Five. French Catholicism or German colonialism
The position of Rwanda’s Vicar General in 1910 was more equivocal than he cared to admit. The sacrifice of Loupias’ life had touched neither Tutsi nor Germans. The ungrateful mwami put out the eyes of an old friend of Save mission, and sounded out a possible alliance with Lukara. The Germans, charged with finding the murderers, blamed Loupias for his rashness and wept crocodile tears over their painful duty of punishing Mulera. The Hutu closed ranks; even Christian guides did not lead the searchers to Lukara. Those who remained with the mission behaved with more than their usual insolence, burning the huts of a king’s garagu and refusing to supply German patrols with food.
Not only Captain Wintgens, with his simple formula ‘Give to Musinga what is Musinga’s’, but Kandt too reproached the growing power of the Catholic Church and its theocratic tendencies. For some time the Church-State clash to which Classe shut his eyes had been inevitable. Sharing his views, on the one hand, were the Germans, the Tutsi and Monsignor Hirth; on the other, their unruly subjects, the missionaries, and northern Hutu thrown together in an unholy mixture of violent and contradictory aims. The fissure lines dividing rulers from ruled had cut into the Church, but in none of his directives did Classe ever avert to this conflict; and Kandt, whilst delivering homilies on missionary conduct, carefully sustained the illusion that the French priests and German colonial officers shared a common purpose. Predictably, it was a cattle dispute that in December 1910 brought the latent conflict between bush missionaries and rulers into the open. A Kabgayi Hutu catechumen persuaded Father Schumacher that he had been punished by his Tutsi lord for joining the mission. In a ‘frank’ letter to the Resident Schumacher denounced Tutsi ‘justice’ and claimed that he, as Father Superior, was in the best position to judge such disputes. This voicing of Kandt’s suspicions and many missionaries’ private opinion made the banal case something of a cause célébre. ‘Where will all this end?’ demanded the Mwami and all the chiefs to be chased out whenever a servant who has had a cattle confiscated as a punishment complains to the mission? From Classe and Kandt poured a fresh stream of injunctions to respect Tutsi authority.
‘The policy of the imperial government has to be in all cases to strengthen and make consequent the authority of the chiefs and Sultan, even if this sometimes results in injustice to the Wahutu,’ wrote Kandt, stifling protest. ‘The Batussi are the chiefs…the government cannot change in one fell swoop the deep-seated structures of the country,’ reasoned Classe. ‘There would be a revolution — something all governments want to avoid at all costs. ‘The Hutu are of savage character, inclined to disobedienee and insurrection,’ warned Kandt: ‘Certain missionaries seem to want to see the Bahutu reigning one day, and especially Christian Bahutu would things be any better?’ echoed the Vicar General. `As long as I have the honour to be Resident here I am not proposing any other policy or principles than those of the imperial government. The Mission must adapt itself to this policy if it does not want to endanger its vital interests, Kandt thundered. ‘We are not kings,’ Classe reminded his subordinates…It can not be a material influence which we hope to wield. We seek to have a moral influence on them, influence as in the Gospel, the only true one. Such injunctions might be reasonable in the circurnstances, might conform with Lavigerie’s views,” but coming from a German Resident via a ‘career’ missionary they had much the same effect on militant priests as Tutsi disdain.
Kandt and Classe made the support of feudal monarchy sound a simple affair. Hard-line priests might concede that Christian peasants did have duties towards their chiefs; henceforth they would even instruct them to fulfill these duties, but the simple policy hid a complex reality. What duties were peasants supposed to perform, and to which chiefs? In an attempt to resolve this problem the Fathers began a serious investigation of feudal rights and obligations.
Musinga had continued Rwabugiri’s policy of breaking down large Tutsi land holdings even after he began using Europeans to expand his kingdom around 1905. The system of overlapping jurisdictions, deliberately created by the mwami and his father, not only prevented the nobles consolidating their estates and followers in the north and south-west but, since several chiefs would have rights over the same Hutu, ensured that ambitions notables like the Ega would check and contain each other. Around Zaza, for instance, four leading Tutsi chiefs could claim rights of peasant service, and this complicated the already difficult legal position of Hutu on mission grounds. The old Hutu on the Zaza estate told the Fathers that the rights of the ‘chief of the bow’, the abatware b’umuheto, were limited to summoning
the ngabo and demanding provisions for it. According to the army chief himself the Hutu ought to hoe for him regularly, provide him with beer and produce, in short behave as his ubuletwa labourers. The priests were inclined to accept their own people’s version. Though the peasants must have been minimising their duties, they were probably presenting an older tradition, whilst the chief was trying to translate his rights connected with the almost defunct ngabo into terms relevant to contemporary Rwanda. Feudalism was not static and did not have a fixed code such as the Fathers, with their training in canon law, sought. Taxes, tributes, gifts, laborious duties, all were determined by the ability of the Tutsi to extract them; given the backing of the Germans they were almost bound to increase.
When the Fathers took over their estates the abanyabatuka and abatware lost their fiefs; the mwami received roupies and cloth in exchange, and he decided whether new fiefs should be given in compensation. Even after 1906, when the chiefs began signing contracts alienating their holdings, they still hoped to be able to maintain the feudal bond between themselves and Hutu now living on mission property, especially in cases where a peasant had fields both inside and outside the mission’s boundaries. If the peasant refused to send the tribute demanded, maybe a part of his harvest or a hand of bananas, the Tutsi would try to place another man on his plot. Conversely the Hutu, also thinking in terms of patron-client relationships, treated the Fathers as their new and preferred abanyabutaka, playing them off in traditional fashion against the local abatware.
Acculturation inevitably took place: the Fathers treated their Hutu as garagu rather than tenants, whilst the Tutsi made valiant efforts to comee to terms with their idiosyncratic view of property. Ruhinankiko’s successor, Rwamuhama, proposed, ‘in order that we may have peace together…you give me all [the land] that those on the mission ground have outside and I will concede you what my men have within the mission’. This seemingly straightforward solution was rejected after a quick calculation that there would be a net loss to the Catholics ; however, the priests promised to make sure that those with external plots sent their ikoro. When the advice of Kanuma, the other land chief, was asked he replied only vaguely, apparently at a loss for a suggestion; three weeks later Rwamuhama was demanding that the mission Hutu build him a hut: the missionaries, having agreed to endorse one feudal demand, might after all lend their weight to another.
To disengage from clientship was impossibe. No sooner did the missionaries weed out one set of patron-client relationships than another sprang up. Their profusion strangted every effort of Fathers Superior and defeated the Vicar General’s moralising. Behaving correctly, the Zaza Fathers asked the Germans, in collaboration with the chiefs who ‘owned’ the forest, to assign them trees, and sent out forest guards to protect them till the sawyers could come. The guards soon settled down to become ‘masters of the forest’; chiefs were refused access to their own timber without a payment. After handing over hoes, goats and cattle to the mission nyampara the chiefs were in no mood for a new exaction. They refused to allow Hutu to carry away logs, and the missionaries, for the first time, became aware of their agents’ abuses.
The same story was repeated with Zaza’s herds. As land grants were now limited by the Germans, the priests had to ask the chiefs for grazing rights. Parts of summer pasture spread over five or six fiefs were assigned them and a mission cowherd was put in charge; cowherds began pushing other cattle off the pasture, selling the grazing rights, which belonged to the land chiefs, for hoes, and building up a private herd. Any relationship with the priests could be turned to profit; catechists, cowherds, timber guards, all took their opportunity. Whether as Tutsi whose resistance divided priests from their bishop — ‘What is the use of worrying about these people who openly despise us and take us for their boys?’ — or as Hutu who manipulated every aspect of the Church’s life, Rwandans were defining the character and internal dynamics of the corpus christianum that was being built up on their soil.
Although in 1911 there were still no important Tutsi Christians, none even under instruction, the war of attrition which the court had been waging for a decade had ended. The Tutsi were imperceptibly retreating; their tactics had changed to accommodation, hence the attempts at negotiation at Zaza. It is difficult to attach a definite date to the origins of this movement, but, looking back, the missionaries singled out as its starting point the day, late in 1909, when Kabare shared a calabash of beer with a Christian. For all well born Tutsi such an act had been unthinkable, comparable to eating with a Twa. This gesture by the eclipsed Kabare epitomised a process which had begun in 1908 and was well advanced by 1912. Reliance on Christians for help in collecting ikoro and even in dealing with legal cases became a more permanent arrangement.Tutsi began taking Christians into the honourable ubuhake relationship, with its mutual duties and rights. Several influential chiefs at court made approaches to Christians, others accepted the advances of ambitious converts, taking them as garagu who could be useful in delicate dealings with Europeans. Although both sides felt that such intermediaries were dangerously contaminated by an alien ideology, they served as valuable channels of information. ‘We are pushing our Christians to join the “families” of chiefs. In such a way prejudices will disappear,’ wrote Classe, favouring a movement which gave him limited but important access to the ruling groups. Kabare himself took Frederiko
Rwagihange as a garagu and made him his permanent delegate to the Save Fathers. Fearing that Frederiko was now more Kabare’s man than theirs, the missionaries sent a trusted employee to pay court to Kabare and become his garagu; it was these two Christians with whom Kabare drank, creating a Catholic myth which might exaggerate the importance of this single act but which did point towards the area in which the Tutsi were coming to terms with the Church.
Musinga himself endorsecl this change, using his catechist Wilhelmi as a general factotum and appointing a man who had created a scandal in 1906 by pillaging a royal gravekeeper as his ambassador to the Kabgayi mission. Several old Ega, however, still tried to isolate the Christians by pouring scorn on them. The Queen Mother chased out any Catholic she found working on her enclosure, and Rwidegembya forbade any Hutu wearing the medal to enter Nyanza. This seriously reduced the usefulness of Christian garagu. Their lords often spent sixteen months on end at the capital failure to perform the two months’ labour service at Nyanza when required led to grave punishments. By the middle of 1911 there were more than seven thousand Christians and six thousand catechumens in Rwanda. Selected from among the poor, the patronless and the journeymen they may have been, but their numbers made Musinga unwilling, or unable, to ban them from Nyanza. Probably the humbled but ever pragmatic Kabare influenced him in this decision; in February 1910 Kabare visited Save for the first time, and until his death in 1911 acted as intermediary between the Fathers and the king.
The movement for accommodation gained ground at Nyanza. Musinga failed to follow up the defeat of Schumacher with the usual round of persecution; instead he informed his ambassador at Kabgayi that in future he himself would deal with disputes between Christians and their lords, so that Kigali might not be called in to adjudicate. He almost seemed to suggest a mission-Tutsi entente to circumvent the Germans, and declared in public that were it not for the first and sixth commandments he himself would consider becoming a catechumen. Musinga is well disposed towards us…He asks questions about religion frequently, often sending for catechists from distant stations to enquire what they have been taught, reported Classe to Algiers, perhaps concealing even from himself the suspicion that Musinga was making a careful assessment of Christianity’s political effect.
Throughout 1911 tifteen ntore were receiving instruction at Nyanza; Musinga knew of it but turned a blind eye. Attendance at school was still irregular and depended on the king’s whims. Some days he would supervise the ntore, obliging them to pay attention to their lessons, on others he seemed happy to find the classroorns empty. In the provinces there were still instances of resistance to the mission, but when a catechist in Marangara had his hut burnt down Musinga sent a stiff letter ordering it to be rebuilt. Perhaps Classe had succeeded in the task he had set himself, and the mwami was convinced that Hutu converts would make loyal subjects.
After Kabare’s death the king seemed at last to enjoy himself; the departure of king rnakers is the delight of kings. The Lutherans were summoned to Nyanza to take part in a little ecclesiastical theatre, a dialogue with the White Fathers. With only seventeen baptisms to their credit after four years work, their pastor was still able tu summon a fiery eloquence, relating how he had heard the voice of Imana calling him to Africa. How was it, the mwami enquired blandly, that he taught differently from the Catholics? Perhaps recalling the need for white solidarity, the pastor denied it. Why then did the Protestants have wives? Because the White Fathers have a rule of celibacy, was the answer. Behind their impassive expressions the Tutsi courtiers must have relished the entertainment. Musinga himself was probably weighing the political implications of differences between the two Christian denominations. In his summing-up he simply said that he was not yet ready for Christianity, but that he preferred the White Fathers.
The problem of actually converting the Tutsi remained intractable; they still saw missionaries as barbarian, even though they had been forced to recognise their power. At court it was difficult to speak to a noble, let alone couvert him to Catholicism. Only those who, like Cyitatire, feared for their lives and fiefs, stayed away from Nyanza for long. Musinga wanted his chiefs near him so that his spies would be free to undermine them in the provinces; he kept them in his company, drinking with them till the early hours of the morning. Each chief had a retinue of thirty to fifty servants camped around the capital; relays of workers from their provincial seats brought in supplies. Those bringing provisions mingled with Hutu carrying ikoro, sleeping rough on the edge of the town, often diseased and near starvation. Among the elegant enclosures and huts Twa spies circulated, reporting news to the king; similarly every lord had his garagu listening for him. In this seething cauldron of political intrigue the White Fathers were closely watched. Compared to the supercilious banter of the courtiers and the cruel excitements of the struggle for power and position the Good News of the Gospel must have seemed insipid and naive.
The pretensions of Christian priests were out of keeping in a court where, though an important diviner might have ten rugos each with a wife and several thousand cattle, he could, for political failure, or for a minor infringement of ritual, be summarily executed or disgraced. Gisaka was the cemetery of ambitions nobles, and the priests could offer them no protection. An important anti-Christian chief was called
to the capital in 1909 and murdered with his two sons by the Twa. The chief who had inherited Zaza lost everything in October 1913.
Even a chief like Rwidegembya would make several sacrifices before deciding whether it was safe to return to court.
Life for Hutu and Tutsi alike was constantly threatened by disease. In 1909 Rwaza was struck by cholera and diptheria; an epidemic of sleeping sickness reached the court itself. In the same year six thousand people died of amoebic dysentery within a twenty-kilometre radius of Nyundo. Against such scourges the Fathers offered no spiritual portection; instead they provided dispensaries staffed by White Sisters. At their Zaza clinic, the Sisters reduced infant mortality to six out of ninety-two live births, but they gave no explanation for the six deaths; ’the will of God’ was more a pious invocation or religious exclamation mark than a causal explanation, so effective physical treatments by missionaries did not mean the eclipse of diviners and mediums, who could not only cure some conditions but could suggest a spiritual cause for all of them. Missionaries, who had accepted material and scientific explanations for disease, and for the vagaries of the weather, could not and would not respond to demands on their self-proclaimed religious expertise from Rwandans who expected, demonstrations of supernatural power, and explanations of the spiritual forces traditionally held to cause suffering and death. As Kandt pointed out, the ‘Catholic mixture of orthodoxy and rationalism’ meant that the Fathers did not expect their presence to bring about miracles. Medical work remained simply a practical demonstration of Christ’s love and a tactic to draw people to the missions; this might satisfy the Resident, but if did not satisfy his Rwandan subjects.
Despite punishments, including sometimes expulsion from mission property, the Fathers were unable to loosen the hold of the Lyangombe cult over their flocks. Some catechumens even attended sacrifices to avert any evil consequences of baptism. ‘You know your Christian subjects follow the Wanyaruanda and Lyangombe,’ Kandt had written to the king, reassuring him of the Catholics’ loyalty. To chiefs like Cyitatire, who lived for some time on the edge of the mission orbit, Christianity seemed unatle to protect Rwandans: they were as well off with their own mandwa spirits, their indigenous ‘good angels’. They had Imana instead of Mungu; they appreciated the stories of demons, since they suffered from bazimu, and they saw little differene between the godparents and confirmation ceremonies of Catholicism, and their structural equivalent in the Lyangombe cult. Byose ni kimwe — ‘It is the same thing’ so why convert to the whites’ religion? There was, however, relatively little open conflict; the Christians preferred to attend the ceremonies in secret and, since the cult flourished at the level of the hill communities, outside the control of the mwami, it could never offer a national resistance to Christian influence.
Ten years of mission activity had not made traditional religion irrelevant to most, but it had transformed the lives of a few, and brought almost imperceptible changes to the lives of many. In this the Fathers represented only a facet of the European occupation that was slowly altering the economic life of the nation. Dr Kandt, a staunch free trader, had invited Indian traders to his new town of Kigali, and these, with itinerant Ganda and Swahili, widely introduced the luxuries of cheap cloth and beads. The central Rwandan economy which funnelled surplus wealth created by peasant labour into the hands of the leisured Tutsi class, and thence to Nyanza, was soon affected. Cows, goats and sheep, which had once negotiated relationships of a feudal kind, came to assume a cash value as skins and meat, especially around mission stations. The demand for skins on the Bujumbura market pushed up the price of goats twentyfold between 1897 and 1907. Inflation and fluctuation in prices followed the presence or absence of traders. Rwanda, with less commerce than Burundi, had lower prices, but by 1909 a cow could fetch twenty-three roupies, compared with a previous top price of eighteen, the Fathers received complaints from chiefs that Hutu Christians were selling off ubuhake cows.
Bride price seems to have followed the rising value of cattle. From August to October 1909 the Fathers noticed a doubling and even trebling of bride price in the marriages at which they officiated; they were obliged to peg it at seven hoes for their Christians. Cattle had been, and were still, the fundamental index of wealth and value, so as cattle acquired a market price other objects which could not so easily be sold to traders were relatively devalued; more hoes were needed to effect the transfer of genetricial rights from one lineage to another; fertility itself, and therefore brides, were being sucked into the market economy.
The missionaries might solve the problem of bride price among their Hutu Christians, but they were powerless in the face of that other effect of commerce, emigration. Three roupies were needed to clothe a man; clothes had been the perquisite of all the early Christians, and the later ones were not willing to forgo it as the mission entered a period of economic crisis.Whilst their people left them to look for work the Fathers censoriously predicted the outcome, forgetting that it was themselves who had introduced the Hutu to paid labour; ‘With the Christians more numerous the need to clothe themselves will push people . . . to chose after the Europeans and traders of all colours. It is the scourge of the missions. These bad examples will quickly corrupt the simplicity of the poor negro.’ Many died on the way to Bukoba as porters, perhaps one in ten came back with a profit, but the movement begun in 1910 was not to be halted by moral strictures. In three weeks a porter might earn four roupies and satisfy some of the new needs and ambitions born in the Catholic classroom.
The new sources of wealth brought into Rwanda by the Europeans, and the protection they afforded, started a process that was ultimately to undermine the Tutsi order. As employees of the Germans, and even more as those of the White Fathers, Hutu were able to substitute cash payments for the performance of feudal obligations. Kandt believed that all Hutu joining the misson hoped for an improvernent in their social standing, and protection against the lawful and unlawful demands of their chiefs. They consider themselves to be the garagu of the mission and as such even gain the respect of other Rwandans. The German presence was more and more felt; as an alternative source of power and patronage it threatened the missionaries as well as the court. The White Fathers, under German pressure, were losing their position as an important white nobility, and along with the Hutu and the Tutsi were being beaten and harangued into an unnatural passivity. At every point groups worked against one another — nobles, garagu, clan heads, Germans and White Fathers all competing for the one commodity Rwanda could supply in abundance, the labour of her peasantry.
If at Nyundo the Fathers spoke of being asked to kukiza, save the Hutu from the predatory Tutsi, farther north they had to recognise a ‘spirit of independence’ among the peasants; even the Germans admired the way the Kiga worked the rich soil, and it was the Kiga who rallied to Muhumusa when she escaped German custody and returned to Kigezi. Kigezi had been divided by the Brussels frontier agreement of 1910; the establishment of a British post at Kumba, employing Ganda agents, turned the previously quiescent Nyabingi mediums against the Europeans. The new frontier divided only colonial officers; in 1911 it did not even prevent Musinga collecting ikoro from the British side; Muhumusa was able to use it to her advantage; on one occasion she seems to have escaped attack because the British assumed she was a German protégé. After three months she formed a small army that swept through southern Ndorwa attacking the delimitation agents and moving the focus of the Nyabingi cult into German territory.
The Nyabingi movement was less an organised religious system than a congeries of mediums with a common claim to supernatural power through spirit possession. Itinerant ababyakurutsa used to enter Rwanda from Mfumbiro and were held to be the intermediaries of Biheko, a spirit identified with Nyabingi, who was concerned with the fertility of women and land. Childless women brought Biheko gifts and were asperged with water; those whose crops were poor were given peas that would yield a magnificent harvest. The priestesses also exploited pastoral interests; Muhumusa claimed that if she could find a royal Hinda drum she would raise cows from the ground. This particular assertion was also a distant appeal for the restoration of the Ndorwa monarchy, a recurrent theme in Nyabingi outbreaks.
With British Ndorwa closed to Muhumusa, she began making contacts in Northern Rwanda. By November 1911 the whole region was in a state bordering on uprising. Lukara and the Twa Basebya had formed an alliance in June; Basebya became Muhumusa’s main military commander. Meanwhile the Yoka clan revolted against their Tutsi overlords. Christians around Nyundo dared not leave their hills for fear of attack by the followers of Nyina Ku Humusa. The priestess was captured in September 1911, having turned the leaders of the Sigi clans against her and antagonised at least one important Lyangombe medium. Her removal to prison in Kampala did nothing to calm the area; it was soon claimed that one of her sons, Ndungutse, had escaped and that he would continue the fight to oust the Europeans.”
The mythology of resistance, the stories of rightful heirs and of Nyabingi’s shamanistic powers were always at hand; leaders rose up, moulded the mythology to cement alliances between the Twa and Hutu clans, and were themselves moulded by the demands of their followers. Ndungutse was one of many; his power at the end of 1911 sprang from his exceptional ability to respond to the demands of the disparate northern groups, including those of the local Tutsi. But his movement was to pose the most serious threat to the central authority of the court before Belgian rule.
The Rwaza Fathers made a point of telling their people that Muhumusa had been captured, but the Hutu immediately switched their hopes and allegiance to Ndungutse. For some he was the new king of Rwanda, a child of the murdered mwami Rutalindwa, and a descendant of Rwabugiri; for others he was the kisongo, the minister who heralded the imminent arrival of a young girl without breasts, the Queen of Ndorwa, Nyabingi. It was a cry against both the Banyanduga invasions and the new demands of the Europeans.
To listen to the pagans on this the king is a sort of messiah… First of all he
is invulnerable, no one will be able to kill him. The Europeans’ bullets will have no effect on him; . . . he will catch them in flight and change them to water in his hands . . . Furthermore this marvellous king has the power to kuloga to cast a spell at a distance and so bewitch his enemies. The main reason for his coming is to chase the Europeans out of the country.
But if Ndungutse did evoke the myth of a saviour king, the powerful sorcerer who could defeat even Western technology, his grasp of political realities was firm. He does not seem to have responded at first to peasant hopes of routing the Europeans; he tried hard to gain the White Fathers’ support — after all, there were 1,500 baptised Christians at Rwaza and 2,300 at Nyundo, mostly young men between the ages of twelve and thirty. In February he began circulating the story that the White Fathers were his maternal uncles: the claim did not disturb his royal patrilineal descent, but advanced the missionaries, as well as his alleged mother, Muhumusa, as the source of his religious authority. Talk of Rwaza mission being attacked faded away; people openly speculated that the Fatherst flagging opposition to the Banyanduga might be revived.
Ndungutse’s claims to the Rwandan throne seem to have gained force as he moved south. His first major attacks on the Tusti took place around Rulindo mission, in the province of Busigi. Proclaiming that the Hutu would henceforth be free of Tutsi exactions, he systematically destroyed the huts of the Tsobe-clan Tutsi, who, as abiru, had agreed to Rutalindwa’s deposition. The people’s response was overwhelining: ‘the Father was able to verify with his own eyes the ruiris left amongst the Batsove [Tsobe] . . . There was nothing left, neither Tutsi nor cows, nor huts save those of the Hutu which had been spared on Ndungutse’s instructions.’ Now the stories were embellished by imagination; he had only to extend his spear to set huts ablaze; when a Father at Rulindo accepted his gift of a cow it was said that the royal calabashes had been placed in the mission’s custody.
Musinga consulted his deviners and was told that the vengeful spirits of Mwami Rutalindwa’s murdered brothers were stirring up trouble. Massive ceremonies of appeasement were conducted. A cow was sacrificed, and Musinga stood on the mutilated carcass whilst a diviner drenched him in blood; after he had washed he descended into a deep pit and emerged followed by a young bullock. In a subsidiary ritual the mwami and his Queen Mother stood in a blazing hut before escaping through the back. The cycle appears to have been an extraordinarily cathartic representation of the bloody coup which had brought Musinga and the Ega to power. Ritually the victors became victims, and the regeneration of Rwandan kingship was symbolically achieved.
The Germans, thinking they had but another instance of Hutu insubordination to contend with, and perhaps hoping that Ndungutse would return to British territory, were dilatory. Kandt was away, and his deputy, Gudovius, was loath to take responsibility for another major expedition. A mere police officer and fifteen askari were sent to halt Ndungutse’s triumphal match towards Kigali. The Tutsi read the warning signs correctly. Nyindo arrived at Rwaza mission on 15 February 1912 on the way to summon his ngabo. Within days two thousand men were heading for Rulindo and the Mulera plain, only to be turned back by Gudovius’ cautious policeman.'”
Whilst the Germans hesitated Ndungutse used his time well, exploiting the north’s different grievances. In Bushiru, Buhoma and Kibali provinces the abahinza and Tutsi of long standing were roused by promises that the Banyanduga would be driven out. The Fathers heard on 26 February that a royal drum maker had sent Ndungutse a drum; he was now carried on a litter and had a bodyguard of thirty men. In Bumbogo and Buliza he seems to have emphasised his royal claims and swung most of the northern provinces behind him. On 27 February a party of two askari, two house servants and three Christian oarsmen were killed on Lake Bulera. The Hutu responsible was not among Ndungutse’s followers, but it was enough to convince Gudovius that he must act.
By the beginning of April Gudovius was faced with a full-scale civil war, and the White Fathers were far from certain of the outcome. Ndungutse had a hard core of Twa mercenaries and could count on Lukara’s men; he had support from the Yoka as well as from the conservative Tutsi diviners of Bushiru and Buhoma. The umuhinza of Kibali was already staging his own independent rising. The movement was more a temporary alliance of dissident groups than a supra-clan army, but it represented the most serious challenge to Musinga since the first years of his reign. The Fathers in the north talked of a Hutu ‘revolution‘, but Ndungutse, of course, was far less the leader of a revolution than of a legitimist rebellion that had become intertwined with a wide range of peasant grievances.
On 8 April a state of war was declared, and the missionaries were pointedly informed that their Christians would be safe provided they gave no succour to the rebels. By this time Ndungutse had followers within five miles’ match of the Nyabarongo river, the sacred boundary beyond which no mwami ever went.
The rebel leader misjudged the missionaries; he sent them presents and offered a pledge not to attack them or their supporters. At their request he even handed over Lukara to the German garrison at Ruhengeri. But when brought face to face with the full implications of their pro-Hutu sympathies the White Fathers drew back; they represented an institution whose historical experience had made it suspicious of revolution, and this was a rebellion legitimated by ‘paganism’. When their own Christians headed a revolutionary movement in the 1950s they were to react differently. The day after Loupias’ assassin was brought in Gudovius set out from Kigali with sixty askari, thirty police and almost three thousand Tutsi. The Fathers ordered their flocks not to co-operate with rebels and gave the Germans valuable information about the disposition of the Twa. At Nyundo they confiscated large numbers of spears, since the Germans had made it plain that they would attack any Christians suspected of complicity.
On 13 April the Germans broke the rebellion, leaving Ndungutse presumed dead in a morass of slaughter and pillage. The German troops were only the vanguard of the Banyanduga who swept through Bumbogo, Kibali and Buhoma, burning and looting. Behind the Mausers the mwami carried out a traditional raid, and to imperial punitive measures was added sub-imperial repression. The scores of women captured and sent back as concubines to nobles of the court became the subject of futile protest by the White Fathers. The wave of Banyanduga receded in the dry season of 1912, leaving behind an assortment of Tutsi like prickly fish in tidal pools. Important nobles returned to Nyanza, leaving garagu to fight for control of their new fiefs. Many Hutu who had previously been free of nobles’ exactions, or who had lived under compilant chiefs, now fell within the orbit of unscrupulous parvenus who tried to take over as many hills as possible. Lukara’s grisly public execution was attended by a large contingent from Rwaza and Nyundo. Basebya followed him to the grave in May 1912, shot on sight by the Germans.
Tutsi central authority had again been upheld against regionalism; the missionaries emerged from the bloodbath smelling like roses. ‘Not one of our Christians suffered,’ crowed a Father. ‘This has been noted everywhere, and our influence has grown correspondingly. It had taken eight years to bring the northern stations into line with government policy, and the rewards were immediate. For the first time since the White Fathers’ arrival in Rwanda the Tutsi nobility attended a church service in strength; there were twelve chiefs present at the benediction of Rwaza church, including a nephew of the king, Nshozamihigo’s, son, Nyirimbilima. The church had risen on the ashes of northern Hutu hopes; the last bricks were drying in the mission kilns as the final raids died away. Gudovius returned his gun to its holster on 16 May, dismissed his Tutsi cohorts, and joined Monsignor Hirth in the solemn blessing of the fine new building. The blessing fell as much on the policy and perseverance of Leon Classe.
Yet Classe, that most ardent of Tutsiphiles, had been shaken by the repression and the strength of northern resistance, and was warning his superiors: It seems inevitable that the Tutsi with their . . . rank obstinacy and disdain for Europeans, their jealous concern to avoid all education, will in fact be displaced by educated Hutu. The annual report for 1911-12 emerged clearly Hutu in sympathy. ‘The Banyarwanda are tired of the tyrannical yoke which the Tutsi have imposed on them for centuries . . . Not a sod of earth, not one tree, not a handful of grass can they call their own . . The Europeans are here; some powerful but pitiless, others compassionate but too weak for their liking.’ All the contradictions in Catholic thought and action remained, perhaps intensified rather than diminished, after the suppression of Ndungutse.
The White Fathers dutifully spread the news of Ndungutse’s death. Dr Kandt, on his return, warmed to them and acted as their spokesman at court. I know that there was not a single Christian in Mulera found at Ndungutse’s camp, he told the mwami. Not a single Christian bore him gifts. Once more the northern Fathers were powerful patrons. Nyundo and Rwaza thrived. The Zaza missionaries, on their best behaviour and avoiding conflict, suffered heavy losses as Hutu Christians left for Bukoba, but the rapprochement with the Tutsi continued at Save and Kabgayi, and numbers increased.” Only at Rulindo, where the Hutu were feeling the presence of newly arrived Tutsi, was a certain distrust remarked. The Hutu are turning away, and why ? Quite simply because their hopes have been disappointed. And this dates from the attempt at revolution which almost dethroned Musinga and kicked out the Tutsi, but failed following the intervention of the European authorities against the pretender. Mission success now depended on pleasing the Germans, the Tutsi and the Hutu, in that order.
Yet the north was not completely subdued. Kibali and Bushiru under their abahinza remained disturbed. At Rubengera there was already a new Protestant station, and of Murunda, south of Nyunclo, a new White Fathers’ post. Kandt, who more than ever valued the missions as agents of pacification, was pressing the king for a third Catholic station in Bushiru. Musinga’s throne had been saved by German might, Kandt’s language did nothing to conceal the brutal
fact. They have received permission from the Emperor Wilhelm to build anywhere in the land. Now I hear that you the Sultan refuse to allow this building. You want people to think that you have the honour of being Emperor Wilhelm. But you have not. A week later Kandt upbraided Monsignor Hirth for having built a school in Bukonja without permission; both the king and the White Fathers were to bow before the reality of imperiaI power.
Yet Kandt was ready for progressive reforms, furthering what the White Fathers liked to call ‘une évolution d’esprit’, perhaps even realising their cherished dream of a new Charlemagne.'” A special training school for chiefs was no new project for Kandt, but now the Fathers gave it serious consideration, spurred on by Governor Schnee’s threat of an invasion of Swahili-speaking teachers, graduates of Tanga training school which, according to Christian sources, was a hotbed of Islam.
Government service and towns proved to be the milieux most favourable to Islam. In Rwanda Kandt had opened the floodgates to large numbers of Muslim traders and was pressing on with the construction of townships at Kigali and Kisenyi, where there were to be Government schools. Christian fears that they were witnessing a deliberate attempt to propagate Islam through trade, schools and the ranks of the police and akidas were illfounded; Governor Schnee was almost as anxious as they about Muslim teaching among his government’s agents and the spread of Muslim brotherhoods. Catholic and Protestant anxieties were shared by the court; the kin’s sporadic forays into the alphabet had been greatly stimulated by the prospect of spending half a year in Muslim KigaIi under Kandt’s supervision. It seems likely that the court knew of the impact of Mohammedan agents in Buganda, Burundi and western Tanganyika, for the Arab stayer Rumaliza had been carefully excluded in the nineteenth century. We are not like Muslims,’ soothed Kandt, ‘who insult the chiefs, calling them mshenzi. And indeed Hirth was soon to ban Christians from using this word to describe a pagan. Kandt’s new school at Kigali had the surprising effect of doubling Nyanza school’s pupils. Musinga even requested a Catholic school for his nephew Nyimbirilima at Ruhengeri, perilously close to the German camp; similarly Mibirisi mission received an appeal for Catholic teachers when the new government school was opened close by.
Now that good Tutsi pupils were plainly destined for government service the mwami tried to control them by ubuhake arrangements; he gave cows to the clever ones and part of a hill to Wilhelmi Mbonyangabo, now his secretary aceredited to him by the Residence, the courts first political appointment of a Christian.'” After Kandt introduced an experimental class of Government chiefs in 1911, each with his field for the production of the royal ikoro, the king appointed two more Christians to large hills and gave them several hundred Hutu. Kandt’s reform of the ikoro system provided Musinga with a new style of ibikingi or fief to grant, but for the Resident the new chiefs were the forerunners of a more streamlined system of tax collection.
Both Tutsi and Christian missionaries were struggling to come to terms with increased commerce. As new markets were opened and the old grew in importance the Tutsi first opposed them and then tried to tax them. Slowly they were drawn into the Muslim-dominated trading network; Rwabusisi, Rwidegembya’s brother, began paying for cloth and goods by loaning traders his ubuletwa labourers to carry skins to Bukoba. The Lutherans opened their own shops where goods were exchanged for skins and furs. The mwami himself finally asked the White Fathers to build him a shop in Nyanza. At Zaza, troublesome as ever, the station most affected by rumours and by the trade through Gisaka, the Fathers gave money to selected Christians to start up in competition with Indians and Muslims. Trade and porterage kept attendance at catechism low; the mwami made a handsome profit from the increase in commerce, but the missionaries could only deplore developments that limited their success.
Although the northern stations, restored to their role of patrons, prospered and were almost envied by their southern colleagues, the rift that had grown up among the Rwanda missionaries was not healed. In March 1913 Hirth informed the priests that he was to be replaced by Classe, and went into Retreat. In an attempt to ensure uniform implementation of his policies Monsignor Classe transferred Father Schumacher to Nyundo, where he was shocked to find . . . Our brigands of catechists in the out-stations have formed brigand catechumens of whom not a single one could be baptised. Whilst Father Schumacher inspected the bruises his predecessor, Huntzinger, had given, Monsignor Hirth sat in the confessional;'” Father Huntzinger himself, now at Save, gaily shot the goats of catechumens who missed their lessons, and Classe released a broadside that had been in preparation for the last two years. He urged his priests to bow to the government’s wishes, for, sensing some pro-Hutu feeling among the clergy,
…the government turns to the Protestants, who set themselves up as German masters and wish above all else, as they never cease writing, to reach the Tutsi . . . The government therefore reproaches us with, at least, working to form an anti-government party; if it were true we would be working against ourselves, against God by whom we have been sent, and so forming an anti-Catholic party; . . it is our duty to couvert the chiefs.
The impulse for change came from without rather than within. ‘Error will soon establish its schools everywhere,’ forecast Classe.
‘Error’ had indeed six stations by 1914. Its schools were few but well equipped, and taught to a higher standard. Rubengera was soon to be staffed by Tanga graduates and become a Normal schoo1. Yet though the Catholics referred enviously to Lutheranism as the ‘religion of the government’, and worried whenever a Tutsi chief strayed their way, in reality the Protestants were having little success. Their better schooling was making them no short-term gains; they were, it seems, too closely identified with the Germans, the much feared ibisimba. Hanging in Lutheran classrooms were portraits of Dr Kandt and the Kaiser; pupils learned the geography of Europe and were given talks on German greatness, victories and virtues. If it is true that Rwandans preferred what de Lacger called ‘catholicisme français’ to ‘christianisme allemand,’ it was largely because they saw the German missionaries as the agents of imperial government at a time when imperial over-rule was making itself felt.
In Malawi and Zambia, where Protestant competition was intense, rambling networks of chapel schools and prayer-houses, out-stations and catechists were flung around the missions; in Rwanda there were rarely Christians beyond a three-hour radius of a station. After 1912, when the Catholics began to take Protestant expansion seriously, the pattern changed, but only slowly: the Germans insisted that out-stations have a European in residence, and few chiefs accepted a catechist on their hill without a struggle. The only sure way of placing a catechist was as a chief’s garagu, a position which obviously limited his freedom of action. As the Catholic counter-attack began, and out-stations and catechists were placed on distant hills, a new wave of opposition to the mission was encountered. For the first time territorial conflicts typical of other countries arose between Lutherans and White Fathers.
The Catholics’ ability to respond to the double challenge of Pro-testantism and Islam was greatly limited in the short term by Monsignor Hirth’s preoccupation with seminary education. A couple of straw-thatched sheds with wooden benches grandly styled Nyaruhengeri Minor Seminary were opened in 1912; the seventeen pupils learned Swahili, Latin and German, with prizes for the best German-speakers awarded by the Resident. A year later they moved to Kabgayi, and were joined by Rwandan students recalled from Rubyia, to form the nucleus of a major seminary. The Rubyia students could speak good Latin, and sometimes had difficulty containing themselves when old European priests used expressions which had nothing in common with the language of Cicero. Even in the heart of Rwanda there was little liberty, and visits from parents and relatives were strictly supervised.
With so much energy expended on the seminarians there was little left for the laity except Hirth’s old stand-by, pious reading. Before the beginning of the First World War there were almost 13,000 baptised Hutu, but a lower percentage than in former years were attending mass, and few seemed interested in reading. Classe carefully mixed political and missiological arguments to make his prescription of more education palatable. ‘Education is a necessary and indispensable weapon . . . If on the pretext that it is difficult we neglect to assure our catechumens and Christians of its benefits we are putting ourselves in a position of inferiority in relation to the Protestants and the government…’ This renewed emphasis on education was in fact the corollary to his moment of insight after the Ndungutse rising; should the Tutsi fail to form an elite acceptable to the Germans he intended to have an alternative Christian elite at hand, perhaps Hutu, ready to become government chiefs.
In the second week of August 1914 news began to spread that the badatchi were fighting the other colonial powers. German ‘civilisation‘ scarcely reached as far as Rwanda; it petered out, like the famous railway line to Kagera, somewhere near Tabora. Roupies were still not common currency, though the Fathers had begun to give workers their wages in coin, so that they could pay their one-roupie head tax, collected for the first time in June 1914. A few ambitious Christians had turned to crops, such as tobacco and cotton, destined for the external market, but the rich agrictdtural north was hardly touched by the colonial economy. Imperial rule meant Kandt and his assistants, balancing their weakening of Musinga’s authority by the strengthening of their own askari. Although the tax chiefs were Kandt’s own innovation, he did not hesitate to by-pass the court, and by 1914 was asking the Fathers to send all ‘Christian’ cases direct to him at Kigali; perhaps even the Germans were secretly doubting their ability to change the proud Tutsi into malleable associates of German rule. Although the Europeans had supported the Rwandan State, extended it in the face of northern resistance and maintained the king’s ascendancy over the nobles, they had eroded the mwami’s power by substituting Kigali for Nyanza as the administrative capital, and German askari for Tutsi ngabo as the prime agents of State control; Indirect Rule, it seems, by 1914 was on the point of giving way to Direct Rule. The war’s effect on the bicephalous Rwandan State was to raise the value of stability and hence of the ruling class; Musinga’s co-operation was essential to the German war effort and the court regained its old importance.
By the beginning of the First World War the White Fathers had still not resolved the dilemma of a Hutu Church in a Tutsi State. As they were training Hutu priests the Germans were shoring up Musinga’s shaky authority in the provinces and crushing the Muhumusa-Ndungutse rebellion. The backwoods of Rwanda were just beginning to experience the impact of the colonial capitalist economy; although the nobles remained unconverted, the court had begun to corne to terms with the new, educated Hutu Christians. As the first few assumed positions of authority in the State and the court’s weakness in the north was startlingly demonstrated, even Father Classe’s faith in the Tutsi began to waver.
German authority was now widisputed; the missionaries were obliged to tow the line; yet the imperial regime was soon to give way before the Belgians. The assimilation of the Hutu Christians heralded a more profound change, the later movement of the Tutsi into the Church, an event which would confirm Classes faith in the nobility and spell the end of the flourishing Hutu Church. The war was to put the dock back and set king, colonial authority and mission on a path of conflict already once trodden by the Kaiser’s agents.https://uk.amateka.net/five-french-catholicism-or-german-colonialism/https://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/colonialism.jpghttps://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/colonialism-150x150.jpgChurch and RevolutionThe position of Rwanda's Vicar General in 1910 was more equivocal than he cared to admit. The sacrifice of Loupias' life had touched neither Tutsi nor Germans. The ungrateful mwami put out the eyes of an old friend of Save mission, and sounded out a possible alliance with Lukara....BarataBarata firstname.lastname@example.orgAdministratorAMATEKA | HISTORY OF RWANDA