This is an example of a card that was mandated by the Belgians for all Rwandans. This specific individual belongs to the Tutsi tribe.
Believe it or not, one of the underlying causes of the 1994 genocide began in 1916. But before we venture to the events of 1916, we must learn about the general tribal makeup of Rwanda. To begin, Rwanda was made up of three tribes: the Tutsis (who pre-German colonization, ruled Rwanda via a monarchy), the Hutus, and the Twa (who, even though they were the native Rwandans, were outcasted by the other two tribes). Even though all three tribes spoke the same language, practiced the same religion, and pretty much had the same culture, the social division between the Tutsis and the Hutus seemed to be based on the individuals wealth. For example, according to the passage, Race and Ethnicity in Precolonial Rwanda:
“A rich Hutu who purchased a large herd of cattle could become a Tutsi, while a Tutsi who became poor, would drop to the Hutu caste. The Twa (called Pygmies) were looked down by both tribes and had no rights.”
Now that we have a basis for the different tribes and their social statuses, we shall progress to the year 1916. To begin, the Germans originally colonized Rwanda starting in the 1890′s, and conditions under it’s rule were fair. When the Germans colonized, they began to create a small division between the Hutus and the Tutsis (by favoring the Tutsis). However, in 1916, the social division grew tremendously. In 1916, the Belgians siezed Rwanda from the Germans, it was later fully given to them by the League of Nations in 1918 (Post World War – part of the Treaty of Versailles).
When the Belgians colonized in Rwanda, things changed drastically for Rwandans. First, the Belgians took control of the government, and even though the Tutsis still had some political rights, the Hutus lost all of the [few] rights they had. In 1929 they eliminated all Hutu chiefs (the chiefs would have been dominant political figures of the Hutus). Secondly, the two tribes grew further and further apart when the Belgians educated Tutsis, preached Catholicism towards the Tutsis (which made the religion between the two tribes differ), and finally gave business rights (allowed them to get jobs) to the Tutsis. This not only divided the tribes, but it separated the cultures. For instance, the Tutsis could read, practiced Catholicism, and were able to get jobs (other than peasantry), where the Hutus soon became illiterate, practiced Protestantism, and basically only worked as slaves.
Finally, one of the biggest factors that divided the tribes was when the Belgians mandated “identity cards.” These cards identified which tribe each individual belonged to. When these cards were distributed, whatever tribe the individual belonged to at that point became his permanent tribe. Therefore, money no longer defined each tribe. This tribal division brought about conflicts and it soon became the underlying conflict which would eventually lead to the genocide in 78 years.
Keep checking back in this blog: the next post on the Genocide will talk about the Belgian decolonization and it’s impact on the genocide.
Africa: Belgian Colonies – History of belgian colonization, The administration of congo by the belgians (1908–1960, History of belgium colonization of rwanda, Race and ethnicity in precolonial african belgian colonies, Race and ethnicity in precolonial rw
Elime, Emily. “Belgian Colonization.” <http://emileelime.tripod.com/id4.html>