Once, Hutus and Tutsis lived in harmony in Central Africa. About 600 years ago, Tutsis, a tall, warrior people, moved south from Ethiopia and invaded the homeland of the Hutus. Though much smaller in number, they conquered the Hutus, who agreed to raise crops for them in return for protection.
Even in the colonial era -- when Belgium ruled the area, after taking it from Germany in 1916 -- the two groups lived as one, speaking the same language, intermarrying, and obeying a nearly godlike Tutsi king.
Independence changed everything. The monarchy was dissolved and Belgian troops withdrawn -- a power vacuum both Tutsis and Hutus fought to fill. Two new countries emerged in 1962 -- Rwanda, dominated by the Hutus, and Burundi by the Tutsis -- and the ethnic fighting flared on and off in the following decades.
It exploded in 1994 with the civil war in Rwanda in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Tutsi rebels won control, which sent a million Hutus, fearful of revenge, into Zaire and Tanzania.
In Burundi, the Tutsis yielded power after a Hutu won the country's first democratic election in 1993. He was killed in an attempted coup four months later, and his successor in a suspicious plane crash in 1994, in which the Hutu leader of Rwanda was also killed.
Conflict main page
Zaire: A river of refugees
Tanzania: Forced to go home
Burundi: Tutsis seize power
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