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Ethnic Ideology in Rwanda and Burundi

Henri Boyi, Professor, University of Western Ontario

 

The ideology is the same. In Rwanda and in Burundi, the ideology has been the same since 1959. The slogan about Tutsis being invaders, Tutsis being foreigners, strangers that have to be kicked out of the country: in both Rwanda and Burundi, it's the same.

There is a cliché that people use very, very commonly, that Hutus will use, that the Tutsis came from Egypt and they have to go back there. That is why when they kill people and they throw them in rivers, they say, "Okay, go back; go through the river and go back to Egypt to where you belong." And they use Misrī -- Misrī is the word for Egypt. I really don't know.

Some first European historians said that Tutsis came from the Nile region, and that's why when -- you will never hear that in common life in Burundi or Rwanda, but during the times of conflict or when they are teaching the population to kill the Tutsis, they tell them that Tutsis came from Egypt and they should go back there. It's a funny thing, 'cause I don't think any Tutsis feel that he or she belongs to Egypt. Again, who knows where we came from?

I think all people, especially in Africa, came from somewhere, and before colonization there were no barriers, no frontiers. You didn't need a visa to go from a country to the other. People herded cattle—cattle herders like Tutsis were moving throughout eastern and southern Africa. There were no frontiers, no borders. Even when we had these kingdoms, you could move around as you wished. So again, these are some of the common clichés that have been engraved in the minds of people that they have to use to eliminate the other, to expose the other.

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About Henri Boyi