Rwanda and Zaïre

The  Rwandan Revolution of 1959–62 marked an important watershed not only for the history of the country but also for its historiography. Within Rwandan historical studies these political changes encouraged the development of a more broadly based analysis, one that went beyond the earlier tendency to focus on the Nyiginya royal court. The effects of this new historiography were not limited to Rwanda alone, however, since historical perceptions ultimately derived from Rwandan studies had dominated much of the earlier research on precolonial history both west and east of Lake Kivu. Combined with the emergence of new analytic assumptions elsewhere in Africa, the shift in Rwanda during the 1960s therefore freed studies west of the lake from the constraints of a particularly sterile historical model and opened the way for the initiatives of a new generation of Zairean historians conducting research there in the 1970s. The changing context of research initiatives and the continuing process of reassessment within Rwanda have also aligned perceptions of Rwandan history more closely with those of other areas. We can look forward in the future to more fruitful regional historical perspectives that transcend present political bound-aries; it may well be that Rwandan research of the 1980s will draw increasingly on the concepts and conclusions of Zairean research of the 1970s.

Even while this new approach has perforated political boundaries on the ground, it has also dissolved the earlier rigid disciplinary boundaries of research. The major influence in this new approach came from the work of anthropologists (or historians with anthropological training). But this is not to say that historical studies per se became obsolete; on the contrary, they were immensely strengthened. Armed with such new perceptions, and with fieldwork techniques fully accounting for historical change, a new generation of researchers—including scholars of various disciplines—has brought about an important transformation in our historical understanding of the area.

Because of the cumulative contribution of these works in rethinking the history of this area, we feel that there is a clear need to share the initial findings with those lacking access to the research results. In this chapter, therefore, we shall try to summarize some of the more important work carried out over thelast decade in both Rwanda and areas to the west of Lake Kivu. Much of this work has not yet been published ; consequently, rather than undertaking a full critical analysis of these works, we shall confine our comments to general indications of the topics considered and the analytic approaches pursued. Our intent here is to focus on lesser-known unpublished works; for the most part we shall omit considerations of readily available published work except for articles that are indicative of a much larger corpus of unpublished work and except for passing references to publications that have been particularly significant to the new historical work in the area.

Several published works on Rwanda during the early 1960s were important precursors to this new genre of study. These served two functions: they provided a critical framework within which to assess the earlier work, which for the most part focused on central court politics and was drawn from normative idealist descriptions of the sociopolitical system; and they sketched out the new directions that subsequent work has since followed. Among the most valuable of these were Jan Vansina’s L’évolution du royaume Rwanda dès origines à 1900(1962), Marcel d’Hertefelt’s “Le Rwanda” (1962), and Alexis Kagame’s Les milices du Rwanda précolonial (1963). Almost unnoticed, however, was a short article by Helen Codere, written from fieldwork conducted during the revolution itself, which cast a new perspective on the institutions of clientship, the keystone of previous anthropological work on Rwanda. Together these works emphasized the importance of detailed empirical fieldwork on the institutions that so strongly characterized the Rwandan state. From such work there emerged fundamental questions concerning political differentiation, historical variability, and geographical diversity that could not be accounted for in colonially based work; the paradigms of the 1950s stressed political integration, historical durability, and geographical homogeneity—elements reflecting the administrative character of the colonial Rwandan state. Research of the 1960s thus stressed the importance of empirical studies over idealist constructions and local-level research over central court perceptions, and in this fashion laid the groundwork for subsequent important reappraisals of Rwandan history.

Most of the new works building on this legacy are the product of the 1970s. But the new interests of the turn of the decade had already been foreshadowed by a year, with the publication of Claudine Vidal’s important analysis,“Le Rwanda des anthropologues ou le fétischisme de la vache” (1969). Like the works mentioned above, this article provided a cogent critique of earlier anthropological work—the staple of Rwandan social studies—but it also provided more suggestive leads to future work, and above all it demonstrated the value of detailed local-level anthropological studies as a corrective to the idealist assumptions that had guided earlier studies. Like Codere’s article, Vidal’s work focused on the portrayal of clientship institutions in earlier works. But where Codere attacked the ideology of class relations presented in these works, Vidal, using a broader range of empirical data, questioned the functional role of clientship, and indeed the central position of ubuhake clientship itself as portrayed in the earlier works. Drawing on empirical data from the level of the local community, Vidal suggested that “the fetishism of the cow” (as her article was subtitled) was more an anthropological model than a Rwandan reality. In previous works, cattle clientship had been portrayed as the exclusive mechanism of clientship; Vidal argued that ubuhake cattle clientship, far from serving as the only (or even the most important) such mechanism, was in fact only one among several kinds of clientship. Furthermore, she suggested that ubuhake was only a relatively recent form of clientship and not everywhere—perhaps not even in central Rwanda—was it historically the most important in terms of political power; other types, especially land clientship, seemed more significant as political mechanisms.

Her conclusions were important and have been confirmed in many subsequent studies. But even more important was her methodology, based on a delimited “hill study,” for it demonstrated definitively that an approach focusing on impact, not ideology, was feasible—indeed necessary—to provide a clear understanding of how the system actually worked on the ground. These results initiated a radical reassessment of Rwandan society; not only did they confirm earlier suggestions of variability in the client system, but more important, they raised questions as to the very applicability of the “patron-client” model for Rwandan studies. It was clear that the idealist models of the Rwandan past were no longer acceptable.

Another early study utilized a similar technique. Pierre Gravel had worked on a single hill in Gisaka in eastern Rwanda during the revolution of 1959–62. Despite (or because of) the upheaval, he was able to provide some new insights on the working of what he termed the “feudal manor” in Rwanda. In particular, he was able to catalogue the mobility of inhabitants of eastern Rwanda, considering especially their ties with Uganda—a topic that calls for much more work. But perhaps his greatest contribution was to illustrate the process of lineage competition and the role of clientship as part of—but not as encapsulating—the political process of alliance-building at the local level: in this view clientship became a dynamic process in itself, and the specific political purpose of such alliances became manifest.

Building on these works as well as on the earlier historiography of Rwanda (an extraordinarily prolific outpouring for an African country of this size), the new direction of Rwandan historiography was illustrated in a special issue of Cahiers d’Études Africaines in 1974, which included an important collection of local-level studies, many based on work still in progress at the time, others indicating the results of work already done. Although it is impossible to discuss all the articles of significance in this collection, three deserve mention in passing. The careful analytical work by Joseph Rwabukumba and Vincent Mudandagizi on “Les formes historiques de la dépendance personnelle dans l’état rwandais” provided substance to the historical dimension of clientship. By tracing the implantation of ubuhake clientship in an area of south-central Rwanda from the early nineteenth century, the authors argued for a radical reassessment of the time span often attributed (without evidence) to Rwanda client institutions in general, and especially to certain specific forms often thought of as “traditional” and hence assumed to be ancient and enduring. Since then, as will be discussed below, work by various researchers working in different parts of Rwanda has corroborated their reassessment.

In the same issue of Cahiers d’Études Africaines, Lydia Meschi contributed a fascinating study on the evolution of land ownership on a single hill over a period of three generations. This work once again stressed the profound nature of changes over the last century—including important demographic changes—in almost completely transforming the earlier structures of land rights. By tracing the development of land-settlement patterns, Meschi followed the lines of analysis first brilliantly set out in Gravel’s chapter on the “Play for Power” in his Remera.

A third article in this collection was less important for its direct application to earlier assumptions and ideologies than in plotting out a relatively new domain of inquiry for Rwandan studies. Surprisingly, except for the role of cattle, the material basis to Rwandan political and social institutions was scarcely considered in the earlier works. (No doubt this is partly because Rwandan oral traditions, so rich in documenting personal ties, are almost completely devoid of economic transfers, even prestations to the central court). Claudine Vidal’s “Économie de la société féodale rwandaise” traced out the nature of economic interrelations within precolonial Rwandan society and considered the ideologies associated with these economic strata. In particular, she showed the great discrepancies of wealth in precolonial Rwanda, the importance of control over labor (cautiously estimating that about one-half of the population were employed as “day laborers”), and the structural elements that reproduced this system. Thepotential lines of inquiry sketched out in her article have not yet been followed up in any comprehensive way, although some work on economic transactions, if not structures, has been undertaken recently. But the point is well taken: perhaps more thought need be given to both economic and conceptual structures in the analysis of Rwandan society. At the very least, Vidal’s article suggests a possible analytic framework within which to assess this dimension of Rwandan life.

In addition to the material appearing in the special issue of Cahiers d’Études Africaines, other original fieldwork has resulted in the completion of several longer studies, as yet unpublished. As with the work already cited, these also provide a corpus of significantly different departures from earlier historiography (though foreshadowed, as mentioned above, by certain key earlier works). Some of these works are regional studies; so far, studies focusing on south-central, southwestern, and northern areas of Rwanda have been completed. (Other projects are currently underway in Bugoyi and Ruhengeri in the northwest of the country, and Bwishaza-Rusenyi, in western Rwanda. The areas of eastern Rwanda, and especially those relating to areas farther east still—Bugufi and Bushubi—have been sadly neglected in this new approach.)

Although undertaken independently of each other, these projects tend to reinforce each other on certain key aspects, while still demonstrating the variety and variability that characterized precolonial Rwanda. The work of Jean-François Saucier, for example, extends considerably the empirical work on clientship mentioned in Rwabukumba and Mudandagizi’s article, and it provides statistical evidence that forces a major revision in the earlier concepts of the age and extent of Rwandan client institutions. From a careful inquiry carried out on four hills in the area south of Butare (south-central Rwanda) Saucier tested the postulates and hypotheses expounded by earlier writers on ubuhake clientship. Some significant conclusions emerge: only 16 percent of the fathers of present inhabitants, for example, experienced ubuhake ties—ties that had been portrayed by Maquet as the “social glue” linking all Rwandan society from top to bottom; and less than 9 percent of the grandfathers’ generation did so, thus suggesting that the previous portrayal of ubuhake as the central social relationship of traditional (precolonial) Rwanda was erroneous. Furthermore, the figures for Tutsi participation in ubuhake were higher than those for Hutu, and “political” clientship was higher than “nonpolitical.” This brings into question, yet again, Maquet’s integrationist interpretation of ubuhake clientship, according to which all Hutu could—and had to—find some protection against the rulers by means of ubuhakeclientship. It is clear from Saucier’s work that ubuhake was used as a political tool—and resulted from a direct power imbalance—rather than serving as a generalized social web of mutual protection pervading Rwandan society.

Saucier’s statistical analysis finds independent confirmation on almost every point in the work of Catharine Newbury. Based on fieldwork in Kinyaga in extreme southwest Rwanda, this study traced the changes in clientship structures from their imposition in the early nineteenth century through the period of colonial rule. By considering a range of clientship patterns (not just ubuhake) Newbury was able to account for changes in the relations of the various client forms both to each other and to the changing broader political context. The transformation of the different clientship forms, and the resultant formation of a “genealogy” of clientship types traced through time, related specifically to the changing political environment during the period from 1860 to 1960. These transformations also played an important role in spawning new social identities, based on access to different material and political resources, and giving new meaning to ethnic categories within Kinyaga. Thus the form and significance of both clientship and ethnicity (often seen as “primordial” features of Rwandan society) can be seen as varying with the changing political patterns of which they formed a part.

Jim Freedman’s work on northern Rwanda (Byumba Prefecture) extended the general reassessment of Rwandan society in two ways. First, it reemphasized the differences of this region from the central Rwandan model portrayed as universal in the earlier sources. At the same time, it advanced the conceptual framework applied to Rwandan studies in its most comprehensive form by de Heusch. Using the concepts derived from de Heusch’s structural analysis of interlacustrine history, Freedman went on to provide a theoretical contribution to the concept of “joking relations”—a contribution summarized in a later article. His thesis also provided many interesting insights in to the history of Ndorwa-Mpororo, along the northern border of Rwanda.

Other recent works have contributed to areas of study neglected in the historiography. Alison Des Forges’s dissertation was perhaps the first to provide an indepth analysis of court-oriented politics under colonial rule—a period surprisingly neglected in Rwanda compared to other areas of Africa. Relying on meticulous research, she demonstrated convergence of European and Rwandan elite goals, the ways in which European administrations became Rwandanized, and the crucial changes in the patterns of kingship in the period before 1931. She also provided much fascinating material on the political cleavages that occurredin Rwanda during this time of major social alterations. Finally, her study served to deepen the contribution of her own earlier articles on the period of the imposition of colonial rule and the new religious and economic structures that went with it.

Work presently underway in Rwanda will also serve to fill important gaps in the historical picture of Rwanda. Ferdinand Nahimana of the Department of History at the National University of Rwanda has undertaken research on the pre-Nyiginya Hutu polities of northern and western Rwanda. Oral traditions from those areas where Nyiginya expansion was relatively recent, for example, will help to provide a new perspective to the political history of this region and add to the intriguing but sketchy sources presently available.

The research of Bernard Lugan will help fill another gap in the literature, concerning economic activity in the early colonial period—a field almost totally absent from the formal court traditions and hence from the public record. Using a questionnaire research technique and interviewing in many different parts of Rwanda, Lugan has been able to establish the existence—and to plot the locations —of early markets in Rwanda. He has also contributed to the related field of famine history. Though the historical depth of his studies has been hampered for lack of adequate data, and these economic aspects still need to be related to the currents of historical change in the larger Rwandan society (as Vidal has suggested), such studies have provided a welcome contribution to Rwandan studies at the empirical level.

In sum, Rwandan historiography has made some important strides in the last decade or so, and is poised at an exciting point of departure for future work. The general direction of this new trend is clear. Much more remains to be done, however, both in regional studies and in further conceptual refinements, working toward a global, comprehensive interpretation of Rwandan history. In addition, the histories of famine, disease, and ecological change have not yet been broached; colonial history has been relatively neglected; and religious and economic histories leave room for considerable interesting work. Finally, more needs to be done in considering Rwandan history within a wider regional frame-work, one transcending the present political boundaries, rather than focusing on the Rwandan state as a historical and historiographical enclave.

To the west of Lake Kivu, similar strides have been made over the course of the last decade, and the basic precolonial historical outline based on a solid groundwork of local and historical monographs has now taken shape, althoughmuch remains to be done. This work is perhaps all the more important, as this is an area where little scholarly research into the precolonial period had been carried out before the 1970s. Nonetheless, this corpus is more difficult to summarize because it is spread over a greater diversity of geographical areas and historical contexts, and it includes a wide variety of different topics and conceptual approaches.

The publication of the 1975 issue of Études d’Histoire Africaine, devoted entirely to the lacustrine area, was an important turning point in the historiography of this region. Just as the 1974 edition of Cahiers d’Études Africaines provided a forum for Rwandan scholars, this collection of essays included numerous Zairean and Rundi nationals among the contributors. This was both a tribute to the dynamism of the History Department at UNAZA (the National University of Zaire) and the quality of their research programs, and a testimony to the work of many competent Zaireans—the first generation of Zairean historians trained in Zaire.

A second noteworthy aspect of this issue was that it included some preliminary results of recent fieldwork undertaken in the region itself, and thus introduced an international audience to an area of Africa long neglected in historical scholarship. These articles were based on both local archives and oral interviews, precisely the kind of material needed to assess the value of the earlier secondary sources of the region. Thirdly, it provided an indication of the variety of themes being explored in the area, including demographic history, social history, church history, and the history of resistance, of land rights, and of regional contacts. The breadth of the thematic treatment was also reflected in the wide geographical scope covered, thus providing the hope that a broader regional history based on solid local-level empirical investigations would eventually be possible.

From about the same time a series of important earlier research projects began to come to fruition. The area of Bushi southwest of Lake Kivu has been the most important (though not the only) focus of these studies, and over the last few years at least four full-length studies have been undertaken that relate to the historical study of this region. Of these, only one has as yet been published. J.-B. Cuypers’s Alimentation chez les Shi brings together a wealth of detail on the material culture of the Shi based on his own research, for the most part in northern Bushi (Irhambi). Most of these data relate to food preparation and storage, but there is much of a general ethnographic interest in this book as well.

The second of these works is the doctoral thesis on Shi rituals by Dikonda wa Lumanyisha, one of the first full-scale works on Bushi by a Zairean scholar.

It includes many valuable texts, which in themselves make the work of interest to students of Shi society. The rituals analyzed include those relating to marriage and succession, as well as royal rituals. There is, however, a tendency to generalize a local pattern (often drawn from northern Bushi) to all regions of Bushi, a culture area that today probably includes close to one million people and that in the past included at least six kingdoms. Historians using this work will need to take account of the significant regional differences in the area; nonetheless, Dikonda’s work contains a wealth of data for historians and others.

Two other works are more directly related to the precolonial history of the area. One of these is based on an anthropological study of a community in Ngweshe, one of the Shi kingdoms. Elinor Sosne’s “Kinship and Contract in Bushi” provides the first comprehensive analysis of a Shi social system as it actually functions over time and as it affects individual members of Shi society. This study focuses on the processes of inheritance (or kinship ideology) and contract, the twin foundations of Shi society. The importance of the former is reflected in the institution of “positional succession,” whereby a man’s heir adopts the total social role of his predecessor, including most of the predecessor’s material wealth and virtually all of his social status within the larger kinship structure. This means that others (nonheirs) must eventually move to new land and establish roles within the politico-jural complex through contractual mechanisms to other individuals. By focusing on the constant “play for power” at all levels of Shi society and showing how these institutions function within a given empirical context, Sosne has provided a major advance over earlier descriptions of isolated “structures” within Shi society: “society” is no longer seen as simply the sum of a series of discrete independent institutions. “Kinship and Contract” thus once again illustrates the value of the technique employed by Vidal and others in getting beyond the framework of how society “ought” to work, and into the realm of empirical behavior.

Another of the important new works is more directly historical in that it seeks to document fundamental transformations in Shi society dating from the establishment of the Banyamocha dynasty in Bushi. Paradoxically, however, it does not provide an empirical history of individuals and events. Instead, Richard Sigwalt’s “The Early History of Bushi” is concerned with the transformations in the underlying conceptions of kingship. From a careful analysis of nine genesis traditions, Sigwalt traces the provenance and diffusion of ubwami—the concept of kingship—from the areas west of present-day Bushi, areas in which there exist no centralized political structures on the model of the lacustrine states today. By considering how Shi concepts of ubwami originally derived from thesouthwest and developed within Shi society, this work rebuts earlier suggestions that royal institutions were introduced from the north and east. The study also provides an important methodological contribution; through comparison of the different variants of traditions, it shows how the sources themselves have altered over time. In proposing a history of conceptualizations and institutions rather than one focusing on individuals and events, this work has shifted analysis a long way from the rigid concern with migration, settlement, and “origins” as ends of historical studies in themselves, an approach that strongly characterized earlier studies on precolonial history of this region. Instead, we are entering a realm in which we can hope to account for adaptation, incorporation, and structural change.

But despite these contributions, there is much work left to be done in the field of precolonial Shi history. We lack even a brief outline of a political history for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that is based on anything more than uninformed speculation and bland hypothesis. The most likely remedy to this is to be found in the careful recording, transcription, and annotation of oral texts, a research program now being undertaken by Zairean researchers—teachers, priests, and students among them. It is impossible to overestimate the value and importance of their work along these lines. The work of Bishikwabo Chubaka, presently researching the history of the smaller Shi kingdoms on the southern perimeter of Bushi, represents one aspect of this work. Focusing on areas previously neglected in most sources, Bishikwabo’s work will provide a new perspective, not only on Bushi as a whole, but on the internal working of one Shi polity. This will serve as an important contribution, for often in the larger, more centralized states the subtleties of the state-level dynamics are obscured by the hierarchized administrative framework; until now, our understanding of Shi central court politics has been based largely on generalizations and idealizations, rather than on empirical analysis. Secondly, the kingdom of Kaziba, the focus of Bishikwabo’s studies, was a major iron-working center during the late nineteenth century; hoes from Kaziba were known throughout the region and far into Rwanda. As a commercial center, Kaziba benefited from its position between the Lake Tanganyika–Lake Kivu network and the Rwandan trade with the forest areas to the west. Thus this study could eventually alter our understanding of the fundamental material basis of kingship in this area, as well as provide many new insights on commercial interaction in the wider region.

Yet another important initiative into precolonial historical studies is the careful collection of the rich oral sources now being done by various Shi priests; the work of Abbé Cenyange Lubula is particularly outstanding. Carefully collected, transcribed, translated, and annotated, this type of work can provide an essential building block for future historical inquiry; it is also an impressive testimony to the Shi past, for which the oral data are presently much more extensive than for neighboring regions.

Although the present overview is concerned primarily with work in pre-colonial history, three research projects now underway that deal with the early colonial period in Bushi deserve mention, for they will require research into various aspects of precolonial social structures. At the same time, they are representative of a much larger body of recent research carried out in Bushi by Zairean scholars. These three deal with the questions of resistance to the imposition of early colonial rule, labor mobilization, and urbanization.

Bushi and the neighboring areas of eastern Kivu provide a particularly interesting and complex field for the study of early colonial resistance. First, the area was first brought into contact with European administration relatively late, around 1900, and the civilian colonial administrative structures were often not established until after World War I (and only toward 1930 in some areas). As a result, patterns of resistance against colonial rule in these areas are relatively recent; in some cases they relate directly to earlier resistance against structures in the area, or more recent politics. Secondly, since this area was on the frontier of German-Belgian rivalry before World War I,“resistance”was often tied to the capacity of African authorities to draw on the support of one European power against the other, and was therefore often directly or indirectly related to the hostilities between these European powers. Finally, political centralization and social differences in the area were such that often European activities became directly involved in the internal politics and conflicts—and often resistance and collaboration can best be explained by reference to these internal factions, rather than by reference to European institutions alone. These and other aspects of Shi resistance (including the religious aspects) have been explored in several articles by Njangu Canda-Ciri. Njangu distinguishes between European and Shi accounts, and between the perceptions of various Shi participants, and shows that the initial struggle against, or collaboration with, colonialism can be seen as an extension of earlier political conflicts with Bushi.

The subjects of land and labor are also central to the colonial history of eastern Kivu. But as we have seen above for the institutions of land, labor and clientship in Rwanda, these aspects of colonial Shi society can best be understood within the context of their evolution from the precolonial period. The work now being undertaken by Bashizi Cirhagarhula on agriculture and rural development in colonial Bushi, including both European plantations and African production, will provide an important contribution to precolonial as well as to colonial studies on Bushi. In fact, the subjects of labor mobilization and land accessibility would themselves make suitable topics for a precolonial historical study along lines similar to those which Bashizi or Sosne have outlined for the later period.

Finally, the study of residential agglomerations and urbanization, and the factors behind such patterns of social change in Bushi, is another field where colonial history cannot be clearly separated from precolonial history. In this regard, Pilipili’s work on the establishment of Bukavu provides another new departure in Kivu studies. Building particularly on two relevant earlier works, Pilipili focuses on the early communities serving as intermediaries between Bushi and Kinyaga to the east of the Rusizi River and highlights the initiatives of Africans—especially of the “communauté extra-coutumière”—in the establishment and evolution of Bukavu, especially in the years before 1935. Although based on both oral and archival accounts, this work could be extended both by a comprehensive project of consulting Africans in Bukavu and by more detailed studies on the evolution of the wider colonial context within Kivu. Taken together, these three initiatives—the forms of resistance to and collaboration with early colonial structures; the economic aspects of labor and land (including both plantation agriculture and African cash-crop cultivation); and the establishment of a new cultural milieu around the administrative-economic center of Bukavu —represent important new directions for Kivu (and specifically Shi) studies.46

The heavy concentration of work on Bushi, however, presents the danger of imbalance. Where Shi studies dominate the work on other areas in the region, there will be a strong temptation to extrapolate from a relatively well-known area such as Bushi to other areas that present apparent similarities. But it is a particularly hazardous task to do so, for while the general forces influencing historical change and perceptions may have been regional in scope (especially during the colonial period), the reactions, as well as the local initiatives, naturally varied significantly from one locale to another. In many respects, despite superficial similarities, social structures and political organization differed significantly from region to region. Until recently it has been the similarities that have been stressed; the differences—perhaps more significant in accounting for (and testifying to) local dynamics—have for the most part been neglected. Consequently the studies undertaken outside Bushi, though less numerous, are no less important.

The problem of generalizing from Bushi has been most evident for the history of the Havu. Many earlier studies simply assumed that the Havu societies, located just north of Bushi, were similar if not identical to Shi society. This assumption was based partly on the apparent linguistic and political similarities between the mainland Havu and the Shi, but it also resulted, at least in part, from the fact that many of the earlier historical inquiries were apparently carried out by missionaries with the help of Shi interpreters or guides. This appears to have resulted in a tendency to favor those informants who concurred with Shi perceptions of Havu history.

However, recent research among the Havu makes it possible to present a new perspective on Havu history. The linguistic work of Aramazani Birusha will provide a valuable foundation for such work, in a field for which there have as yet been no studies at all because Kihavu has simply been assumed to be similar, both lexically and morphologically, to Mashi, the language of the Shi. His preliminary findings indicate that the differences between the two languages are more significant than previously assumed, but for the exact nature and degree of these differences we must await the completion of Aramazani’s meticulous research. In addition, students from both UNAZA-Bukavu (ISP) and UNAZA-Lubumbashi have completed theses on the precolonial histories of Ijwi Island and mainland Havu areas on the western lakeshore.

The early history of the Ijwi kingdom is also the focus of research that examines Ijwi history both within the wider regional context and in terms of the local-level interaction between the royal family and other groups on Ijwi. On the wider plan this work ties Ijwi history to processes of historical change occurring in the forest regions west of the Mitumba Mountains, in areas east of Lake Kivu (now western Rwanda), and in the Rusizi River valley and northern Burundi, by the shared influences and changing historical contexts within which these societies evolved, as well as by more direct interactions. Within Ijwi history this work suggests that increasingly strong clan identities emerged with increasing political centralization. It therefore questions the “primordial” association of clan structures, arguing instead that the present clan structure on Ijwi resulted in part from recent changes in the wider political context.

Farther north, another important locus of recent research is the area of Bunande (including the administrative zones of Beni and Lubero), just west of Lake Edward and the Semliki Valley. For this area the same general historiographical influences are apparent that have been noted for other areas west of the Kivu Rift Valley. There is less concentration on a problematic structured around “origins and migrations.” Increasingly, interest is turning toward internal processes of change, based more on local-level research. Once again, however, our discussion of this work can only be selective; most of these studies at present consist of unpublished theses found in Bukavu or Lubumbashi, presently unavailable to us.

One precolonial study from this area, however, is particularly important, not only for its analysis of the history of the Bashu (one of several Nande groups) but also because of the conceptual frameworks explored. Using an analytical approach drawn from F. G. Bailey and A. W. Southall, R. Packard analyzes in detail the processes of alliance-building and confrontation among rivals for power. In both these domains the assertion of ritual power was an important tactic; competition over political power was expressed in competing claims to ritual authority. In Bunande this ritual authority was most directly illustrated by control over rain, and beyond that over the productivity and security of the people, for the centralization of ritual power to overcome or prevent ecological disaster was the essential quality of obwami—legitimate political authority. The fragmentation of such ritual authority—that is, all situations that threatened political centralization, such as succession disputes—opened the way to ecological disaster and thus were often associated with periods of famine. The essential characteristic (and necessary proof) of legitimate kingship was therefore the successful centralization of ritual and the bountiful harvests resulting from this.

But Packard’s study is not simply an inventory of ritual practices. It is a history of ritual concepts in action, one that relates their use to specific political contexts. In particular, the political significance of ritual and religious concepts is closely tied to both ecological history and changing disease environments. This of course opens the way to an analysis of the historicity of ritual concepts, as the ecological context is progressively transformed and ritual practices alter accordingly.

“The Politics of Ritual Control” also provides an example of a structural analysis of Shu genesis traditions. Drawing on similar work done elsewhere, Packard shows how structural analyses can be applied to historical studies by relating the analysis of these “myths of origin” to three levels of Shu thought and action. He analyzes them successively as instruments of political action, as indications of historical processes, and as testaments of fundamental cultural values, illustrating another important methodological tool for this area, where the time depth of oral traditions is generally very shallow and where no written records are available from before the early years of this century

The southern end of the region considered here, the area of the Rusizi River valley between lakes Tanganyika and Kivu, is the focus for yet another unpublished thesis, Jacques Depelchin’s “From Precapitalism to Imperialism.” This is less a chronological study of a history of events than an essay on Marxist perspectives on the history of the Rusizi River valley; the major contribution of this work is to the conceptualization of the African past, the mode of thought within which new questions are generated.

Rather than tracing migrations or dynastic history, Depelchin focuses on the changing interpersonal relations within which people lived out their lives. Though he sees the economic basis as important, it is not the exclusive determinant in this historical framework. He also gives consideration to ideologies and modes of perception among the Vira, Furiiru, and Rundi peoples themselves; Depelchin emphasizes that his approach derived from the nature of the data and reflects the way these people themselves portray their own past.

The essential characteristic of this approach is the attempt at a more holistic analysis, one less divided into separate institutions and discrete events. Within the economic sphere, for example, the focus is not on production as an activity, but on relations of production. It includes an analysis of which group performed a given activity and the group’s relations to other groups through this activity, as well as a description of the activity itself. For instance, Depelchin notes that while certain aspects of agricultural activity (such as clearing the brush before plant-ing, weeding, or harvesting) may be technically similar now to these processes as performed in 1894, the social groups involved in these tasks clearly have different relations to other groups than was the case in 1894, and the harvest is used for different purposes. Thus the meaning and quality of the work of clearing the land is transformed by the nature of the changing political environment within which such an activity takes place. Within this perspective, it is the change in the relations of production—the social and political significance of productive activities—that is the significant dimension of the history of this area. According to Depelchin, these changing relations of production, not changing powers in the hands of local authorities or changing institutions looked at in isolation, were the significant alterations that occurred during the sixtyyears of colonial rule in the area. One aspect of this process that interests Depelchin is how these alter-ations are related to other changing perceptions—how ideologies account for (or obscure, as the case may be) these long-term perspectives on the changing material bases of social processes and the inequalities reproduced in social institutions.

It is therefore the diversity of approaches that distinguishes the historiography of the Zairean regions from recent Rwandan historiography. Despite its clear break with the past, the latter still operates within a well-established historiographical tradition and a clearly defined geographical and cultural domain. This aspect of Rwandan historiography may be salutary in relating the various strands of work to each other and thus providing a more detailed picture of the wider whole. But there are drawbacks to this approach as well. Where the essential historical issues are defined by the previous works, the scope for new approaches is reduced. The very dynamism of recent Rwandan research has resulted at least in part from the tension of breaking through the dominant framework that existed before 1960, while still relating to it. There is still the danger, however, of establishing a new orthodoxy, and thus there is a constant need to break into new conceptual fields of analysis.

West of Lake Kivu, on the other hand, where there are fewer constraints imposed by earlier paradigms, less thought has tended to be devoted to the conceptual underpinnings and perspectives of recent research, except insofar as these are related to more general historical issues being addressed elsewhere in African history. The result of this lack of imposed historiographical structure has been that studies of different locales for the period before 1900 in this area at present represent a variety of conceptual approaches. Until now, little has been done to try to relate these studies to each other or to a common intellectual framework, or to develop a regional concept of historical change. Indeed, until very recently we lacked the detailed understanding of the area that would make such an attempt feasible. But in a sense the existence of different conceptual approaches—the focus of ritual/ecological factors among the Banande, the role of structural oppositions in the social history of Ijwi, the analysis of genesis traditions for what they mean as well as for what they say in Bushi, and the materialist conception of history proposed in the study of the Rusizi River valley—is for the moment a strength. The lack of any dominant single paradigm may yet force a more systematic examination of the conceptual frameworks required to achieve an understanding of the significant patterns of historical change, not only in this area but elsewhere in Africa as well.

The historiographical development of this area over the last decade has shown some important breakthroughs that are all the more remarkable considering that they have been concentrated in a relatively small area, and considering the relative paucity of previous studies relating directly to the region. Much, ofcourse, remains to be done: it is clear that “tribal” or “institutional” studies will not take us very far. Obvious frontiers for future research in this area include specific elements of social identities, of conceptualizations of history and society, of medical and religious conceptualizations, and of material bases of historical activity(including ecological as well as economic factors). Nor has any study yet focused on the role of women. We need texts; we need religious concepts; we need material on production and the flow of goods (within as well as between societies); and we need a better understanding of the impact of the changing broader political contexts.

But it is at least as important to consider and to consider fully what we need to do with the material. What do we seek to understand? Do we have the historical questions to guide our analyses? Do we have coherent concepts of history that give rise to questions—not in a rigid fashion, but in an open-ended fashion, one that leads continually to new frontiers rather than which closes frontiers by simply filling in the gaps in an outmoded historical problematic. It is toward an answer to this fundamental question that research in Kivu has been groping its way forward. The past decade has seen progress, but we need now to consider historiographical progress on at least two levels. This essay is intended, therefore, to place the local studies in a wider framework, in an attempt to avoid the possibility of turning the historiographical development of the 1970s into the historiographical underdevelopment of the 1980s. of kingsSocial & cultureRwanda and Zaïre The  Rwandan Revolution of 1959–62 marked an important watershed not only for the history of the country but also for its historiography. Within Rwandan historical studies these political changes encouraged the development of a more broadly based analysis, one that went beyond the earlier tendency to focus...AMATEKA