Eight. The Catholic chiefs
The Belgians had no intention before the Second World War of trying to govern Rwanda without the aid of the feudal system. They did, however, wish to trim it to manageable proportions and reduce its gravest injustices to a minimum. When new economic opportunities became available to Rwandans in the 1930s the old feudal order began to be undermined; within it new types of social relationship grew up, and the nobility were transformed into a Belgian bureaucracy. The change from ascriptive to achievement criteria increased social mobility among the Tutsi but, after a few failed experiments, the Hutu were debarred from political office. The martial virtues were no longer appropriate as ruling class mores, but the Tutsi’s position as a separate political class was assured as long as the Belgians artificially maintained the stratification of Rwandan society. What had once been a fluid ethnic boundary which aspiring Hutu could cross now became under Beigian rule an insurmountable caste barrier defining access to positions of political power. The ultimate means of coercion, military force, was firnaly in Belgian hands, but the courts were successfully manipulated by the Tutsi. The latter were I essentially weakened as a class; they depended on the Belgians, relied less on cattle wealth and clientship, and had lost their principal instrument of coercion, the State. Both in ideology and in practice the Church had an important contribution to make in training the administrative cadres, .alteritig the ruling class behaviour of the Tutsi and in justifying segregation in terms of the Thomist organic society in which ‘to each according to his function’.
In 1936 ibikingi were abolished, so removing the king’s ancient weapon against the pretensions of landowners; chiefs controlling wenty-five men or less were brought into a system of sub-chieftancies containing at least one hundred Hutu. A year later the complex system of army, land and cattle chefs was dismantled in favour of single regional commands, the Province chiefs. From 1932 Hutu were allowed to pay crop dues in cash, two francs per adult working man to the sub-chief, one franc to the Province chief. Sub-chiefs were now legally entitied to only ten days’ labour per man per year, chefs to three days. Attendance at court was limited to one fortnight a year for chiefs, who were to be visited by their sub-chiefs for only ten to twelve days per annum. The aim was to produce a tidy pyramid of chieftancies from king to peasant which was to be later transformed under the impact of the cash economy.
Such gross abuses as the high mortality among Hutu in their lord’s retinue, forced even in the 1920s to stay without food and shelter for long periods at Nyanza, were stopped. But in as much as the reforms set out ambitiously to alleviate the weight of the yoke placed on the Hutu by the host of Tutsi exactions since earliest times’ they were bound to remain something of a paper exercise. ‘How were men tried?‘ wrote Marc Bloch. ‘There is no better touchstone for a social system than this question.’ Despite the window-dressing of court clerks and a visiting Belgian Resident, the legal system remained in the hands of the Tutsi!
Province chiefs with their chosen sub-chiefs acted as judge and assessors; the highest court of appeal was in the hands of the mwami and his councillors. The local tribunaux indigènes in Shangugu Province demanded thirteen francs for cattle disputes from the unsuccessfill litigant, and eight francs for those involving land and livestock. Appeal to the provincial court in Shangugu itself cost forty francs for disputes involving more than five cattle, twenty francs for less; 208 cases, in 1933, came before the local courts and four went to appeal; 151 cases, in 1934, and again only four appeals. During the famine years 1928 and 1929 366 and 322 cases repectively were brought, with a total of only three appeals in the two years. Litigation seems to have been a counsel of despair for the Hutu; even the most outrageous extortion could be presented to the Resident by a skilful interpreter as customary practice.
The quality of peasant life was little changed by the new ubuletwa regulations, they merely freed the Hutu for more onerous kazi labour for the Belgians. The weak and unproteced would end up with both.” The abolition of the army chiefs deprived the Hutu of an informal court of appeal; in the past peasants had been able to play these chefs off against the abanyabutaka and had seen in them more of the ideal of feudal society, with its reciprocal bonds of loyalty and protection. In the space of a few years the system of triple chieftancies was abruptly curtailed; in Kigali province 119 chiefs and 324 ‘sub-chiefs’ in 1929 were pruned to eight chiefs and 278 ‘sub-chiefs’ in 1930, and finally reduced to five chiefs and seventy-two’sub-chiefs’ in 1933. The vast interlocking network of relationships in whose interstices Hutu found protection and rose to power was gone. When the Hutu of
Byumba province tried to reverse the process by commending themselves to more than one sub-chief the Resident intervened on behalf of the protesting Tutsi. There were to be no liege lords in Rwanda.
A neat feudal pyramid, like the Norman monarchy of twelfth century England, could be directed from above more easily than the complex society of pre-colonial Rwanda. The Belgians wanted to rationalise the system, ‘to strive to maintain and consolidate the traditional cadres of the Batutsi ruling class’, as the Governor put it, for the usual ‘Hamitic’ reasons, ‘their great qualifies, their undeniable intellectual superiority and potential for command’. The new mwami was intelligent enough to realise that his role was to acquiesce in reforms designed to create a showpiece for the mandates commission of the League of Nations, rather than preside over a revolution. He moved into a brick house, rejecting a vast body of court tradition.
But by 1934 the Belgians’drastic social surgery had weakened the nobility as scores of old chiefs lost their position or handed over to their sons. To every sorcerer his apprentice; the cash economy had its own momentum. Cotton production in Shangugu province rose from 38 tons in 1930 to 292 tons in 1934; widespread distribution of coffee plants after the Depression pushed up Rwanda’s coffee production from 2.4 tons in 1930 to 39 tons in 1934. British departure from the gold standard adversely affected the Ugandan rate of exchange, and more Hutu stayed in their hills to raise cash crops. Exceptional ,growers might earn more than a thousand francs for a year’s coffee crop, and some of the younger Tutsi began trying to buy their land outright from their chief. Landowners and chiefs were generally opposed, as were the Residents. Despite talk about private property, it was decided that the land belonged to the mwami, the chiefs were his representatives. This was not the conclusion drawn by the Germans, but the advent of an apparently compilant Rudahigwa, and the rapid superficial christianisation of the Tutsi, appear to have convinced the Europeans that land reform on the Uganda model would be misplaced and inopportune.
Whatever their intentions, the Belgians had set in motion capitalist forces that were inexorably destroying the feudal system. They had inaugurated a major social transformation that was difficult to control and direct from above. The rush of the Tutsi into the Church was visible proof that the texture of Rwandan society was changing; new social relationships were growing up, old ideas were giving way, and the Church offered its clients free passage into the new world. By the mid-1930s the administrative cadres of chiefs and sub-chiefs were only 60 per cent literate, but they were 90 per cent Roman Catholic.
The missionary Church was both stunned and delighted by its new role in Rwandan society. Anxiety there was, of course, particularly about the motives of the movement and the quality of the couverts, but it seemed churlish to inspect too closely a prize that had so long been witheld. ‘It is all very fine,’ wrote one Father, ‘but is it really the Faith that is working here and moving this crowd?‘ An answer to this gnawing doubt about commitment tended to be relegated to a future realm of post-baptismal training. More common during the Tornade was the Zaza diarist’s refiection: ‘The motive is perhaps not the most disinterested, but with the help of God’s Grace they will be turned into good Christians.’
The White Fathers saw conversion primarily as an intellectual assent to the dogmas of the Catholic Church, and in this they bore the imprint of their Society’s early Jesuit novice masters. Membership of the Church and access to its sacraments put the Christian into contact with the reforming and transforming action of Grace. Although great stress was placed on baptism as an important turning point, conversion was thought of almost as a continuous process as well as a once-and-for-all commitment to the person of Christ ; man was neither radically sinful nor radically good — hence the need for regular confession and penance. In practice this meant that the Fathers were most concerned that the catechumens understood the Faith; they neither encouraged nor approved of the idea of conversion as an event taking place in an aura of crisis and emotion. The majority of Rwandans refused admission as postulants at Kabgayi in March 1932 were turned away on mundane grounds of illiteracy; seven hundred failed a simple examination, though six thousand, certainly not fully literate, were admitted.
The role of the missionaries changed as a result of the Tornade from that of proselytism to one of leadership, formation, and government, within a hierarchical institution the overshadowed Rwanda. Although the Church numbered less than a quarter of the population it was politically the most important quarter. The Fathers no longer had to confront Rwandan society, to create conditions conducive to the building up of the Church from the unpromising material of the hill communities; they were now part of society and close to the centre of power. Lwabutogo, the outcast of Musinga’s court because of his proselytising, became Rudahigwa’s closest associate. The Catholic chief of Mirenge province, Simon Nyiringondo, paid the salaries of catechists working on the hills around Zaza mission. As chiefs began to serve at Mass the custom of saying a Pater and an Ave for the mwami and chiefs was revived. The mwami’s personal catechist felt his position sufficiently important to ask for a brick house of Nyanza and ibikingi for his cattle and clients. Bishop Classe enjoyed a position of unprecedented power as adviser to both court and administration. When writing to the Victor Apostolic, Governor Jungers could at times be positively obsequious: ‘Car permettez-moi de vous le dire sans flagornerie, vous êtes pour moi un exemple de noblesse
veritable et d’aimable distinction” Rudahigwa often went fo Kabgayi to consult the Bishop, and took pains to talk and act publicly in ways pleasing to the White Fathers.
Between 1932 and 1936 the Tornade almost tripled the membership of the Catholic Church from 81,000 to 233,000. The wave of couverts swept from the forefront of Monsignor Classe’s mind any thoughts of tampering with the foundations of Rwandan society. Like the Belgians, he could see no need for upheavals; the body politic could be influenced in a rational and harmonious fashion from the head downwards by adjusting structures and instituting minor progressive reforms. The Catholic chiefs were to be to society as the missionaries and Rwandan clergy were to the Church. There was, it was felt, nothing intrinsically incompatible — to understate the case — between Christian government and the continuation of a rational feudal hierarchy.
Some of the Fathers were glad to use their parishoners’ experience of feudal society to explain the Christian’s relationship with God, ‘relations that make us grow, engage us in total devotion and assure us of goods far superior to those which the Mututsi gives the Muhutu’. The word shebuja, lord, did have the sense of ‘father of a servant’, and it was customary for the garagu to speak fulsomely of his devotion to his patron in public.
If the Vicar Apostolic ceased to be worried about Rwandan society it was because he assumed that the Tutsi class — which he now again called a ‘caste’ would be informed by Christian virtue whatever type of government prevailed. And by the remarkable sleight of hand that invariably occurs when the Catholic Church flagrantly represents ruling class interests, a political position of great power was felt, believed to be, and proclaimed by the Fathers as a mere spiritual authority, an apolitical stance. ‘The revolution that we brought,’ wrote Father Arnoux, ‘was therefore limited to a purely religious aspect with nothing of politics [about in].’
In consequence, the decade after the Tutsi movement found the Vicar Apostolic more inclined to restrain Belgian initiatives in the direction of social reform than to encourage them. When a systematic review of customary dues and ubuletwa was undertaken in 1933 Classe appeeed as an advocate of the status quo;
Would it be better and more just to give the chiefs simply a suitable remuneration which would give them the wherewithall to live and maintain their position? In theory, yes. In practice, no! The error would be psychological; the people’s mentality and the social conditions in the country make such a total change premature. At the present time it would amount to the virtual abolition of the country’s social structure, an organisation that has always demonstrated its strength and remains the necessary and indispensable adjunct to the government’s transformation and mise en valeur of the country. The chiefs would no longer be the people’s chiefs, attached to their way of life and their prosperity, those good elements without which there can be no social grouping. They would no longer be their ‘head’ who advises and leads them, arranges their affairs, their law suits, and plays the part of intermediary between them and government. In a word, the chiefs would lose their people’s confidence because they would simply become ‘government agents’ who only executed the government’s instructions and made people work.
This plea for a truly Indirect Rule looks remarkably like opportunism. But it had its ideological side. The major intellectual stimulus to the flabby and slow-reacting body of Catholic sociology in the nineteenth century was a revived Thomism. Al the time the majority of the White Fathers were trained seminary manuals were Thomist and, whatever else the missionaries took away from their studies, they came to Africa with a fundamentally organic view of society that presupposed the ideal centrality of the Church ‘as the soul of the whole organism’. For the more intellectual missionaries Rwandan society was like a living creature: it demonstrated a hierarchy and division of labour and service that was rational, necessary and harmonious. The Tornade provided Rwanda with a group of potential Catholic patriarchs and allowed the priests to think in terms of ‘the Christian society’ and in the categories of Thomist sociology. There was a happy fit between the model of a feudal society in transition that historically informed Aquinas’thought and the Fathers’ experience in Rwanda; even the Protestants with their emphasis on the individual, spoke of the ‘social symbiosis’ between Tutsi and Hutu.’
Belgian optimism that administrative decrees would curb excesses was paralleled in the mission by the faith and hope that membership of the Church would make Catholic chiefs charitable and just. The attitude is well illustrated in a letter written by Father Pagès to a Resident in 1933:
“there are injustices committed, as some individuals are loaded with more corvées than should be their lot… but only little by little as the administration gets to know of abuses will they be able to remedy them.Without overthrowing the present regime. The government will be able to direct the country with confidence, given the chiefs intelligence and amenability… along the path of moral and material progress, the final goal of all colon isation.”
It was in a similar defensive vein that Pagès wrote his notes on land holding in Bugoyi, emphasising that no social system was perfect but that all were subject to ‘the passions which are the common lot of all mortals’.
The Vicar Apostolic and the more thoughtful missionaries saw themselves as nurturing the embryo of a future corpus christianum, a prized creation which now more than ever they wished to preserve from the over-hasty. Defects there were, but the Fathers were on hand
to tutor the untutored and absolve the sinful. A repeated theme in Classe’s pastorals was that this process of maturation must not be disturbed by the priests’ authoritarianism, ‘this mania or, if you prefer, this need to play at chief and, at whatever cost, to impose your authority’. The missionaries were told to refrain from pointing out the chiefs’ faults in front of their subjects, and never to insult them in public. The priest’s function, as the soul of the social organism, must be formative, ‘to lead them little by littIe into an awareness of the role they can and must fulfil in a Christian fashion and for their Catholic, and other, subjects’.
Mission reports from Nyundo and Rwaza dutifully recorded that, although the Hutu had rejected former pagan Tutsi, they willingly accepted Catholic chiefs ‘because they are more just and humane’; Lwabutogo was said to be one of the few impartial judges. The northern missionaries tried to comply with instructions, moved catechists if they offended chiefs, and dwelt on the virtue of submission and loyalty, but they suffered from the depredations of the Banyanduga.
The northern problem remained the same; the Banyanduga were government agents with no local support and with little wealth and prestige. In order to consolidate their position in regions where the Hutu shunned ubuhake they were obliged to oppress their subjects; the rich and densely populated land raised the stakes in the game. Having lent their support to the new Mulera province chief, Kamuzinzi, the Fathers discovered that he had been pillaging and even killing dissidents. When the Rwaza Father Superior testified against him at Ruhengeri three other Catholic chiefs promptly broke off relations with the mission. On the other hand, the Christian Hutu still looked on the missionaries as protectors, to such a point that the Ruhengeri Resident could find no one willing to t’El the sub-chieftancies around Rwaza mission; Tutsi who were approached refused, saying that mission Hutu were ungovernable. What they meant, of course, was that mission Hutu defended their rights with more assurance than their neighbours. To complicate matters dispossessed chiefs continued to influence the politics of the region by getting jobs as judges and forming cabals against the Belgian appointees.
The bush missionary’s equivocal feelings about the Catholic chiefs were heightened by a small but ostentations group of young Tutsi whose modernity they found reason to criticise. The group was known as Basilimu, Musinga’s derisive term, the Europeans’followers. Their leader was Rwigemera; he had been left high and dry after his brother Rudahigwa’s accession, so had grounds for rejecting mission patronage. The movement began around Rubengera, shifted to Nyanza and finally found its natural focus in the commercial centre of Kigali and among the young Banyanduga chiefs around Rulindo mission to the north. The members of the ‘club’ openly refused to genuflect in church or make the sign of the Cross, and did not go to confession in the customary fashion before receiving communion. Rwigemera took a second wife, and Father Schumacher hinted darkly that club members had communal women or, at least, practised ‘libertinage’.
It was a sign of the times that the adoption of European clothes, which the Belgians had heralded as a great breakthrough in the reign of Musinga, was now seen as provocative if not subversive. Rudahigwa dressed in traditional fashion and was felt to represent a happy marriage between old and new. A handful of nobles also had cars and smart brick houses, and many of the Fathers thought that the process of modernisation had gone far enough. Monsignor Classe had read attentively the report of the 1932 ecciesiastical conference in Leopoldville at which Bishop de Hemptinne characterised the mood of the day as ‘independence’, with its necessary corollary, ‘indiscipline’. The words struck a chord in Bishop Classe, who scribbled in the margin ‘surtout chez déracinés et clercs, orgueilleux’; against the heading ‘Dangers of communism’ he noted that teachers and clerks light to be given special attention. Leopoldville was to Rwanda as London to rural Ireland, a terrible warning against the loss of simplicity and the death of moral virtue. White few of the priests had a clear idea of developments in the Congo, they looked over their shoulders at it with some trepidation and saw Kimbangu, weak chiefs, towns, European dress and communism as different symptoms of a dangerous virus which must not be allowed to damage the growth of the corpus christianum in Rwanda.
Despite public compliance with the Belgians, there was much dissimulation and private resentment. Chiefs like Rwabusisi who had been dealing with Europeans for over a quarter of a century knew exactly what they wanted to take from Western culture. He communicated with his sub-chiefs by letter, did a little trading, but maintained the traditional life style of a noble. ‘It has often been written,’ commented one sharp administrator, ‘that Lwabusisi was entirely won over to our way of thinking, and that he was sincerely devoted to us. I am willing to admit my doubts on this. Lwabusisi works for his country and adopts every innovation he finds if it will be to Rwanda’s profit.’ The old contempt for the running dogs of the Belgians was still there; one Tutsi described his sub-chiefs disparagingly to the missionaries as `government karani‘, and was warned that trouble was in store for him, since the karani were the whites’ friend.
The effect of the Basilimu and brash young chiefs was to draw the court and missionaries together in an unspoken opposition to some aspects of the new order. The passage of men like Ntulo and Kayondo into history enhanced their dignity and virtues in people’s minds. The White Fathers in victory found the aristocrats worthy opponents
who should be respected in defeat. The two sides were in some respects similar in outlook; Catholic Bishops decried minor variations in the liturgy with as much outrage as they forecast communist subversion. The Tutsi conservatives clung to the rubrics of court ceremonies. Monsignor Classe froze into silence newly ordained priests who suggested tentatively that there might be a place for Rwandan hymns in church; it was only in 1939 that he brought himself to condone such startling innovations. This respect for the old order had political implications; there was considerable conflict between the old-established Tutsi families who had settled around Rwaza in or before the German period, and the new Banyanduga. The Fathers gave ‘old families’ their unwavering support. Ruhanga’s son was constantly being denounced to the Belgians in the early1930s by his ambitious sub-chiefs, but the mission lent their authority to him. The policy paid off, and the Belgians at Ruhengeri began consolidating the power of the older ‘Batutsi Balera’ and sending back the worst of the new men to Nduga.
The stations’difficulties were less complex outside the north, but the dominance of feudal over kinship bonds still caused problems. Attendance at school tended to depend on the presence of the Catholic chief, and the eagerness of the Hutu catechumens was often correlated with their hope of joining his retinue and receiving a cow. The overall pastoral approach was to each according to his position in society. The Hutu inama were revived and the powers of the bakuru circumscribed. Each inama consisted of about twenty-five men who elected their leader and met once a week on the hills for prayer and discussion of mutual help. Bakuru were now banned from becoming involved in court cases, and meetings were compulsory; political questions were strictly beyond the purview of both bakuru and inama. Once a month the group leaders reported to the Father Superior at their mission, so the priests were able to control their activities closely while maintaining an appearance of local initiative and autonomy. From the beginning of 1933 each station held a monthly meeting for Catholic chiefs to explain their duties to them, especially from the point of view of justice and charity, but abstaining absolutely from all political questions. Ineluctable conflicts were spirited away in an organic concept of society.
This post-baptismal training came partly as a response to Pope Plus XI’s call for Catholic Action to christianise society. The assumption was that harmony between the two Rwandan estates could be orchestrated by the Catholic clergy, while the Church as an institution remained impartial outside the politics which it criticised. So it was that Pius XI could issue within five days of each other the encyclicals Mit brennender Sorge against Nazism and Divini Redemptoris on the dangers of atheistic communism. Such a stance was quite possible in Rwanda before the Second World War, where changes planned and supervised by the government gave the impression of equilibrated progress; it became impossible to sustain without gross self-deception in later years, when an accelerated rate of unregulated change brought conflict to the surface.
The appearance in July 1933 of the Catholic vernacular language newspaper Kinyamateka, printed at Kabgayi, was another product of mission anxiety about the chiefs. At first an eight-page monthly produced by the teachers at the major seminary, it sold largely amongst the chiefs, clerks, teachers and seminarians whom the Fathers were keen to influence. Sales rose from 400 to 1,500 copies within a year, and by 1936 to 4,000 with an additional supplement for catechists selling 3,200 copies; eight pages, though of smaller size, were still being filled. The readership was wider than the figures indicate, people reading Kinyamateka aloud spread its impact throughout Rwanda.
This favourable response was largely due to the absence of government gazettes or vernacular printed material for a growing, partially literate Christian population. The paper served the purpose of broad-casting directives from the mwami and Belgians as well as providing pious reading, traditional wisdom and folklore in the form of proverbs. Some censorship was exerted over letters to the editor, so the political and tendentious rarely got into print. However, there were enough missionaries annoyed at the pettifogging behaviour of agricultural officers for mild criticism of government measures to be permissible; for example, in Kinyamateka No. 15 of, 1934 quite a violent reply was printed in the question-and-answer column to a query about corvées; the exactions of sub-chiefs and the persecution of individuals with excess kazi labour was roundly denounced. But the pre-war Kinyamateka was far from being an organ of Hutu protest. After the initial enthusiasm for the printed word, and as the Belgians used the paper less and less as an administrative organ after 1937, readership fell.
The pastoral emphasis on the elite made sense in terms of statistics; fifty-four out of sixty-nine chiefs and 756 out of 900 sub-chiefs were Catholic by 1936, though the percentage of converts in the entire population was only 18 per cent. Father Schumacher chaired a group of eight chiefs, one ex-chief and five sub-chiefs from Astrida province who asked the missionaries for a course in politesse européenne and law. Rudahigwa gave the group his support, and wrote with a number of leading Tutsi to the Superior General of the White Fathers to inform him of their ‘parlement‘, where such topics as the fusion of chieftancies were debated. Likewise at each monthly mission meeting efforts were made to find the philosopher’s stone that would turn the local Tutsi hierarchy into benign patriarchs.
The concern of Catholic Action to maintain a kind of social homeostasis
in the Rwandan body politic was presented to the Governor as the goal of rational social policy. ‘There is to be avoided,’ Classe told him, ‘a disequilibrium that brings the young trained and educatecl man into a different life style and standard of living and makes him despise his companions who have remained with a way of thinking and cultural level that is so different.’ The key word was ‘equilibrium’, and by the end of 1934 the Bishop was complaining to the Governor that primary school education was still inadequate and that only one eighth of the children who ought to be at school were ever taught. Above all, the Bishop wanted the schools geared to the needs of the country, for otherwise ‘mécontents’ and ‘déclassés’ would result.The Belgians were spending less than one franc per annum on each child’s education.
The mission was doing too many things at once with limited manpower and finance. Classe had to run the subsidised State school system and at the same time keep catechists and chapel schools functioning. He tried to follow Rome’s instructions on the development of an indigenous clergy and religious Orders, whilst fostering Catholic Action in the context of the inama and chiefs’ meetings. From 1929 Classe pressed a Church tax, one franc per adult Christian but the results were disappointing; sending out the bakuru caused too much trouble, and the Fathers themselves took to ‘harvesting’ the tax on their motor-bikes. The seminaries at Kabgayi were a constant drain on resourees, and baskets used to be placed outside the churches for offerings in kind or money for their upkeep. Things improved somewhat after 1935, when the Belgians increased their subsidies considerably. Classe’s plea for an expansion of primary education was also motivated by the thought that Catholics would benefit most from money spent on the educational infrastructure.
Since the cassiterite and gold mines did not employ Rwandans in professional positions before the 1940s, all the available white-collar jobs were in the public sector as clerks, hospital workers and a few in veterinary medicine and agriculture. Entry to the Brothers of Charity school al Astrida (Butare) was pegged at fifty per annum; no more could be absorbed by Ruanda-Urundi. Pupils entered the school in 1933 aged thirteen to fifteen years for a basic three-year course in humanities followed by a specialised professional or vocational training. The day began with mass and a lesson in Christian doctrine. Teaching was in French. The school was theoretically open to all, and non-denominational; it was in fact Catholic and almost entirely Tutsi; between 1946 and 1954 389 Tutsi and sixteen Hutu enrolled from the two kingdoms. The Belgians lamely defended themselves at the League of Nations against complaints of religions discrimination by claiming that although 97 per cent of the pupils were Catholics the Protestants had been requested to open a chaplaincy. Nyanza government school was finally closed in 1935, and when the first products of Astrida emerged in 1940 a new distinction arose in the Tutsi elite between a Nyanza ‘old guard’ and the new men, the ‘Astridiens‘. These school loyalties were to play an important part in the politics of the 1950s.
The closing of Nyanza marked the end of a major wave of amalgamations and fusions of chieftancies; there were no longer enough new sub-chieftancies to keep up Tutsi interest in the school. Both Classe and the Belgians were agreed that no useful purpose would be served by opening any new trade schools while existing bricklayers, carpenters and masons were unemployed. The only school at Nyanza was now run by the White Fathers, who had built a mission on the site of Musinga’s old residence.
The essential characteristic of education between the wars was that it served only the Tutsi and was limited in its scope to filling the short-term needs of Belgian administration. Within this system the Church was the handmaid of the State. But within the Church the ideological commitment of the Vatican demanded not passive agents for European missionaries, but rather the development of a Rwanda Church in the image of, and in full communion with, the Church of Rome. Christian brotherhood found its most perfect expression in group solidarity among the clergy, a solidarity which was seen as an essential expression of the universality of the Church. ‘There is but a single clergy’, the Apostolic Delegate told the assembIed Bishops at Leopoldville, ‘without distinction of race or colour; the Catholic clergy. For this reason Rwandan seminarians had to have the same education as their European counterparts, and Monsignor Dellepiane saw his first duty as Vatican representative to be the overseeing of seminary education.
Despite the cost, Monsignor Classe faithfully followed in Hirth’s footsteps and championed the cause of an indigenous clergy. From five to ten per cent of the pupils finishing their course at the minor seminary went on to Kabgayi Major Seminary, which served the four vicariates of Rwanda, Urundi, Lac Albert and Kivu; they had respectively fifty-eight, twenty, nine and eight seminarians at Kabgayi in 1934. The Rwandan contingent was always intellectually dominant, taking the first ten places in the examinations, and Classe repeatedly refused to cut down the Rwandan intake to make way for other vicariates, because it would mean excluding the more for the less able.
Conditions at Kabgayi were harsh, but no harsher than life on the hills; the beds and reed mattresses with simple wool covers and plain food was prepared by the Benebikira. Swahili and Kinyarwanda were forbidden, and the pupils were obliged to speak French or Latin to each other. They entered at the age of eighteen to twenty and followed a three-year course in philosophy, followed by five years of
theology. Then came a trial period as sub-deacons when they spent a year or two in a parish before the diaconate and ordination. For literature Cicero and Victor Hugo were recommended, but Virgil, Ovid and Horace were thought too hard. Only deacons were allowed to wear shoes, and all seminarians were cut off from their families for almost ten years under kind but stern professors. Each year four or five men emerged as Roman Catholic priests; from 1937 to 1940 the Rwandan clergy increased from thirty to forty-six, while the number of professed Benebikira rose from seventy-five to ninety.
Classe’s policy from the beginning was to form all-Rwandan parishes and convents, and by the late 1930s Rulindo, Janja, Muramba, Muyunzwe (near Kabgayi) and Save were all in Rwandan hands. He was anxious to maintain standards, demanding study in theology and curtailing too frequent visits home. There was little friction with the White Fathers under his system in the early years, and when it did occur he was capable of taking the Rvvandan Seminarians were discouraged from joining European Orders. The mission clergy and that of the indigenous Church began and remained separate but unequal; whatever the theory, in practice most missionaries saw the Rwandan priests as on probation.
Since the first Normal school for lay women teachers only began at Save in 1939, and for men of Kabgayi in 1936, the majority of Rwandan religious capable of it were engaged in teaching. By the mid-1940s half the clergy, Bayozefiti and Benebikira, were from Tutsi families; one or two of the old Hutu clergy like Abbé Gallicani were withdrawn from parish work to teach in the seminary, but the Tutsi take-over of the Church was directly felt through the clerical role in education. To go to school was to find a Tutsi teacher, and the intellectual life of the Church was soon dominated by the new Tutsi abbés. Alexis Kagame came from a family of abiru and went to the school for chiefs’ sons at Ruhengeri, whence he moved to Kabgayi minor seminary in 1929. He became editor of Kinyamateka while a seminarian in 1938, and was ordained in 1941. Stanislas Bushayija, another outstanding intellectual, had been one of Musinga’s ntore and was baptised only in 1930; he was ordained in 1944 just as the writer Janvier Mulenzi was finishing his philosophy course.
It was hard for the long-suffering seminary professors not to be impressed with men of this calibre whose social poise made them shine in comparison with the Hutu student. Rudahigvva was never far from their company, though his own Catholic career was fraught with difficulties. He married a descendant of the Gesera line of kings at Shyogwe in Septernber 1933 — a prudent move in view of Gisaka’s chequered history in the Rwandan kingdorn — but the children of the marriage were stillborn. Classe cautiously refrained from baptising the mwami before a male heir was born; the marriage lingered on until
Januarj 1942, when a little canonical legerdemain allowed it to be dissolved in favour of a baptised Christian, Rosalia Gicandwa. On 17 October 1943 the king was baptised in the presence of fifty Catholic chiefs, with the Governor General, Pierre Ryckmans, as godfather.
Rudahigwa’s cautions blending of politics, ancient and modem, had otherwise been to the Fathers’ liking. The king was gracious in Mulera, telling them how pleased he was the the people accepted him as mwami of the north; in Buganza he allowed the Rwamagana Fathers to cut down trees on one of mwami Rwabugiri’s residences. In return Brother Adolphe was made available to him for private building and carpentry, and the Queen Mother was housed at Kabgayi in a building designed for her by Monsignor Classe, though espionage was more the motive than chivalry. Nonetheless Kankazi retained much of her traditional power, and on her request insubordinate garagu in Marangara were whipped in front of the king. The mwami succeeded in getting back the ntore in 1935, thanks largely to the cautionary example of the Europeanised Basilimu, but also because the Belgians needed to convince a sceptical world that ‘Indirect’ rule had not proved fatal to their trustee. A year later the number of king’s advisers was raised to six, although Rudahigwa’s main supports remained Lwabutogo, his secretary, Godefroy Kamanzi, and Raphael Serukenyinkware, now a Catholic, who had successfully ridden the Belgian tiger during two decades at court.
As the Belgians increased the number of their administrative personnel, and the activities of the agricultural and veterinary departments affected more and more people’s lives, the missionaries began to find their local authority seriously challenged for the first time since German days. Taking a lively interest in cattle and crops themselves, it annoyed them to watch the high-handed behaviour of inexperienced miner Belgian officials. The convergence of feeling between old missionaries and old nobles was played on by the king; when the Fathers requested it he would summon a Tutsi who had taken another wife and publicly admonish him. This may have been nothing more than annoyance that, being so much in the public eye, he was debarred from such an action himself, but it genuinely impressed the Fathers. Sometimes the play for a Catholic-Tutsi alliance against the Belgians was quite explicit, as in a speech reported in the Zaza diary in 1940:
He took the opportunity to tell the assembled chiefs in the strongest possible terms to put their house in order as regards’ behaviour on the hills and to lend their influence on behalf of the mission. He reminded them that they must not forget that Rwanda belongs firstly to the King and to the Banyarwanda, and they ought not to slip into the mentality of those who thought of them as salaried officials of the government. Their work as chiefs was not limited to
executing material works as serkali, but they had a moral task to accomplish in the country in union with the missionaries.
Such bold talk may have been produced by news of the German invasion of Belgium that May; nonetheless there is no indication that the missionaries felt anything but approval for the sentiments expressed.
It would have been a bold man in 1940 who insisted that the Belgians held Rwanda in perpetuo. Owing to a growing sensitivity to the Protestant lobby in the 1930s, Brussels had placed restrictions on Catholics multiplying their stations and extending their land holding. The Rwanda Resident foolishly toyed with the idea of bringing in divorce legislation, and Monsignor Classe began angrily brandishing the 1930 encyclical on Christian marriage, Casti Connubii. The missionaries knew well enough that the ex-German colonies were counters in European diplomacy; Father Pauwels had burnt his fingers by saying that Rwanda, like Togo and the Cameroons, might one day be handed over to the Germans. Relations were not so good that the missionaries refused to contemplate the thought that a Catholic king with Catholic chiefs might be able to guarantee the position of the Church in Rwanda with as much certainty as the Belgians.
Furthermore the Catholicism of the court was no mere facade. The ordination of cultured Tutsi priests brought about a deliberate attempt to baptise some of the traditions of the court. Alexis Kagarne began to reconstruct ancient Tutsi society and culture in his writings. The same mood prevailed among teachers and descendants of the families of dynastic poets, who produced a very rich and fascinating Catholic Tutsi poetry in the 1940s. The Isoko y’ Amajyambere, ‘The story of progress, is a cycle of thirty songs telling of the court’s glorious history, followed by a sequence relating the missionaries’ works until Rudahigwa’s baptism in 1943. In Kagame’s words, ‘from the historical exposé was deduced a moral conclusion which invited the present generation to reproduce the same gestes but on a higher plane, in keeping with the degree of our evolution’. A catechist from Nyange mission, Frederiko Kaberuka, composed the praise poem Igisinzo cya Papa Piyo XII on the enthronement of Pope Plus XII in 1939; events like the building of a church, the presentation of a Papal medal to the king, were all occasions for the creation of new verses in the epic vein. Bruno Nkuriyingoma, a descendant of a court poet in the reign of Cyilima II Rujugira, composed his Izuka cya fesu in the classical form of dynastic poems in praise of the abami. Poetry was declaimed at court and sometimes brought forth thunderous applause from the assembled audience.
De Lacger’s Ruanda was essentially a Western prose version of epic poems like Isoko y’Amajyambere; his European model, though, is obvious when he writes about Rudahigwa’s first visit to Bishop Classe at Kabgayi: ‘It was on a more humble scale the repetition of the historic act of the catechumen Constantine greeting the Pope as his religious leader.’ Similar medieval echoes occurred in Rudahigwa’s speech when he dedicated Rwanda to Christ the King: ‘Lord Jesus, it is You who have made our country. You have given it a long line of kings to govern it in Your stead even at a time when they did not yet know You.’
Rudahigwa had jettisoned the old rituals of kingship, and the idea of the mwami as the focus of Imana power, for the Catholic conception of the king as God’s temporal representative. When Father Deprimoz was consecrated Bishop in 1943 the mwami handed over to him a herd of nyambo, royal cattle known as Inkulirakwamuza, or the Pope’s herd, a nice gesture implying in one sense the subordination of the Bishop and in another the sharing of sovereignty. Conversely the condition for the reconstitution of two teams of ntore had been that they attend the Fathers’ school at Nyanza. As legitimation for kingship Christianity came a poor second to the old religion, but with the court considerably weakened the king was bound to tie its fortunes to the most powerful institution in the land. The Church was happy with the marriage, willingly advocated the mwami’s claim to ownership of the land, and favoured more independence for the clergy and Catholic chiefs than the Belgians desired. ‘In correspondence with the government about concessions and other matters,’ wrote the Byzantine Dellepiane, ‘it is useful to avoid when speaking about the clergy or indigenous congregations, etc, etc…the words “autonomous”, “independent” and the like. And there certainly was something that smacked of independence in the way the new Tutsi clergy set about shoring up the monarchy with a dynastic history, and in the manner in which the mwami himself sought autonomy sweetened by moral virtue rather than the bitter resistance of Musinga, with his warrior ethic.
Catholicism, with its hierarchical structures, elite of priests and religious, and emphasis on liturgy, was put on by the Tutsi ruling class in the late 1930s like a bespoke suit on a penniless gentleman. Saverio Naigisiki evokes the scene on Sunday morning at the capital:
La grande messe, à Nyanza peut-etre plus qu’ailleurs, revêt de la part des fidèles un caractère singulièrement protocolaire. C’est la messe du beau monde. Car les pouilleux de Nyanza…ont honte de mêler leurs hardes de dimanche aux costumes de luxe.
Even in popular culture the intrusive religious system effectively displaced traditional practices. Catholics clubbed together to make mass offerings, and masses were requested for success in childbirth
and a happy marriage as well as for the more common purpose of assuring the spiritual well-being of deceased kin. The entire inzu attended church on these occasions, went to confession and then communion in a type of celebration that, in the past, would have involved offerings to lineage spirits. The close connection between confession and communion was easily understood as a purification, and gave an outlet for feelings of guilt that might have erupted in witchcraft accusation.
The impact of Christianity can also be detected in the way names containing ‘Imana’ became increasingly common in the 1930s. Only about 0.5 per cent of the names in Rwandan oral history are theophorous, like Habyarimana (It is God who begets), Hakuzimana (God makes things grow), Nsengimana (I adore God). Likewise only 0.6 per cent of the 518 baptismal names registered at Rwaza in 1914 contained Imana, but by 1946 7 per cent of the 755 baptisms inscribed were theophorous, and today school registers show a proportion as high as 19 per cent. It seems that after Rudahigwa’s accession Imana became less a neutral, otiose force and more a personal bringer of luck in people’s daily lives; this popularisation of the Rwandan God’ was balanced by a comparable decline in the Lyangombe cult and in lineage religion.
It was fitting that, since Catholicism had been assimilated as the court religion, evangelical Protestantism should find itself inheriting the mantle of Nyabingi as the Hutu culte de contestation. Classe’s demand that Catholic chiefs should be supported, come what may, meant bath that dissidents tended to look for new patrons amongst the Protestants, and that Protestants tended to be looked on as dissidents by the chiefs. According to Monsieur Monnier — and this was amply corroborated by the CMS — Catholic chiefs accused their subjects of insubordination if they frequented the Adventists, made their Hutu build chapel schools for the Fathers, and were openly biased in favour of the Catholic missions. ‘We would be happy to see the chiefs solely in the service of the administration,’ wrote Monnier much to the point, and not in the service of the Fathers.
The Adventists were now in the position of the Catholic ‘northern faction’ in German days. Monnier courageously listed the Tutsi exactions: the way they forced their subjects to perform duties expected only of garagu in the south, obliged them to bring wood to make their fire during the hated night watch at the lord’s rugo, and press ganged women and children into working for them to get round the ubuletwa restrictions. The Resident’s opinion was that the missions ought to adapt themselves Catholics and Protestants have found their way to doing so — to the political organisation and local social structure of the natives that they find, and not transform these to suit themselves; it was an understanding of this to which the Catholic missions owe a part of their success. True enough, but when another administrator said in a fit of exasperation that he preferred pagans to bickering Christians, and that the administration had no religion, a great number of postulants and catechumens stopped attending the Catholic classes at Rambura. For many Catholicism had simply become the religion of the powerful, an opinion for which there was ample evidence in Rwanda.
Part of the tension between Protestants and Catholics had spilled over from the Congo; the Fathers there were given massive land grants, and Monsignor Dellepiane lived in a spacious villa set in nine-acre grounds next to the Governor General’s. He flew from Leopoldville in a plane put at his disposal by the government. The Protestant grievances were straightforward: ‘Religious liberty in the Belgian Congo is neither fully established nor completely recognized…it is surely not necessary to be loyal to Rome to be loyal to Belgium.‘ The pomp and luxury of an Apostolic Delegate disguised the poverty of the bush stations. Missionaries paid their employees poor wages, and many catechists were lost to the mines and plantations. By 1938 Bishop Classe had over-committed the mission, and financial disaster threatened; for want of salaries the vicariate was able to put only three hundred catechists into the field. Financial pressure made the ‘invasion’ of ten Protestant stations difficult to counter and put the Fathers on their mettle.
It was the CMS in the north-east, rather than the Adventists, who inherited the religious tradition of Nyabingi. The Ruanda Mission of the CMS represented the extreme evangelical wing of Anglicanism and coexisted uncomfortably with the Bishop and his archdeacons in Kampala who tried to supervise them. An emphasis on sin, repentance and total conversion was soon heeded; at a mass meeting at Gahini in 1934 a number of people stood up to confess in public. ‘We have seen the spirit of God working in such a manifest form that one can only compare it with accounts of Wesley’s time,’ a missionary was reporting by 1936. During a night meeting for prayer and hymn-singing people were ‘smitten and fell down under a deep sense of sin’. The Kigeme congregation also spent nights of intense devotion: ‘One or two began to have trances in which they seemed to become possessed and spoke with another voice.’
The centre of the movement was on the Rwanda-Uganda border, among the Kiga and in Ndorwa, in the very region that had for decades produced Nyabingi prophetesses. From the first response to the CMS conversion fell within the tradition of the shamans.
There is a little village far off the beaten track…and there lived there a woman fairly young in years who had already sold herself to the practice of the occult arts, and was frequented by the local inhabitants as a witch doctresses of some power…She woke up at midnight, and said to her husband, ‘Let us go and worship God’…In the morning she went off with her husband to the local chief, where she again said apparently almost in the language of the possessed that she was going to follow Jesus; and she exhorted all the people to do the same. They said to her, ‘What do you know about Jesus?’ In addition, she replied. ‘Was it not He that came to me at midnight?’
Such women gathered a following and directed people to Sunday worship by threats of dire punishment. Although they were inevitably brought before the Resident, a promise that violence would be eschewed, and the Church orientation of their teaching, was enough to spare them imprisonment.
The CMS missionaries recognised that the movement was ‘fraught with great spiritual danger’ but saw if in the context of the Christian revival they had been preaching for several years. As hundreds of Kiga flocked to church, some believing that the Second Coming was imminent, the revival became increasingly independent of mission control. Known in Rwanda as the Abaka, ‘Those who shine (with the power of the Holy Spirit)‘, the converts began to criticise the missionaries’ conduct. W. F. Church described in 1937 how the Abaka at Gahini were beginning to subject our lives to a searching light, judging us by the standards we set them’. The same element of contestation occurred in Kigezi, where the groups were called Balokole.
The real leaders of the movement seem to be Africans who feel they are specially inspired and resent correction from anyone. In some ways they seem to have the status of special prophets among their own followers, who honour them with the most extravagant expressions of regard, particularly by the girls and women, who, uttering loud cries of joy, embrace them even after a very short absence.
The revival movement, which spread through eastern Rwanda to Burundi from 1937 to 1942, was a translation of the CMS teaching on the radical sinfulness of man, and of pagan society in particular, together with their emphasis on the Holy Spirit into the medium of witch-calling and Nyabingi shamanism. The aetiology of conversion involved a sense of Jesus’s call and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, occurring either in dream or in the emotional atmosphere of a mass meeting; the convert confessed his sins in public, and might sometimes accuse others around him, demanding that they too proclaim a ‘conviction of sin’. Groups with a core of CMS members toured the hills, holding prayer meetings and seeking confessions. Sometimes the accusations would be undisguised calls to admit to sorcery, and the CMS missionaries found people bringing in the leather crowns of cowrie shells that had traditionally represented spiritual power. Thus the Abaka leaders became Christian witch-callers, abahamagazi, who felt chosen to root out the evil about which the missionaries preached incessantly, and who legitimised their right to do so by reference to the Paraclete rather than to the Nyabingi Spirit.
The feeling of being imbued with a malign force, the account of guilt given by the Abaka and sought from others, was partly anxiety caused by contemporary social and political upheavals and partly a product of, the Catholic monopoly of chiefly office. Catholic chiefs used the whip freely on the peasantry and on recalcitrant sub-chiefs, and as the Belgian demand for forced labour mounted Protestant Hutu were discriminated against, loaded with kazi and beaten if they protested. A consciousness of being the oppressed outsiders of Catholic Rwanda was heightened by their acceptance of the CMS’s view that Catholism was a nominal and superficial form of Christianity; they alone clung to the ‘true and pure faith’. The jealousy and resentment engendered by discrimination became internalised as an intensified sense of personal wickedness; the Abaka were both ‘pure’ and ‘dangerous’. The movement appeared as a dialectical resolution of their experience of a basic conflict between righteousness and wicked-ness.
The Abaka also represented a renaissance of the old Shamanistic religion; they interpreted the universal claims of the Holy Spirit as directed to society as a whole, rather than to the more limited realm, into which the prophetesses had been forced, of offering personal cures for disease and infertility. This enlargement of spiritual scale to the whole of society was unacceptable to the CMS missionaries; they had only meant evil to be treated in its private, individual, familial context. After this movement Nyabingi possession tended to be relegated to the realm of the pathological, a private ailment requiring an exorcism of the evil spirit.
The Protestant claim that Catholicisin was a State religion was fuIly justified; the mass had become not simply the re-enactment of the foundation of the Christian community but the religious ratification of a stratified society divided just as surely by class as by altar rails. ‘Our young notables take up the yoke of vanity when they receive a hill’, wrote a Nyundo Father. ‘From the first week their wives, who used to come to mass on foot, arrive majestically and proudly seated on a tipoye born on the shoulders of their new subjects.’ Even at its least visible and most spiritual it was a Catholicism experienced through the traditional categories of kingship. When Naigiziki’s hero in Escapade ruandaise contemplates the altar it is Christ the king who is present, not the Suffering Servant, the Saviour of the poor. ‘From there, today, the king who surpasses all kings, the king who commands all kings, sows, with the hand of divinity that excludes no one and embraces every horizon, a serene and perfect peace.’ Like the mwami whose paternity embraced all Rwandans, Christ the King held
open the doors of heaven to all, even to those who dared not freqent High Mass for shame of their poverty.
The Catholic Church had, as it were, captured the divinity of the mwamiship and made of Imana the God of kings and of hierarchy. Both geographically and structurally the CMS had moved into the zone of peripheral Hutu religion. The most pious Protestant Christians built small huts in their rugo large enough for one man to say his prayers in peace; they were placed where the daro spirit homes had once been built for the veneration of lineage spirits. Evangelical Anglicanism entered Rwanda and the Hutu household at a time when the Catholics were turning their back on a national Hutu Church; it became for a while, and in a limited area, a new Christian lineage religion in contrast to the Catholic ‘territorial cult’. Only Catholicism was allowed to speak to society as a whole in Rwanda, to offer the ruling class a religion of success on earth, and, to the poor, beatitudes and a place in Heaven. But on the other hand only evangelical Protestantism acknowledged the primacy of the problem of evil and provided an idiom in which fears of witchcraft might be articulated and resolved.
The mood of crisis, and the deterioration in the conditions of peasant life that were partly the cause of the Abaka movement were widespreacl phenomena by the beginning of the war. Labour was now being demanded for reclamation of swamps, clearing roads and building, in addition to the burden of compulsory food and cash crops. The Tutsi still tried to squeeze the maximum in ubuletwa from their subjects. Arabica coffee plants were distributed throughout the country in a wide range of soil types and climates, and when they did not grow the Hutus’ incompetence was blamed. Compulsory food crops like manioc were often not disease-resistant, but peasants refusing to go through the motions of planting them were subjected to severe penalties by the ingénieurs agronomes, fines of tifty to a hundred francs being imposed for failure to follow instructions to the letter. Antierosion measures after 1937 increased occasions for punishment. As the Banyarwanda manfully pushed up the production of coffee from 2,000 tons in 1937 to 4,800 tons in 1945 the farming of export crops became widely regarded as ‘a European scheme for their own enrichment at the expense of the African’.
Emigration to Uganda remained high after 1936, when Belgium followed Britain and abandoned the gold standard, thereby devaluing the franc. Fear of being conscripted into the British army kept emigration down in 1939; in the first few months of 1940 about 14,000 passed across the Kakitumba bridge into Uganda; then Belgium devalued, and the numbers shot up to 57,000 in the second half of the year. While the exodus was linked to high earnings and not simply to poor conditions in Rwanda, whole families were now moving and settling permanently. Belgian attempts to use the White Fathers popularise a resettlement scheme in 1930 failed; the response was nil, and the missionaries did not appear enthusiastic. After 1937 some 20,000 people were successfully moved to Gishari, north-west of Lake Kivu, but with population increase in the 1930s at 2.52 per cent per annum this was a drop in the ocean. Despite signs of land shortage in some areas the Belgians carved out the enormous expanse of the Parc Albert, depriving the Nyundo Tutsi of pasture land and forcing them to move animals into Hutu plots.
Wartime saw a growth in resentment against the Belgians’rule as their colonial territories were pressed to become economically viable. Musinga hailed the German invasion of Belgium as the end of colonial government; a number of nobles began to take a renewed interest in him, and he was hastily deported to the Congo. Kinyamateka acted as an organ of war propaganda, treating its reader to lurid drawings of German air attacks on Belgian villages. The administration was sufficiently touchy to put two Italian priests under house arrest at Rambura mission. The Tutsi had already suffered from repeated requisitions of cattle for meat and milk before the war, and with their herds decimated by sleeping sickness and cattle pest a number committed suicide. The effect of pegging cattle prices of a level below their market value was, as the Protestant Mission Alliance explained, ‘to defraud the native of a fair return for his produce and to keep him permanently on a low level of subsistence’. Cattle requisitions during the war enriched Belgian middle men and impoverished cattle owners.
Drained and weakened by three years of wartime rule, Rwanda succumbed to an appalling famine that cost the lives of at least 300,000 people; the pea, sweet and ordinary potato harvests were blighted by mildew, but it was only at the end of 1943, after a year of hunger, that large quantifies of food relief began arriving by road from the Congo. Yet there was no let-up in the demands for forced labour, and by 1943 a Catholic diarist was speaking of ‘the discontent which reigns in the population, particularly for the last three or four years’. When the Protestant Alliance sent an appeal to the Governor General about conditions in 1944, they described a steady deterioration in the morale of the country. Since the Catholic Church had become identified with the State, these changes had immediate effects on the Catholic missions.
From 1939 to 1943 the number of Catholics continued to rise slowly from 289,000 to 330,000; given the long catechumenate, this represented the response in the period 1935-39, the pre-war years. Numbers fell dramatically to 320,000 in 1944 and continued down to 312,000 in 1946. Only 4,502 catechumens registered in all the thirty stations put together in 1944. Some of this drop was caused by emigration — Father Pagès calculated that from 1941 to 1943 the adult male population on the eleven hills around Nyundo fell from 6,041 to 3,742 — but it was also what they called a ‘baisse générale’ , few of the baptised Christians continued to frequent the sacraments and a number of Tutsi took second wives.
This massive slump can best be explained firstly as a reaction after the Tornade; many who had been swept up in the movement and received minimal instruction fell away; and secondly as disgust at the Europeans’ administration and the search for more powerful patrons than the White Fathers. Temporary labour at the mines and on the pyrethrum plantations gave Catholic workers new bosses, and once independent of the mission they took the opportunity to emancipate themselves from the ethical restrictions imposed by Church membership; second wives and temporary liaisons with women became more common, and drunkenness was sufficiently rife for the adventists to be forced to turn a blind eye to beer-drinking. Some Nyundo and Rwaza Christians profited from the situation by becoming wandering beer salesmen, abacuruzi, and at Kabgayi a Rwandan was the first priest to be defrocked for drunkenness and insubordination.
Monsignor Classe was now aging rapidly after forty years on the missions, and thoughts of reform and protest were far from his mind. Despite ruthless Belgian tightening of the screw, he limited his complaints to a protest that forced labour was making it impossible for people to attend catechism classes. With failing strength he worked diligently from 1937 to 1943 to gain privileges for Catholics, arranging exemptions from tax for Catholic pupils regularly at school, and from kazi and ubuletwa for catechists and bakuru. His episcopate ended as it had begun in unremitting effort to obtain for the institutional Church the power, prestige and privilege it lacked in France. In January 1943 Father Laurent Deprimoz was consecrated Classe’s co-adjutator and took over the administration of the vicariate. The advent of Deprimoz allowed the missionaries to give vent to their feelings for the first time. Father Pagès wrote a letter of protest to the Kisenyi Resident about the brutal corporal punishment meted out to those who, in desperation, pulled up their potato crop before it was ready. Two months later the Protestant Alliance sent their list of complaints to Leopoldville. Only then did the Catholics make a fully official protest; the Catholic chief of the Nyambo peoples in the north-east had pleaded with the Fathers to intercede on his behalf because his subjects were fleeing en masse into Karagwe to escape the whip and forced labour.
But Catholic protest was too local and too late; the resounding silence of the early war years destroyed Rwandan confidence in the Fathers, and the close union between the missionaries and the Tutsi was never fully restored. From 1943 onwards a number of Tutsi from poorer families, followed by a few nobles, began to take an interest in the OMS, asking for their schools and some actually converting. In Mulera, where Chief Kamuzinzi used to get information about his subjects from Catholic catechists, the Nyundo parishoners came openly to complain at the mission that the Fathers never denounced the chiefs brutality; several of his sub-chiefs became Protestants. The Fathers increasingly found themselves recruiting from the very young or the very old. Had not the Protestants seen education as a preparation for ‘Satan’s kingdom’, and opened a secondary school before 1946, the movement might have been more extensive amongst the Tutsi. As it was, the Tornade ended abruptly, and the Fathers could no longer take the allegiance of the Tutsi for granted. These early stirrings of anti-colonialism found ‘the Whore of Babylon’, if not in the Belgian bedchamber, at least badly compromised in Rwandan eyes.
During the war the Catholic chiefs became precisely what Classe had feared, nothing but government agents. Wealth and prestige were now the fragile preserve of the Belgians’elect; much of the brutality and oppression on the hills was the panic-stricken reaction of ambitious men who knew that they might lose all if their subjects did not fulfill the administration’s increasingly calerons demands. Clashes between chiefs and mission-supported Christians over exemptions from labour became more common; as a result a wedge was slowly driven between chiefs and missionaries. Thus at the very time the Tutsi take-over of the Church was under way the Rwandan laity was reacting against the White Fathers; the vicariate was run by an old man, a ‘man of the Belgians’. The new Tutsi clergy therefore had every reason to look back wistfully to the days of true nobility and to wish for the disestablishment of the Rwandan Church and the disentanglement of the court from European overrule.
Although it was the hierarchical aspects of Catholic Christianity that found their fullest expression after the Tornade, the radical doctrine of the equality of man in the eyes of God continued to be heard at times, even though not seen, in church. The bakuru were elected by ballot, and the Hutu clergy were an example to everyone that the peasant class did not suffer from some genetic disability that precluded them from high office. The Catholic message that sacramental Grace in the Church could transform seemed to find a living proof in the first generation of Hutu priests. The Fathers, in Lemarchand’s words, ‘brought the Hutu into contact with a new set of values and metaphysical beliefs’, but they did so paradoxically in an institution which belied many of them.
The Hutu found in the seminaries the only path to secondary education open to them. Although the Fathers would have joined the CMS in deploring that their desire for Christ, in the first place, is simply to have a God of learning and civilization, they were not unduly disturbed. For the many, Catholicism, defracted through the prism of patronage, clientship, kingship and power, remained an instrument to ease Rwandans into a bitter-sweet dependence on the Belgians. But for some the radical promise of Christian brotherhood opened up new horizons and expectations. For them the realisation that a Christian ruling class could be as ruthless and tyrannical as the old Tutsi nobility brought an awareness of the inherent contradictions in Rwandan society denied to many of the blinkered missionaries.
The early 1940s saw a conscientisation of the Hutu at Kabgayi Major Seminary as Tutsi seminarians began to dominate its life. Men like Joseph Gitera Habyarimana, Anastase Makuza, Aloys Munyangaju, Joseph Ndwaniye and Grégoire Kayibanda felt Tutsi disdain in a purely Christian setting. The experience of being treated as inferior, contemptible and stupid by pushing Tutsi seminarians brought about the realisation that something more than ‘Grace’ would be needed if the Tutsi were to change their attitudes, let alone relinquish their power. From inside Kabgayi it was plain that the Church had become an instrument in the hands of the ruling class. Precisely because these Hutu seminarians believed in the Christian message, such experiences were formative; even among the clerical elite, where there was an unquestioned premise of equality, the Tutsi had become more equal than others.
Training for the Rwandan Josephites had the same impact on Hutu aspirants. Balthazar Bicamumpaka, the Singa clan head, became econome at the Josephite’s house in Kansi, but he was treated by the Tutsi Brothers as a roughneck and an inferior. Though an individual Tutsi might invite him to share a meal, if several were present he was not welcome at table. In October 1945 he left the Order to train fully as a teacher; his friend and contemporary, Jacques Hakizimana, fared little better at Astrida, where he bravely trained as a medical assistant. All those who later became Hutu leaders, like Lazare Mpakaniye, Froduald Minani and Calliope Mulindahabi, received their education in Church-run institutions where Tutsi dominance was liable to lead to bitterness and resentment.
However conscious of injustice and humiliation the tiny group of Hutu white-collar workers were, they had as yet no definition of Rwandan society different from that of the Fathers. The Tutsi intellectuals were able to articulate the widespread anti-colonialism of the educated but largely ignored the internal stratification of Rwandan society in their critiques. After the cruelties of wartime Father Pagès still believed that the Tutsi-controlled legal system was ‘despite every-thing relatively well adapted to the peoples for whom it was destined, and, far from being loathsome, was in general based on natural Law’. In as much as this natural law was not informed by charity and love, and the ruling class in society were sinful men, the Rwandan system contained genuine and ‘inherent miseries’ that would disappear only in ‘the light of and under the influence of the Gospel and with the joint aid of the European adminstration’. It was the old story of patriarch and priest. To the crushing philosophy of each according to his station the Hutu could find no immediate answer.
The paring down of Rwanda’s feudal society in readiness for a future capitalist economy had thrown up a new group of Catholic chiefs from whose membership the Hutu were totally debarred. The period 1932-45 saw the transition from a Hutu to a Tutsi Church and ended with a general turning away from the White Fathers as the anti-colonial feelings generated by Belgian rule, now a real and pervasive force, came to the surface. By the end of the Second World War there was far more than a Tutsi-dominated Church in Rwanda; there was a State Church. The rise of nationalist sentiment could not but have serious repercussions. On the other hand, resistance to the Belgo-Tutsi State found a natural outlet in the Protestant Ruanda mission in the Abaka movement. Only later was Hutu resistance to move from the purely religious plane among the Protestants to spring up within the Catholic Church in the social Catholicism of the Bahutu manifesto. The next few years were to see Monsignor Deprimoz contending with a national elite that shunned mission patronage and attempting to halt the virtual collapse of the Church on the hills.https://uk.amateka.net/eight-the-catholic-chiefs/https://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/idini.jpghttps://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/idini-150x150.jpgChurch and RevolutionThe Belgians had no intention before the Second World War of trying to govern Rwanda without the aid of the feudal system. They did, however, wish to trim it to manageable proportions and reduce its gravest injustices to a minimum. When new economic opportunities became available to Rwandans in...BarataBarata firstname.lastname@example.orgAdministratorAMATEKA | HISTORY OF RWANDA