Nine. Elite and counter-elite
At a meeting of Superiors of mission stations held in September1945 reforms of the catechumenate were mapped out. The period of postilancy was to last sixteen months, with two sessions of doctrine and reading per week. Those passing the final examination were eligible for a thirty-two-month catechumenate punctuated by eight-monthly examinations. From the beginning of postulancy to baptism the training was divided up into four-month sessions, igice, and no one could move from one unit to next without adequate attendances at class. Catechists had the Gatikisimu isobanuye (Cathechism commentary), which contained a set of relevant Bible references, and they were given a short manuel on methodology. The reforms seem to have been effective; statistics for Easter duties showed that the failure rate had dropped to 10 per cent by 1955.
With the practice of the catechumenate restored to traditional White Father rigour, Monsignor Deprimoz turned to the problem of the évolué, a term for the Rwandan intelligensia that did not initially appear objectionable in its connotations, and was used freely by Rwandans and Europeans alike. To counter secular newspapers like the new La Voix du Congolais coming out of Leopoldville a small Catholic magazine, L’Ami, destined for French-speaking Africans in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Congo, was published. It had a limited success, selling one thousand copies, though only four hundred were bought by Rwandans in the first few years. The Brothers of Charity produced their own magazine, Servir, destined for the alumni of the Groupe Scolaire in Astrida. The seminarians contributed to their own L’Echo du Séminaire. Each year a Sunday was set aside as ‘Press Day’ when the Fathers exhorted their congregations to read ‘good’ periodicals and to disseminate them. The buying of Catholic news-papers was virtually an obligation for teachers and catechists, and the readership of Kinyamateka doubled to nine thousand by 1947.
The growth of cercles, clubs for Catholic évolués where it was hoped they would make contact with the clergy in an informal atmosphere, and where books and sports facilities were provided, was also the fruit of the first years of Deprimoz’s episcopate. Regular meetings at Astrida mission blossomed into the Cercle Secondien, named after the head of the Groupe Scolaire. At Kigali there was the Cercle Léon Classe and at Nyanza the Cercle Charles Lavigerie. Similar groups had a modest success among the much larger educated Catholic population of Leopoldville. Deprimoz’s commitment to the évolué, judged by that touchstone of episcopal concern, money, was sincere; an impressive hall and small library were built for the Astridiens. His declared aim was ‘garder toute notre influence sur cette géneration montante qu’il faut éclairer dans le bon sens, diriger dans leurs revendications et orienter vers l’Action Catholique’.
But despite the new Bishop’s desire to keep Rwanda’s two to three thousand évolués within the fold, his consecration at sixty-five had come, late for a missionary, at an age at which responses to new problems did not easily escape a narrow traditional framework. In the same mould as Bishop Classe — an outgoing Bishop could usually guarantee his favourite’s appointment — he lacked any urgent sense that Africa, in a new stage of its history, needed new approaches. It was with a certain regret that he acknowledged that the prestige of the bush catechist had declined in the face of the country’s better educated youth. He knew the évolués’needed special treatment, like bright but difficult children, yet the fear remained that extensive education would create a group of déclassés who would leave the land and the assured piety of rural Catholicism. He balanced the buildings in Astrida with the Institut Léon Classe in Kabgayi, a trade school giving training in carpentry and tailoring which opened its doors to forty-eight pupils in 1947.
There was the same ambivalence in the attitude of the Belgian administration, which, while recognising that Rwanda’s new position as a United Nations trusteeship territory implied a commitment to ultimate independence, was slow to set the wheels turning. A Conseil du Gouvernement for Ruanda-Urundi was set up in 1947 and met annually, but it lacked Rwandan members; the two abami were admitted only in 1949, and then as a result of a visit the previous year by the first United Nations delegation. Despite proddings from New York the Belgian administration stubbornly refused to think seriously about democratic reforms in Rwanda before the requisite level of economic and ‘moral’ progress was judged to have taken place. The White Fathers were to sponsor the first Rwandans’ travel to Europe before the Belgians sent Isodore Rwubisisi to the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Hutu Fidéle Nkundabagenzi for trade union training at the Ecole Sociale at Héverlée in the early 1950s.
For both Church and administration the period after the war was one of wait-and-see and half-hearted measures. Significant changes, though, were taking place in the missionary personnel; Classe’s death heralded the passing of a generation of missionaries who had grown up in the rigid conservatism of nineteenth century French Catholicism. The new missionaries who arrived in the late 1930s and 1940s were born into a fast secularising Europe. The percentage of unbaptised in industrial towns like Limoges rose from 2.5 per cent at the turn of the century to 34 per cent at the beginning of the first world war. They grew up in a period of response to communism marked by movements like Cardinal Cardijn’s Jeunesse Ouvrière Catholique in the late 1920s. Yet the proletariat-oriented apostolate of some movements in Catholic Action never broke through the middle class legacy of the nineteenth century, which continued to act as a brake on any wide-spread shift in the social policy of the Church.
The Second World War, by revealing the logic at consequence of blind adherence to the status quo and obedience to lawfully constituted authority, was a turning point. After the collusion of the German hierarchy with the Nazis the institution at Church was called in question. The visible structures of Catholicism were no longer seen as a consummation of the Faith but as its disposable instrument in the world; witness, not survival, was the message of the Third Reich, and many were ready to listen. Not only had Catholics fought alongside communists in resistance movements but Christian Democrat parties were obliged in post-war years to form coalitions with ‘enemies of the Church’, liberals and socialists. French workers priests quickly took up positions in trade union leadership, and the movement was only slowly and painfully crushed by the Vatican.
The new generation of missionary priests was drawn from a wider range of social backgrounds, and, although French and Belgians predominated, other nationals were more in evidence than in the past. They were young, eager and zealous, bringing to Rwanda a sense of urgency that contrasted with their superiors, who, though not smug, had nonetheless grown, Vatican-fashion, to view the world in the ‘perspective of eternity’. Men like Father Gilles, Dejemeppe, Adriaenssens, Pien, Perraudin and Ernotte were a different breed from the old royalist White Fathers.
Father Louis Pien grew up in a small town, one of a large Flemish family; his father was a self-made man who had risen to be greffier en chef in the local court. Chanoine Eugène Ernotte worked after the war as director of the College St Barthélemy in Seurain, a working class industrial suburb of Liège; a close friend of the Belgian Superior Provincial of the White Fathers, Father Guy Mosmans, he came to Rwanda in 1956. He was a tough but intellectual priest who would not have looked amiss on the shop floor. Father, later Archbishop, André Perraudin was the son of a schoolmaster in Le Chable-Bagnes in Switzerland. During the war he was professor of philosophy and rector of the minor seminary in Fribourg, and thus in a unique position to contemplate the Church’s role in Germany. He worked as a bush missionary in Burundi from 1947 to 1950 before taking up an appointment as professor of philosophy of Nyakibanda major seminary in Rwanda. Father Gilles worked with the JOC for several years before coming to Africa.
There were eighty-eight White Fathers in Rwanda in 1948; the indigenous Church was headed by eighty-one Rwandan abbés, fifty-eight Josephite Brothers and 155 Benebikira. Only Abbé Aloys Bigirumwami was included on the all-white Conseil du Vicariat, after having served for fourteen years as Father Superior of Muramba parish. Another Tutsi priest, Abbé Deogratias Mbandiwimfura, was in Rome studying canon law. With so few Abbés given positions of responsibility at the vicariate level, and with continuing pressure from Tutsi clergy in seminaries and parishes, friction grew up not only between European and Rwandan priests but between Tutsi and Hutu Abbés. Father Mosmans saw the Rwandan clergy as divided into two groups, ‘priests with a touch of white and the all-blacks’. ‘To the first the natives confide absolutely nothing,’ he wrote, ‘and the second relay to us nothing of what the natives have confided in them…in each camp may be distinguished a more nuanced and organised Tutsi group and a more simple, hard-working Hutu group.
As new stations opened after the war, the power of the indigenous Church on the hills increased. Both Tutsi and Hutu priests were able to translate their spiritual authority into a temporal sway over their parishoners. Members of an Abbé’s family tended to settle around his mission or find employment there, and as Father Superior he was able to build up a network of clients, often becoming a confidant of the
local chief; several Astridiens passed through minor seminaries in the company of future Abbés, and school ties remained strong. False modesty or pretence that authority should be shorn of material expression was generally lacking; the priest was a local leader. When the Josephite Brothers elected their own Rwandan Superior the mwami presented him with fifty cows. Before Monsignor Bigirumwami’s consecration the Abbés at Nyundo caused the local Hutu much annoyance, and the White Fathers some consternation, by organising a ‘voluntary’ collection for the future Bishop’s car.
The first serious sign of conflict within the Church appeared in 1948, significantly the year of the United Nations delegation’s visit. Abbé Deogratias’ departure for Rome aroused a storm of protest from the Hutu clergy, who imagined, probably correctly, that he was being groomed for episcopal office. Then there was the removal of Brother Secondien from Astrida. His return to Belgium seems to have been due to pressure on the White Fathers from Rudahigwa, who was jealous of the bright young men from the Groupe Scolaire. The rise of the Tutsi Church increased the power of the mwami, a close friend of Abbé Alexis Kagame, who was able to intervene in Church matters from behind the scenes. The king later forced the resignation of Abbé Eustache, Bishop Bigirumwami’s vicar delegate, over a family quarrel; he was replaced by Abbé Alexandre Musoni, a close relative of Rudahigwa. The Tutsi clergy, chafing at the restraints imposed on them by the missionaries, were increasingly anti-White Father and tended to form a common front with the chiefs.
The White Fathers found few defenders. The Hutu Abbé’s accused them of indifference to social problems and failure to press for reform of ubuhake, while the Tutsi Abbés complained about the nationalism of the Belgian clergy and pointed to Protestant successes. To escape from their influence Abbé Alexis Kagame requested permission to join the Jesuits. He and the mwami were pressing for a Jesuit college at Nyanza, partly because of the Jesuits’ educational reputation and partly because they were thought more pro-African and more in favour of African nationalism than other Orders. Against a back-ground of mounting tax evasion and general discontent at Belgian dilatoriness, the administration was soon talking of ‘subersive elements’; the cultural nationalism of Kagame seemed threatening, especially since it had Nyiginya support. Father Mosmans wrote of Kagame with anxious admiration, [he] is not only a learned and hard-working priest, a man of great talent; he is, what is more, a force of nature’. The verdict of the disgruntled Deprimoz was ‘this Abbé is closer to Nyanza than to Rome’.
The Bishop’s remark was some measure of the gulf between missionary and Rwandan clergy, for Kagame’s nationalism was subtle and refined enough to find a place for Rome. His was a strikingly platonic position in which the role of the Tutsi elite was to salvage the Rwandan cultural heritage; for the warrior valour of the old order was to be substituted the moral virtue and intellectual excellence of Rwanda’s guardians, the new abiru, the Tutsi Abbés. They had consciously set out to, and would one day, control the Rwandan Church. His book, Le Code des institutions politiques du Ruanda, was an encomium of the old Tutsi system; if there were defects in contemporary society they were products of arbitrary tampering with a balanced political system by the Belgians. He was opposed to the new style of egalitarian preaching on the ground that ordinary Rwandans were not ready for such ‘esoteric’ doctrines; commoners ‘without proper intellectual formation’ needed the constraints of Rwanda’s stratified society.
Abbé Kagame emerged as the most articulate and trenchant of the White Fathers’critics beause he understood them so well. For the European cultural hegernony imposed in the seminaries the Tutsi elite wished to exchange their own, and could present it as the national culture of Rwanda. Kagame’s devastating critique of the missionaries’ politicisme is applicable, word for word, to the cultural nationalism of the Tutsi Abbés.
C’est un système de sa nature inavoué, latent qui, sous prétexte d’assurer les intérêts de la Religion, ou même à l’occasion des intéréts religieux réels, veut en réalité asseoir des bases solides à l’emprise dominatrice d’un corps culturel sur l’esprit des autochtbones.
And just as the Tutsi politicians were later to look to the United Nations in an attempt to force Independence, so the Tutsi clergy looked to Rome to deliver them from the White Fathers. Since the Tornade legitimation for the monarchy and for the divisions in society had come from Rome, but now it came to the court via the Tutsi Abbés; the White Fathers, seemingly dangerous democrats judged by their post-war missionaries, were by-passed. Kagame called for obediene to the dictates of the Holy See. Permission for the Benebikira to wear shoes, and the introduction of private rooms instead of dormitory alcoves in the major seminary, granted in the early 1950s, were both attributed to the benign intervention of the Papal Delegate. Rome was pro-Rwandan. Abbé Kagame was not anti-Rome, far from it; he was anti- White Father, and for good reason.
It was apparent to even the most other-worldly of Fathers by 1950 that their relations with the évolués had deteriorated to a disquieting degree. ‘It would doubtiess be hasty,’ wrote Deprimoz, to consider this state of mind as an expression of an exaggerated and unhealthy nationalism. It must be considered rather as a new awareness which has not yet found its equilibrium, and which must at all events be treated with great delicacy. The old formulas for Catholic Action were not working any more, the cercles conitued in the small Rwandan towns, but there was no life in them. Membership of the Cercle Charles Lavigerie fell from seventy to thirty. Anti-European feeling was running high; the mine bosses and plantation owners were despised for what they were, dishonest oppressors come to extract the maximum profits in the shortest time. The elite, despite diplomas and qualifications, found it hard to obtain employment with the pay and status to which they aspired, and resented being treated as ordinary parishoners by ignorant bakuru b’inama.They were singuiarly isolated, suffering from both the opposition of the ‘Nyanza old guard’ and the contempt of the Europeans. Nor could they find solace in the Church. ‘The évolués know perfectiy well how much separates the native priests from the White Fathers,’ wrote one missionary. ‘The gulf is much greater than is generally realised, and many are still blind to it.’
Although many Rwandans still practised a ‘target’ economy, not bothering to pick their coffee crop at the end of the harvest season if they had met their cash and clothing needs, the new elite began in the 1950s to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by commerce. Older men with fixed ideas of the ‘just price’ taught them by the Fathers were easy prey for shrewd entrepreneurs who would buy up their coffee crop in exchange for salt, DDT or even quinine tablets. Since they could hope only for minor positions in the administration, and the number of vacant sub-chieftancies was limited, many of the new elite turned to small-scale commerce; from only twenty-one African-owned shops in all Ruanda-Urundi in 1948 the number rose to 647 by 1951. Coffee production reached a peak 28,800 tons in 1956. Although there was a tendency for cash to be converted to cattle, a small group of literate entrepreneurs grew up who thought in modern terms of capital accumulation and market forces.
The facile division between Tutsi cattle-owning -wealth and Hutu subsistence farming poverty, always an oversimpfification, became thoroughly misleading after the war. During the colonial period a large body of Tutsi became, or remained, impoverished and lacked cattle, while returning Hutu migrants and successful coffee-growers accumulated cows and were relatively prosperous. A survey of incomes undertaken in the mid-1950s, which excluded those in political office from the sample, gave the following figures:
|Caste||N° of families||adultmen||Average income/family(francs|
Tutsi famines on average had more cattle than Hutu familles, but the difference was not great; for example, Nduga Tutsi had 2.4 animals against Hutu 1.2 animals per family. The greatest disparity was in Buyenzi province, with 1.9 animals against 0.3 animals respectively. Similarly, the Tutsi on average had only a slightly lower rate of child mortality.
Even when considering the distribution of political office, the significant point is not so much a Tutsi monopoly of traditional and bureaucratic power as the closed oligarchy of a few noble lineages. A single Nyiginya lineage occupied almost a quarter of the country’s forty-six chieftancies. Nyiginya-clan Tutsi held a total of 276 offices in 1950, and the Ega 113 — over half the chieftancies and sub-chieftancies. The Catholic chiefs and sub-chiefs formed a narrowly based political elite, wealthy in cattle, cash, coffee and clients. They were a mixture of Nyanza alumni and Astridiens with, at one elbow, the Belgian administrators and, at the other, dispossessed chiefs, their uncles and fathers who found positions as judges and cattle owners. Below them were the mass of poor Tutsi who identified with the nobles and clung to their precarious superiority by despising and exploiting those of Hutu birth.
The Hutu who rose through the Catholic schools and seminaries formed a counter-elite, totally excluded from traditional and administrative office; many found employment in teaching, a few in the veterinary or medical service, and some ran small shops or remunerative coffee plots. There were a few hundred carpenters, tailors, masons, craftsmen and lorry drivers, and seventy thousand salaried workers in the private sector, between them and the bulk of the peasantry. Rwaza mission employed over a hundred men in its cigar factory, several of whom branched out as independent cigar makers and tobacco buyers.
The Tutsi elite, with its clerical core, and the Hutu counter-elite, with its clerical wing, appeared after the war as the leaders of a potential middle class that would not ultimately depend on a continuation of the feudal system. Though emotionally attached to the symbols and traditions of the past, they were also progressive in outlook, with nascent bourgeois aspirations. They were the hope of the Belgians and the modern-minded missionaries who could see a stable future for Rwanda only in the development of a Third Estate. That this new class was stillborn, and Rwandans increasingly identified themselves in the ethno-social categories of Hutu and Tutsi, or on the narrower basis of clan affiliation, was largely a product of its small size and of the continued existence of an important conservative faction among the Tutsi, whose intransigence and egregious sense of historical superiority attracted waverers and forced on the Hutu a militant ethnic consciousness. It did appear, even to D’Hertefelt, who
was later to abandon the idea of ‘caste,’ that an ethnic-caste analysis of Rwandan society in the 1950s was sufficient and objective. ‘Although the majority of the Tutsi were on the edge of the political sphere,’ he wrote in 1961, ‘all the members of the Tutsi caste participated in the social and economic advantages associated with the superior status of the conquering and owning group. ‘Imagined they participated’ would perhaps be more accurate; the poverty of the ‘petits Tutsi’ was hidden in the shadow of the mwami. The Belgians, by giving political office exclusively to the Tutsi, had created a sense of caste among even the poorest Tutsi, who felt themselves members of a privileged group from which the Hutu were for ever excluded.
Social tensions on the hills between ‘petits Tutsi’ and peasantry were aggravated after the severe famine of 1943-44 by a high rate of population growth, a 21 per cent increase in population from 1949 to 1958 while the number of salaried workers in the private sector was decreasing. Population density crept up from eighty-nine per square kilometre in 1952 to ninety-five in 1959, but this average figure does not indicate the intensity of local pressures; Bugoyi, Bushiru, Mutera, Bugarura, Buhoma, Bukoma and Rwankeri, most of the north-west, had population densities of over 200 in 1952. Emigration, at the rate of 2,258 per annum from Ruhengeri and 2,360 from Kisenyi, although high, was not enough to relieve the land shortage. There were numerous disputes as Tutsi tried to take over clan lands for grazing; the Hutu around Rwaza were openly rebellions, refusing to work in road labour gangs on the usual pretext that they were catechumens.
The new missionaries plunged into the milieu of the évolués and were impatient with the paternalistic approach of their older colleagues. Partly because they came to know the Rwandan intelligentsia well, and partly from their European experience, they saw the inadequacy of the museum categories ‘Roi Hamite’ and Tutsi patriarchate.” Their goal was initially no different from that of Bishop Classe, but their model was drawn from the twentieth century.
This position as an independent class seeking, because it is a class of intelligensia, to play a part in the country’s political life raises the following question: will it be for us or against us?… We have heard a hundred times how we lost the working class and why Catholic Action saw the light of day — I have lived through it all — and it is all indelibly imprinted on my mind. It is just the same issue here with this new class of évolués.
Looking afresh at Rwanda, they saw, above all, a colonial Church suffering from the cleavage between European missionary and African évolué. They wanted urgently to put it right. Father Dejemeppe left for Belgium in 1950 to attend a conference celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the JOC with Grégoire Kayibanda, a young teacher at the Institut Léon Classe. Kayibanda stayed with Dejemeppe’s family for two months, and was able to make contacts among Christian Socialists and, trade union leaders as well as having more format meetings of the Belgian Colonial Ministry. ‘The Fathers and whites, we do not understand the évolués,’ wrote Dejemeppe on his return to Kigali. ‘We do not put ourselves in their place when considering their problems. We subject them to an extraordinary degree of patronage. In talking with Grégoire Kayibanda I came to ask myself whether there had not already grown up among many of our évolués a sense of incompatibility between us and them.—This feeling can be dangerous,’ he added, ‘because it will logically be followed by that of opposition, then struggle and revolt.
Prophetic words. Within a few months the major seminary at Nyakibanda suffered a complete breakdown of its rigid discipline; the Protestants were to suffer in the same way only several years later. The feeling had grown among the seminarians that the ascetic rigour of their life, designed to inculcate a spirit of sacrifice and little harsher than in Italian or Irish rural seminaries, was nothing more than deliberate colonial exploitation by the largely European staff. They refused to do manual work and bitterly resented the authoritarian response of the missionary teachers. Behind the petty grievances was a nascent nationalism. The Rwandan students would not join in activities with their Rundi and Congolese colleagues, and took every opportunity to shower them with abuse and contempt; they wanted Swahili removed as the lingua franca and Kinyarwanda imposed throughout. More upsetting for the White Fathers, they seemed to have had the support of Rwandan Abbés who taught there or visited frequently; when four students were picked out as ringleaders and dismissed by the Rector, some Rwandan Abbés sent a joint letter to Bishop Deprirnoz appealing for their reinstatement.
The intense chauvinism of the seminary revolt was part of a wider movement by chiefs and évolués that had begun in the war years and amounted to a conscious repudiation of European authority. While such anti-colonialism was certainly nudged into nationalism by the cultural renaissance among the Tutsi Abbés and Tutsi old guard, its main impetus came from the disaffection of the ‘independent class that Dejemeppe had forecast. In this small sector Hutu-Tutsi divisions were in abeyance and Tutsi ‘national’ culture was a splendid riposte to the White Fathers. Indeed, the leading figure dismissed from Nyakibanda was Anastase Makuza, later a prominent Hutu politician. Thus, while Tutsi and Hutu would separate on issues like Abbé Deogratias’ training in Rome, they closed ranks as Banyarwanda against the mission.
By the end of 1951 there were eighty-nine Rwandan Abbés to eighty-seven White Fathers, and little love was lost between them. Abbé Joseph Sibomana was appointed alongside Abbé Bigirumwami
to the Conseil Vicarial, and Abbé Stanislas Bushayija was made a juge pré–synodal for questions of canon law in the vicariate. Abbé Louis Gasore became deputy school inspector. Sixteen of the country’s thirty-three stations now had Rwandan Superiors and staff. Contemporary pressures, and the logic of Classe’s policy, dictated the setting up of an all Rwandan vicariate; tensions between European and indigenous clergy suggested the quicker the better.
In order to keep a watchful eye on Abbé Kagame, Bishop Deprimoz made him his personal secretary; Kagame naturally favoured the erection of a new vicariate and pressed the Bishop to centre it on Nyanza. Deprimoz was not to be caught. ‘It goes without saying,’ he noted, ‘that if such suggestions were heeded the young Church in Ruanda would be set from its very first steps on the path of a dangerous caesaro-papism.’ The power of the Christian court made it imperative to head the Church away from the direction in which it had been proceeding for several years; Deprimoz chose instead the Hutu north-west, with a centre at Nyundo mission. On 1 June 1952 Abbé Aloys Bigirumwami was consecrated Bishop at Kabgayi. The Rwandan clergy were given the alternative of staying under Deprimoz in the south or moving to the all-Hutu parishes of the new Nyundo vicariate.
Bishop Bigirumwami, an old-fashioned disciplinarian, had little personal appeal for the younger clergy; he was felt to be very much the ‘seigneur’ but at the same time under the White Fathers’ thumb. Despite being a ‘foreigner’, as a descendant of the Gesera kings of Gisaka, his royal lineage gave him a certain distinction, an appeal that was not lost on the Tutsi Abbés. No clear-cut split occurred among the clergy but it would be truer to say that Nyundo became the Tutsi, rather than the Rwandan, vicariate, with a powerful caucus of anti-colonial Abbés intent on championing ruling-class culture. The implications for a region that had jealously guarded its autonomy in the past were obvious.
In January 1953 the Tutsi-dominated Josephites chose their own Rwandan Superior, Brother Laurent, together with four councillors, and over two hundred Benebikira elected their first Rwandan Mother Superior and four advisers. Nyakibanda was finally given over entirely to Rwandan students, with Father André Perraudin as the new Rector; the clerical ‘federation’ was broken, the Rwandan clergy and seminarians had driven the White Fathers to make a substantial move in the direction of autonomy for the Rwandan Church.
The Church’s recognition that times had changed coincided with that of the Belgians. A decree of 14 July 1952 set out the procedures for forming representative and ‘elective’ councils at the levels of sub-chieftancy, chieftancy, territory, or province, and State. In late 1953 the Conseil Supérieur of Rwanda consisted of the mwami, presidents of the provincial councils, six elected chiefs and one notable from each of the provincial councils. In practice, sub-chieftancy councils were nominated by the sub-chief and the notables on the Conseil Supérieur were thoroughly unrepresentative; as an attempt at democracy the ‘consultation populaire’ was a mere charade. Nor did the councils thus formed have anything more than a consultative role. It was a process, as Maquet and D’Hertefelt wrote, ‘of diffusion of power but principally among the group which already possessed it, that is to say the Tutsi caste.
The result of the Belgian exercise in civics was that the Tutsi oligarchy found its power base broadened rather than weakened by the inclusion of Hutu clients in the councils. On the other hand, since the ‘elected’ councils were the expression mainly of the Tutsi authorities’ wishes, the Hutu counter-elite felt their exclusion from political office all the more keenly, and were increasingly embittered at the gulf between their expectations as educated Rwandans and the realities of the Tutsi monopoly of power. The Belgians were forced to toy with democratic reform because of United Nations pressure, but the commitment of even their ablest thinkers to the Tutsi order remained unchanged. This is Guy Malengrau’s assessment of Tutsi rule in 1952:
The Batutsi were capable of keeping a certain order, and their administration was certainly not without value. The internal cohesion of this administration, which has wrongly been called ‘feudal’, allowed it to resist victoriously the profound breakdown that European occupation very quickly inflicted on native Congolese institutions.
The évolués’ sense of being in the vanguard of change was fostered by the Catholic Church’s emphasis on their uniqueness as a new class. The new Missionaries’ priorities found official approval, and the unwary were drawn into an unhealthy dependence on mission support. The spotlight on the évolué’ tended to accentuate the division between elite and counter-elite; well intentioned courses on social morality in the press and seminaries highlighted the Tutsi abuse of power for all who could apply Vaticanese to the society around them. L’Ami ran a series of ‘Leçons de morale sociale’ from 1950 to 1951; far from radical, they did point out nonetheless the dignity of human labour, the need for consent in a labour contract, and, most appositely, how consent could be invalidated by extortion and threats of violence. The articles were a strange mixture. Bland preaching that ‘rich and poor, high or low must show a fraternal spirit towards each other’ came next to the militancy of a JOC manifesto that called on workers to demand profound reforms in economic and social structures in order to make the injustices of capitalist exploitation and collectivist oppression disappear. There were news items concerning the referendum on the future of the monarchy in Belgium, and details of
the debates in the Conseil Supérieur. The seminarians were given a richer intellectual diet under Father Perraudin, including talks by radical priests like Abbé Sterckx on the improbable topic ‘the rise of worker consciousness in nineteenth century Belgium’. In short, the francophone élite had set before them a range of possibilities and wide horizons designed to stimulate all but Marxist thinking and to inform a Catholic social conseience.
The first elite association to find the Church’s approval was the Association des Amitiés Belgo-Rwandaises, formed in 1951 under the presidency of Jan Franz Goosens, Director General of the SOMUKI consortium, a Belgian married to a Tutsikazi. Father Dejemeppe was vice-president and Abbé Kagame secretary. The members were predominantly progressive Tutsi like Lazare Ndazaro and Chief Prosper Bwanakweri, but Grégoire Kayibanda and a brother of Bishop Bigirumwami joined, as well as court figures like Chief Kamuzinzi, a friend of the king. The problem facing Rwanda had been defined by the Church in terms of race relations, and the Association was an attempt to improve them; throughout 1953 Kayibanda wrote ardently and faithfully on this theme. Now a secretary of Father Dejemeppe at Kabgayi, he had become a spokesman for the White Fathers’ latest thinking on crucial issues. He spoke of Rwanda’s equilibrated evolution and integration into the civilised world, putting reform before nationalism and co-operation before anti-colonialism.
Bien comprise, la collaboration peut purifier nos problèmes sociaux d’un certain attachement parasseux ou égoiste à cette sorte de dupeuse ou nationaliste africanité propice à un maintien indefini du status quo.
A deep hatred of the Tutsi order and a sincere love of the Church, far from being incompatible sentiments, combined to create a high level of political motivation that found a ready response in the young missionaries, with their social catholicism.
Kayibanda was still firmly ‘the good évolué’ and dealt in the categories of elite politics. On his return from Belgium he formed the Association des Moniteurs to press the Church for higher salaries for teachers — they were far behind those of Tutsi in government employment. The association later came to be used as an official pressure group against the secularisation of schools during the Buisseret administration. At the same time the indefatigable Dejemeppe, soon to be made Deprimoz’s pro-vicar, founded Rwanda’s first mutualité, a friendly society whose members made monthly sub-scriptions of ten francs; the benefits were 400 francs on the birth of a child and 1,000 francs on the death of a sponse. The elite increasingly wanted to be buried in wooden coffins, rather than in the traditional mat. The society catered largely for the wealthy Hutu bakonde owners and teachers, and the new Tutsi chiefs and sub-chiefs around Byumba. The Church favoured friendly societies and co-operatives because they furthered development, brought together elite and counter-elite, and promoted a ‘healthy and solid democracy’ in a painless fashion. Their role as midwife to the Rwandan bourgeoisie was applauded by the Belgians and seemed to prescind from the underlying Hutu-Tutsi conflict; Kayibanda’s editorials in L’Ami stressed the need for unity against the ‘ferment de désagrégation‘ which he saw in the country.
But the failure of the cercles and the fall in readership of L’Ami spoke as much of indifference to this moderate Catholic position as of anti-white sentiment. The consciousness of injustice was too deeply rooted in the counter-elite for it to be overlaid by hopes of a prosperous ‘Third Estate’. A contributor to L’Ami asserted that the cercles’ decline was due to the injustices and general poverty, the bad treatment we are given and the misunderstandings [we suffer] from our patrons and other leaders, our aspirations brutally stifled, our proverbial shyness which holds us back and makes any initiatives so difficuit’. The sermonising of L’Ami was in the traditional Catholic style of generalities that allowed the complacent reader to avoid applying the lessons to himself; ‘it was not adequate in view of such bitter litanies. Another writer went so far as to describe L’Ami’s contribution as peureuse. The 1953 ‘elections’ had raised, then dashed hopes; yet within a year of even these tentative changes there was a backlash from the court: Prosper Bwanakweri, son of the Nyiginya chief Ntulo and hero of the progressive Astridiens, narrowly missed banishment to the Congo. He had incurred the mwami’s wrath by instituting major land reforms and running his chieftancy along mildly democratic lines. After remonstrations from the Belgians the mwami accepted his relegation to the distant province of Kibuye, but the incident made plain how much of a mirage a progressive multiracial bourgeoisie had been. If reformist Tutsi like Bwanakweri could not survive in 1954 the hopes for a bourgeois ‘buffet’ between nobility and peasantry in the 1960s were illusory.
By the end of 1953 the ideas and language of the two leading Hutu spokesmen, Grégoire Kayibancla and another ex-seminarian, Aloys Munyangaju, had slowly begun to change. L’Ami editorials were pressing for concrete reforms, the codification of customary law, and legal recognition of rights of private property. More important, Kayibanda was beginning to define the counter-elite less in terms of the mythical ‘Third Estate’ and more in the new category of ‘rural évolué’. He now wanted a Catholic elite who would not reject the men of the hills but whose task it would be to help their cadre and the people to struggle against their moral, intellectual and economic distress. The rural évolué was modelled on the missionary: ‘he spends time with them, chats to them often, knows their aspirations
better, their distress, their complaints, and sees better the injustices of which they are the victims’. It was a philosophy for the Hutu school-teacher, cut off from the flashy smartness of the Tutsi in the small towns, and still a peasant in the eyes of the Catholic chiefs. Thwarted ambition and a burning sense of injustice were driving Kayibanda from the institutional role of good ‘évalué’ to dangerous new ground of prophecy. ‘These islands of Europeanised intellectuals,’ he wrote, ‘could, sooner or later, find themselves uprooted by the inexorable mounting wave of peasant discontent.’ Few of the Catholic missionaries could have shared this startling premonition.
The change of emphasis and the appearance of key words like masses populaires in the Hutu propagandists’ articles were symptoms of a new awareness and urgency as the Belgians increased their pressure on the court. L’Ami carried a new series of articles on ‘Formation politique’ which offered its readership a simple course in political science; the slant was conservative-Catholic, warning that the Church did not consider the right to rule necessarily linked to any political form. The Fathers were following Pius XI’s encyclical Dilectissima nobis in 1933: ‘the Catholic Church is never bound to one form of government more than another, provided the divine rights of God and Christian conscience are safe. She does not find any difficulty in adapting herself to various civil institutions, be they monarchic or republican, aristocratic or democratic’.
On 13 February 1954 the mwami made a major speech in which he spoke of the need to jettison outmoded institutions and to move towards a modem State. Ubuhake was abolished by decree in April in a three-stage process: the first year required the consent of both parties, in the second unilateral dissolution of the ‘contrac’ was permitted, and all other ‘contracts’ had to be terminated by the end of the third year. The king had been willing to abolish ubuhake for some time but the Belgians had been frightened of the effects of widespread dissolution of clientship ties. Rudahigwa’s willingness to sweep away what seemed to be the mainstay of the feudal system was a good indication that it was nothing of the sort. The donation of cattle had always been an expression of Tutsi control over land rights, the basis of the feudal economy, and this remained unchanged after 1956. Hutu who accumulated cattle from the severance of ubuhake ties still had to find pasture for them. To get igisati they again had to seek the patronage of land-owning Tutsi. In several regions the dissolution of ubuhake remained a dead letter; Tutsi ideology thoroughly dominated the Hutu of central Rwanda and had been internalised, with the resulting psychological dependence and sense of inferiority that limited the potential for creative political action, even among the Hutu counter-elite.
Although commodity exchange was increasing fast, Hutu selling ubuhake cattle and Tutsi running dairies or cash cropping, a feudal economy survived in central Rwanda. If anything it was a harsher feudalism then before as the new Catholic chiefs mercilessly dunned their peasantry to gain the land and wealth promised by their education and political office. In as much as the king’s decree did result in the breakdown of clientship ties and the pastoral idiom was removed from the relationship between chiefs and peasants, the Hutu were more able to see the nature of their exploitation. Population increase and the resultant land hunger highlighted the chiefs’ coercive mole as landlords and contained the seeds of future peasant revolt.
Throughout 1954, when Kayibanda was made lay director of Kinyamateka, the Hutu spokesmen struggled towards an independent analysis of Rwandan society. On the one hand Kayibanda saw the danger of a leadership which could neither understand the masses nor gain their allegiance; on the other, he realised the difficulty of weaning an illiterate and conservative peasantry from the monarchy. His articles lacked a sense of perspective; the few hundred masons, carpenters, tailors and craftsmen with primary education he referred to alongside the illiterate plantation workers and miners as ‘the working class’. ‘The term “proletariat” is hardly known,’ he wrote; ‘its reality is becoming their daily experience.’ But the JOC vocabulary was incongruous in the Rwandan context; it was difficult to get an objective view of society from under the ample skirts of Mother Church, tied as she was to a continuation of Belgian rule and an obssessive fear of communism.
Kinyamateka’s readership rose to 22,000 in 1954 and to the remarkable figure of 24,900 in 1955, so Kayibanda’s ideas of Christian democracy reached a wide audience.'” As an organ disseminating a rival ideology to that of the Tutsi elite Kinyamateka was vitally important in the political evolution of Rwanda during the 1950s. For a vernacular-language paper of twelve pages with a pronounced Catholic content this was an extraordinary achievement. As the paper was read and re-read aloud, Catholic social teaching was broadcast throughout Rwanda; in Father Dejemeppe’s words, ‘Il [Kayibanda] en fit rapidement un journal vraiement démocrate où la doctrine sociale de l’Eglise était distilée habilement sans des habits “royalistes.‘ But the Church was also able to employ the paper to rally its forces against the policies of the Buisseret administration, which again threatened to wrest control of the schools from the clergy. The mwami favoured the Belgian polic, since it would loosen White Father control of education. The idea of ,’ecumenical’ (lay) schools was accepted in the February 1954 session of the Conseil Supérieur, but when it seemed likely that the Liberal Minister for the colonies would push through secular schools a pastoral was issued defending the Church’s right and mandate to educate. Much ta the mwami’s
annoyance, the Tutsi Abbés on the Conseil stood firm on this issue. The mwami accused Abbé Bushayija of leading a cabal against him, and appealed to Deprimoz for his removal. The Bishop categorically refused. Later he also had the courage to remove and laicise Abbe Thaddée Ngirumpatse, who had become little more than an agent for the king. Rudahigwa found himself isolated. The Astridiens and learned Abbés privately thought of him as a man ‘who had not done his studies’, and the European clergy did not like the control he tried to exert over the indigenous Church.
However much Kayibanda tried to fit the complexities of Rwandan society into a European model, the primary social relationships remained those of patron and client in the south, clan and lineage in the north. 1955 saw a resurgence of clan-based politics around Rwaza; the heads of the leading Hutu clans held meetings on the hills. The best organised group, the Singa under the leadership of Balthazar Bicamumpaka, collected a twenty-franc contribution from adult members to the clan treasury which amounted in 1957 to 2,820 francs. These clan mutualités were more politically motivated than their Church prototypes, and concentrated on questions of land rights. Bicamumpaka became sufficiently powerful to be elected as a notable on the Ruhengeri Conseil de Territoire. Although the Tutsi laughed at the pretensions and wranglings of the clan meetings, the Province chief, Jean-Baptiste Rwabukamba, was impressed enough by Bicamumpaka’s rising fortunes to offer him his daughter in marriage.
After a minor famine in Ruhengeri, aggravated by sub-chiefs’hoarding of food, there were a number of violent incidents in 1956 involving the Rwaza Hutu. In an atmosphere of rising hopes created by forthcoming elections in November, a sub-chief’s hut was burnt down and the Hutu refused to accept the Belgian appointee as chief of Gashashi. When D’Arianoff, the Ruhengeri Resident and a man of known Tutsi sympathies, insisted, more than 250 angry men descended on the bureau du territoire. The group was predominantly Singa and seems to have been acting on Bicamumpaka’s orders. It amounted to a Rwaza Christian revolt; Bicamumpaka was doyen of the mission and a close friend of its flamboyant Spanish Superior; the mob was headed by catechists. Belgian security officers sent to arrest Bicamumpaka were foiled when he hid in a back room of the mission. D’Arianoff had infuriated the priests, who saw him as a sinister Russian, and the Hutu, who resented his handling of land cases and his willingness to accede to Tutsi demands for bakonde plots.
In the 1956 elections all adult men were eligible to vote to choose candidates for the sub-chieftancy councils. In theory the councils expressed the will of the people; in practice many sub-chiefs managed to push their own candidates forward. The elections suffered from two principal defects; firstly the administration left less than two weeks for campaigning, with the result that the better organised Tutsi could use existing administrative machinery to their advantage; secondly the largely unprepared Hutu masses sought the advice of authority figures, scribes, missionaries or sub-chiefs. Kabgayi diocese issued the usual pastoral encouraging citizens to fulfil their civic duty according to an ‘informed conscience’, but the caucus of traditionalist Tutsi Abbés at Nyundo used teachers and catechists to press parishoners to vote for ‘the mission’s men’. As a result many stayed at home. The missions were centres for the diffusion of government information about the election, and naturally tended to put pressure on voters to select their co-religionists.
The 1956 elections clearly demonstrated how little consciousness the Hutu peasantry had of themselves as an ethnic group. With the exception of Kibungu in rebellious Gisaka, where a Hutu camp aigned on a ticket of reduced Tutsi power, neither did class conflict enter the election. As in all peasant societies, there was a certain distrust of the local man who pushed himself forward, and even had the Belgians not banned propaganda it would have been difficult for poor Hutu to build up a following. So it was that Ruhengeri and Kisenyi, where there was Hutu leadership of long standing, registered the greatest Tutsi losses; after 1953 Tutsi representation, compared with other provinces, had been disproportionately great in relation to the total Tutsi population, and land hunger was marked. In Bushiru, for example, Tutsi representation at the level of the sub-chieftancy fell from 38:141 in 1953 to 19:324 in 1956; the Ndorwa Tutsi suffered similar 70 per cent losses, as did Tutsi in the Hutu kingdom of Bukunzi that had only recently been colonised. Yet country-wide, at the level of the territoire, the Tutsi suffered only a 5 per cent loss; on the Conseil Supérieur Hutu representation was actually reduced. To quote Maquet and D’Hertefelt, ‘Le filtrage de la volonté populaire… à travers sept scrutins pour arriver au Conseil Supérieur a eu pour effet, en 1956, de renverser l’orientation que le vote populaire manifestait.’
Bishop Deprimoz broke his leg in April 1955, and decided to resign. His replacement a year later by Father André Perraudin, a man who had considerable sympathy for the social bias of the younger missionaries, significantly altered the attitude of the Church in Kabgayi vicariate. Deprimoz had never outgrown the Classe mould; his last pastoral spoke of respect for established authorities, ‘the sole depositary of divine authority’. His sole concession to the Zeitgeist was an insistence that the human personality should be cultivated and grievances should be aired — legitimate grievances’, that is. Bishop Perraudin was no less authoritarian in his conduct of the episcopacy, but he shared the European experience of the new missionaries. His
first speech to his old seminarians at Nyakibanda set the tone for his episcopate; he wanted ‘the priests to insist, from the pulpit and in the confessional, on the very grave obligations of social justice’.
It would be easy to point to Perraudin’s consecration as inaugurating a volte-face in the Church’s handling of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict, and it is undeniable that the Tutsi were at loggerheads with the official Church after 1956, but who jettisoned whom? One opinion was that ‘the moment the ruling class realised it could no longer make use of the Church’s influence to defend its privileges, the conflict was born’. As in all broken marriages, both partners had changed since the happy early days, and the apportionment of blame is not very illuminating. Nonetheless Bishop Perraudin cannot be justly accused of being anti-Tutsi; he annoyed Dejemeppe, who had been running the vicariate while Deprimoz was in hospital, by replacing Kayibanda on the editorship board of Kinyamateka with a Tutsi Abbé Justin Kalibwami. Another Tutsi, Abbé Gasabwoya, was appointed the new vicar delegate. Perraudin was no more radical, no more pro-Hutu, than Pope Pius XII in his 1954 Christmas message, which called for priests and laity to speak out against social injustice. Kinyamateka faithfully printed moderate Catholic social teaching from 1956 to 1958; in particular the Papal social encyclicals, a simplified version of the course given to seminarians by Father Adriaenssens and, earlier, by Perraudin himself. In the context of Rwanda, though, any statement that the Church had a right and duty to speak out about social issues could be interpreted as a betrayal of the ruling class and the court.
The real pressure came from the Hutu Abbés, the young White Fathers and the Hutu counter-elite. Anyone who listened would have seen the force of their arguments; but very few did listen. At a Tournée d’Études Sociales held by the Bishops in July 1956 the Hutu Abbés tried to bring up the Hutu-Tutsi problem but were squashed by the Burundi Bishops and by Monsignor Bigirumwami’s Tutsi representative. No one wanted to hear about ‘tribalism’ and ‘racialism’, though Monsignor Martin from Burundi roundly declared that Tutsi were always selected for secondary schools because they were more intelligent than the Hutu.
Bishop Perraudin did modernise the vicariate. One priest was put solely in charge of Catholic Action, while another was released from all other duties to supervise the Catholic Press. Another man was withdrawn from mission work to head the education office at Kabgayi. Five new missions were founded, each with two priests and two Josephite Brothers, and more Rwandan clergy were sent abroad for further training. Father Pien dedicated himself to social projects after a period of chaplaincy with the Josephites.
Father Louis Pien spent 1950-54 in Europe and took an immediate interest in developing co-operatives on his return, when he found that Kayibanda, had already started a small coffee co-operative in Gitarama, with a shop in Kabgayi. The Bishop made a hectare of land available in 1956 and TRAFIPRO (Travail, Fidélité, Progrès) headquarters were built, with a sorghum mill and a small shop selling salt, soap, beans, sugar and coffee. Each member contributed an initial fifty francs’ capital, and profits were distributed annually. Coffee sales were such a success that by 1958 TRAFIPRO had a capital of over half a million francs and a membership of more than a thousand. Its first members and directors were mainly Hutu, teachers from the Normal school at Zaza forming the nucleus; but by 1958 the membership and the board of ten directors were largely Tutsi. The ruling class had waited, watched and then engulfed yet another Hutu initiative.
Not only had the small numbers coming out of the training colleges each year mounted to produce a strong lobby of teachers, who sought to supplement their income and status in organisations like TRAFIPRO and the Association des Moniteurs, but education itself had become a commodity as highly valued as cows. ‘Knowledge is riches’ was taken literally, and the Fathers spoke anxiously of ‘the almost emotional desire of our youth for education’. When a Jesuit college scheduled for a site a few miles from Nyanza was moved to Bujumbura there was anger and consternation. A new Catholic college intended for Nyundo was obliged to move south. The mwami insisted on having an institute of higher learning at the capital. Christ-Roi College was therefore started in a predominantly Tutsi milieu but, much to the court’s displeasure, the doughty Chanoine Ernotte had a 50 per cent Hutu entry by 1959. The geography of education was firstly a question of finance, and thus under Belgian control; but within these limitations a tug-of-war went on between the court and the White Fathers over Hutu higher education and the threat of Jesuits.
The moving of the Jesuit college did not improve European-Tutsi relations and disqualified Rudahigwa from leadership of the educated elite. Despite the superficial modernisation of court life, the familiar jostling for position among the principal lineages continued with the mwami trying to consolidate the hold of the Nyiginya; the Ega and Gahindiro had been driven to form clan-based mutual help societies. Although Bwanakweri had been toppled, he remained an uncomfortable presence in the country, a hero martyr of the Astridiens. The mwami found himself increasingly relying on the support of the less progressive and more traditionalist members of his entourage.
A frightening new development for Rudahigwa was the first official broaching of the ‘Hutu problem’ at the Vice-Governor General’s council in May 1956. M. A. Maus, president of the Union Euroafricaine and a moderate by any standards, declared that ‘the day when universal suffrage is really introduced into Ruanda-Urundi among a people conscious of their rights there will not indeed be a single Mututsi elected to the native councils, not one Mututsi tolerated as a chief or sub-chief, nor a single big cattle owner allowed on the hills’. His solution was the familiar ‘Third Estate’, and like Kayibanda he saw the ‘elected’ councils as associations of nineteenth century patrons trying to stifle a working class trade union movement. If the mwami feared the elections would sharpen the debate, he needed no further proof.
But the danger to the court still did not seem immediate in 1956. The Belgians, following their sociologists, saw the evolution of Rwanda in terms of a controlled and equilibrated movement to democracy. Though the nighmare of the French Revolution did come to disturb their reveries, the sociologists assured them that the transfer of power to the Hutu would and a balance in the continuing social and economic dominance of the Tutsi. Rocked into complacency by the unquestioned equilibrium model of society — a model that suited the organicism of the missionaries as much as the torpor of the administrators — the Belgians continued with their piecemeal reforrns. The period after the Second World War had seen the White Fathers moving their attention from the Catholic chiefs to the broader category of better educated Rwandans, the évolués. This was the group which, in its modernity and anti-colonialism, seemed to pose the greatest threat to the Church. But no sooner had the missionaries identified their priorities than the rapid pace of change, elections and reforms, made them out of date. Against the rising tide of dite Hutu; protest, supported by the new missionaries with their social catholicism, the évolués began to break down into factions along ethnic lines. Within a short while these groups were to harden into political parties with different goals, and carry the ethnic conflict into the ranks of the clergy.https://uk.amateka.net/nine-elite-and-counter-elite/https://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/rwandans.jpghttps://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/rwandans-150x150.jpgChurch and RevolutionAt a meeting of Superiors of mission stations held in September1945 reforms of the catechumenate were mapped out. The period of postilancy was to last sixteen months, with two sessions of doctrine and reading per week. Those passing the final examination were eligible for a thirty-two-month catechumenate punctuated by...BarataBarata firstname.lastname@example.orgAdministratorAMATEKA | HISTORY OF RWANDA