922 and later became a Belgian-controlled Class B Mandate under the League of Nations from 1922 to 1945. After the disestablishment of the League and World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a Trust Territory of the United Nations, still under Belgian control. In 1962, the mandate became independent as the two separate countries of Rwanda and Burundi.

The principal cause of the famine was several prolonged periods of drought in the region in early 1943. However, the problem was exacerbated by attempts of the colonial authorities to send agricultural produce to the Belgian Congo, as part of the Allied war effort, in World War II. [1]

Drought extended period when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply

A drought or drouth is a natural disaster of below-average precipitation in a given region, resulting in prolonged shortages in the water supply, whether atmospheric, surface water or ground water. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region and harm to the local economy. Annual dry seasons in the tropics significantly increase the chances of a drought developing and subsequent bush fires. Periods of heat can significantly worsen drought conditions by hastening evaporation of water vapour.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The colonial administration, together with Christian missionaries, began to transport food to a supply point in Usumbura. [1] The Rwandan king, Mutara III Rudahigwa, sent aid to the affected region. [1]

Bujumbura Place in Bujumbura Mairie Province, Burundi

Bujumbura, formerly Usumbura, is the former capital, largest city and main port of Burundi. It ships most of the country's chief export, coffee, as well as cotton and tin ore. It is on the north-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world after Lake Baikal.

Mutara III Rudahigwa was King (mwami) of Rwanda between 1931 and 1959. He was the first Rwandan king to be baptised, and Roman Catholicism took hold in Rwanda during his reign. His Christian names were Charles Léon Pierre, and he is sometimes referred to as Charles Mutara III Rudahigwa.

By the time the famine ended in December 1944, between 36,000 [2] and 50,000 [3] people (between one-fifth and one-third of the total regional population) died of hunger in the territory.

Several hundred thousand people emigrated away from Ruanda-Urundi, most to the Belgian Congo but also to British Uganda. The migration also served to create further political instability in the areas affected by the mass influx of Rwandans. [4]

Uganda Protectorate former British protectorate

The British Protectorate of Uganda was a protectorate of the British Empire from 1894 to 1962. In 1893 the Imperial British East Africa Company transferred its administration rights of territory consisting mainly of Buganda Kingdom to the British Government.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Singiza, Dantès (7 September 2012). "Ruzagayura, une famine au Rwanda au cœur du Second Conflit mondial" (PDF). l’Institut d’histoire ouvrière, économique et sociale.
  2. Belgian 1946 estimate, cited in Singiza, Dantès (2011). La Famine Ruzagayura (Rwanda, 1943-1944): causes, Conséquences et réactions des autorités (PDF). Teveuren: Royal Museum of Central Africa. pp. 92–3.
  3. United Nations 1948 estimate, cited in Singiza, Dantès (2011). La Famine Ruzagayura (Rwanda, 1943-1944): causes, Conséquences et réactions des autorités (PDF). Teveuren: Royal Museum of Central Africa. p. 94.
  4. "Re-imagining Rwanda: Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in the Twentieth Century" (PDF). School of Oriental and African Studies, University of England (Cambridge University Press). 2002-03-01. Retrieved 2006-06-05.