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Rwanda Lesson for Kids: History, Facts & Information

Instructor: Lindsey Spencer

Lindsey has taught regular and special educations students in grades 1-8 since 2009 and has a master's degree in special education.

Rwanda has a long and interesting history, stretching back to at least 700 BC. Modern Rwanda has been ruled by other countries and scarred by a civil war and genocide, which you'll learn about in this lesson.

Rwanda

If you love dancing, good music, and don't mind paintings made of cow dung, then Rwanda (pronounced roo-AHN-duh) is the country for you!

Rwanda is in Africa.
Rwanda map

Rwanda is a little, landlocked country in the middle of Africa. There are two major ethnic groups, or groups of people who share a common culture, living in Rwanda, the Hutus (pronounced HOO-toos) and the Tutsis (pronounced TOOT-sees). The Twa (pronounced twah) is another ethnic group living in Rwanda that makes up less than 1% of the population.

Rwandan Dancers
Rwandan Dancers

Early History

No one knows exactly how long people have been living in the area of Africa we now call Rwanda. Archaeologists, or scientists who study ancient people and cultures, have found evidence of people living in Rwanda around 700 BC. By the 1700s, the Tutsis had established a kingdom and controlled much of Rwanda, even though the Hutus had a larger population.

The oral history, or historical stories that are passed from generation to generation through story telling, say that the first king of Rwanda was named Gihanga (pronounced geh-an-gah). While the king was the most important person, a Tutsi, or part of the ruling class who owned a lot of cattle, was a high-ranking member of society. Hutus were considered lower class and were primarily farmers.

Modern History

From the 1890s to 1914, Rwanda was a German colony. Germany had taken advantage of the way different groups of people in Rwanda were disagreeing and fighting with each other and used the conflicts to gain control of the country and force the king to follow their directions.

In 1914, Belgium got back at Germany for invading their country during World War I by invading Rwanda and making it a Belgian colony. The Belgians put Tutsi people into powerful positions, even though they made up just 14% of the population.

The Hutus rebelled against the Belgians, and Rwanda became an independent country in 1962. The Hutus forced many of the Tutsi people to leave Rwanda and held elections that put a Hutu in power.

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