Kingdom of Rwanda

Kingdom of Rwanda was a kingdom located in present day Rwanda, that emerged in the 1700s. It was ruled by a BaTutsi elite and BaHutu peasant class. Rwanda was the most powerful of the two Tutsi kingdom, second southernly kingdom--Burundi.


Mwami palace and court

The kingdom of Rwanda had its beginning in the 1500s with a minor clan based polity founded by Tutsi Ruganza Bwimba near Kigali. The polity was expanded by Mwami Ruganzu Ndori(1600-1624), establishing the actual Kingdom of Rwanda, during the early part of the 1600s. Mwami Ndori expanded the kingdom through intimidation, raiding, and economic dominance of both Tutsi and Hutu group. Other mwamis would continue expansion. Under Mwami Kigeri Rwabugiri, the kingdom became more centralizae. Complete domination of Tutsi clans was establish under Mwami Mutara Rwogera(1802-1853). Hutus were subjugated under Mwami Yuli Musinga(1896-1931) in the 1920s.


The kingdom was organized into provinces, assigned to a chief. Each provincial chief had three administrative functions overseeing agricultural production, managing of cattle, and recruiting for military service. As the kingdom grew, a clientship approach of rulership emerged called ubuhake. Individuals of different social strata, umugaragu, would be given cattle, land, and protection, in return, loyalty to the patron or shebuja. Shebuja was typically a Tutsi and umugaragu Tutsi or Hutu. A Hutu sometimes could transition into a Tutsi by wealth and marrying a Tutsi woman. This was rare. A Tutsi could also transform into a Hutu by losing wealth and cattle.

Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.(1999). Africana: the Encyclopedia of African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books, pp. 1648-1649. ISBN 0-465-00071-1.

Shillington, Kevin (2005). History of Africa. Revised 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 207. ISBN 0-333-59957-8

Collins, Robert O. and Burns, James M. (2007). A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 124 ISBN 978-0-521-68708-9.