Seven. The Conversion Of The Tutsi
When Léon Classe returned to Rwanda in 1922 the Tutsi had already abandoned direct opposition to Catholicism for cautions accommoda-tion, and within the next decade were to adopt a third course — conversion. The Hutu inside the Church who had, when expedient, exchanged their Tutsi overlords for a missionary were soon to be overwhelmed by a rush of aristocratie converts which the priests called La Tornade. Under Belgian rule education bec ame the portal which gave access to political power, but as Cardinal Hinsley remarked, it was also ‘the portal of the Church’.1 As the Belgians created a new group of Iiterate government chiefs, and the mission sehools geared themselves to preparing candidates for political office, Musinga alone, the old source of political power and the representative of the old religion, stood outside the new political and religious structure; his deposition in 1931 and the coronation of his catechumen son Ruda-higwa marked the closing of an era of Rwandan history and the opening of a new one.
Despite Musinga’s passing gratitude to Bishop Classe for his efforts to bring about the restoration of Gisaka,2 the loss of eastern Rwanda to the British Only deepened his mistrust of Europeans.3 He had Iost a vast pasture region dotted with royal ibikingi in 1920, and he feared atternpts to restore the Gisaka royal house.4 By 1922 the partition had become effective; travellers to and from Nyanza required a note from the British Resident countersigned by the Belgians across the ‘border’. Gifts could still be taken to the mwami, but too prolonged an absence might resuIt in deposition by the British.8 Not that there was much incentive to return; the British Resident, seeing the Hutu as the ‘underdog’, was insisting that Tutsi give back caille confiscated from their subjects.8 He was equally revolutionary in his appointments, passing over two important Ega chiefs and giving thirty-five hills in Buganza to a minor Nyiginya; the missionaries were amazed; the rnwami, they heard, was furious, since Buganza was
The conversion of the Tutsi
reserved for the son of a faithful Nyiginya, Kanunia.7 Worse was the Resident’s threat to put a literate appointee over the multitude of ibikingi hohlers.8
•The Resident and Isaac Kyakawarnbara, bis Ganda assistant, found thernselves, in a short while, leaders of a Hutu-inspired movernent for reform.9 The Christians were the first to take advantage of the possibilities opened up by the new regime. Petro Muhanika, an ex-seminarian who had turned his hand to skin trading and extortion in the past, was taken on as the Residerit’s karani.” joseph Lukamba, who belonged to the Gisaka royal linell and served as a catechist at Zaza, which was now British, went off to train as an administrative assistant. He was appointed sub-chief, and at least one noble thought him enough of a rising light to ask for a blood pact. Another of the mission’s employees, Simon Nyiringondo, came forward as an inter-preter.
The contrast with Belgian rule was striking; it was announced that ubuletwa and crop dues were abolished unless they sprang from specific land grants to tenant farmers. When freedom of worship was proclaimed, despite public and cordial cooperation between Resident and White Fathers, complaints against the missionaries poured in. Tsobe Tutsi were brought to the Residence and their diviner’s potions burnt. Perhaps because of past Nyabingi disturbances in Kigezi, female chiefs were banned, with the result that the wife of an important Ega chief left the region altogether. A new and more powerful patron had come into the land to make lowly both Tutsi and White Fathers. In October 1922, Joseph Lukamba was made provisional chief of Mirenge province, thus realising the Rwandan Tutsis worst fears. The Gisaka kings had been resurrected.
Although the reversion of Gisaka to Rwandan rule in 1923 gratified Musinga, it can have done little to dispel iris feelings of helplessness and resentment; the case for the Rwandan monarchy had been eloquently presented by Classe and by the Société Belge des Missions Protestants, but the League of Nations mandates commission made its decision after Britain had lost interest in the Cape-to-Cairo railway. Dependent on missionary advocates, and impotent as he now was, Musinga looked back to the past in which he had enjoyed real power and romanticised the German period when he was ’respected’, He was never to adapt himself to Belgian demands, which, after the return of Gisaka, were consciously intensified.
Late in 1919 a Seventh Day Adventist pastor occupied the abandoned stations of Kirinda and Iremera before making Gitwe the Adventist headquarters, but for four years after the Germans’departure Protestants were no more than a tiny cloud on the White Fathers’ horizon; the Protestant intervention at the League of Nations was an unwelcome reminder that ‘error‘ must once more be reckoned with. Kirinda itself was reopened by a French member of the Lutheran Evangelische Missions Gesellschaft and though he might be tarred with the German Brush he was joined in July 1922 by the impeccably Belgian Pastors Josué Honoré and Arthur Lestrade with a trained nurse. Five Christians baptised in German times came forward at Rubengera, where the Protestants were able to start a girls’schoo1. The Church Missionary Society, banned from Belgian territory after enquiries some members had made about the treatment of porters in 1917, but hovering ever since on the Ugandan border, tinally entered Gisaka during the period of British rule; they remained after Gisaka had returned to Musinga, to overshadow with their Cambridge medical degrees and upper-class backgrounds their less well endowed Belgian colleagues. In Septernber 1922 they, along with the Lutherans, baptised their first Rwandan converts.
The League of Nations mandate to supervise Rwanda strengthened Belgian resolution to rule the Tutsi and to push ahead with reforrns. The CMS lost many adherents who plainly had equated them with British administration and the possibility of emancipation, but they nevertheless sent a Toro Christian to ask the mwami’s permission for a station on lake Mohasi, later to be Gahini, a great Protestant centre. ‘In the eyes of the natives,’ a missionary told CMS readers, such sanction is almost of more value than the dictates of European ru1ers. There was little evidence to support this observation. The Belgians saw the return of Gisaka as an opportunity for exerting even greater pressure on the king; ‘I hope it will allow us to change our tactics with Muzinga,‘ Classe was told. It is a unique chance to obtain from him what must be the basis of his country’s development, i.e. stabilisation of property rights. In an ordinance of 28 April 1927 the Belgians had recognised the Rwandan courts, but this left the Hutu at the mercy of the chiefs; they now tried to have an administrator present at all important cases. Ubuletwa was reduced from two out of five, to two out of seven days in 1924, and later to one out of seven. The Tutsi custom of marking and claiming Hutu banana trees and the enforced donation of cattle when the lord’s beasts died were abolished. Head and cattle taxes were instituted. Politically more important was the obligation imposed on the mwami to consult the Belgians before making appointments. These decrees, designed to improve the lot of the peasantry, remained largely a paper exercise; the Belgians could only curb the mwami and collect the taxes.
Bishop Classe’s support for reform was now public. Le Soir quoted from a booklet he had written entitled Le Royaume de Musinga: ‘Above all, white refraining from bringing up the most serious question of private property I would say that progressive reform is needed. More security for goods, possessions and fields, harvests and even herds is required. In private Classe sounded more radical, complaining that since there is a fear of attacking the basis of the social organisation, we are exposed to half-measures. In 1924 he still hoped for his ‘bourgeois revolution’, but this was the low water mark of his feelings about the Tutsi; when the tide turned such thoughts disappeared.
The Belgians were dependent on the White Fathers in minor as well as major matters. The missions were, for instance, expected to supply domestic servants for the administrators and to look after their coloured offspring. Initially the implementation of nearly all agricultical policy depended on Catholic cooperation. The period of reforms after 1924 only increased this dependence. But more necessary to the administration than any other aspect of mission work was the Catholics’ extensive infrastructure of minor seminaries and schools.
The Belgian philosophy of education in Africa was essentially that of the 1924 Phelps-Stokes commission, with its emphasis on vocational training and vernacular teaching. The missionaries were ideally suited to this type of formation, but Liberal pressures from Belgium dictated some commitment to secular education. Church control of schools was being hotly debated, and some of the political sound and fury reached the hills of Rwanda; the Kigali Resident removed children from the town’s Catholic school in a peremptory fashion and even seems to have claimed the fixtures and fittings. Political conflict in Belgium, and lack of money and men in Rwanda, left the educational system almost entirely in missionary hands, with a few showpiece secular institutions.
Despite debates in Brussels about whether the Catholics in Ruanda-Urundi should be subsidised, the White Fathers were from 1921 the fortunate recipients of 56,675 francs annually sent by mistake from money destined for the Congo Mission. They badly needed it; every seminarian cost 500 francs per annum, and it was often difficult to provision them. Bishop Classe did his utmost to ‘sell’ his seminaries: ‘Pupils destined for the ecclesiastical state will never be more than a feeble minority,’ he wrote to the Resident. ‘Our goal is to form schoolteachers as well as employees of all sorts. But standards were too low and the syllabus was too ‘religious’ for the Belgians. The five or six Protestant missionaries in Rwanda were receiving 25,000 francs — intentionally — as nationals, so it was difficult to make a case for denying the more numerous Catholics equal treatment. The first funds deliberately budgeted for the Rwanda Fathers, 25,000 francs, were sent in 1924, and the sum was raised to 55,000 francs in 1925. Thus the result was much the same in Rwanda as in British territories, an identity of interest between Church and colonial regime, and a mission-dominated education system, the only difference being that the Belgians were more ideologically motivated in their drive for secular schools.
Despite the growth of Protestant missions Catholicism was the official religion of the country; the presence of the CMS was treated with ‘unwilling toleration’; German Protestants were beyond the pale. The experience of the Congo had not endeared ‘Anglo-Saxon’ missionaries to the Belgians. Monsignor Hirth and Father Lecoindre were honoured in turn with the Order of the Lion; in hard time the administration rallied round to provide the seminary students with grain. At the opposite pole to the anti-clericals were those who saw in Catholicism a necessary support for colonialism. ‘As for the White Fathers,’ wrote a Chef de Service in the Colonial Ministry, ‘had they not been in the country it would have been sound policy to call them in,’ whilst a fanatical Catholic confided in Monsignor Classe:
Both as a Catholic and a colonial I cannot see any value in Protestant education… it ignores the special character of our primitive races and hands out a spiritual food which revolutionizes their way of thinking, creates anarchy… and gives rise to extreme individualism, which tends of necessity to destroy the precious gregarious spirit of our blacks that alone can realize and maintain that latent voluntary and collective submission which is indispensable to all civilizing work.
Fascism in Europe had its Catholic supporters, and it in perhaps against this background, and against such movements as Action Francaise, that Classe’s pragmatic conservatism in the ‘30s should be judged, rather than the radicalism of the missionary clergy of the 1950s.
The first graduates of Nyanza government school emerged in 1923; now the Belgians had the men, the raw material, they needed to carry out their social policy. The thirty or so ambitious young Tutsi leaving Nyanza each year permitted the administration to dismiss old chiefs and replace them by their trained sons, to eliminate anti-European Tutsi from public office and amalgamate jurisdictions under selected new men. Lwakadigi, the parvenu of Nyundo, gave way for his son in 1925, and new chiefs began appearing around Rwaza. The process of imposing Banyanduga in the north was given a new impetus, and the abahinza-ruled kingdoms of Bukunzi and Busozo were occupied militarily and incorporated in Tutsi-ruled provinces.
While the Belgians extended rule to regions untouched in German times, they did nothing comparable to increase Musinga’s personal power. As a result the struggle at the heart of Rwanda’s court politics, between king and nobility, swung in favour of the aristocrats; since the Belgians provided their appointees with land, clients and cattle, the system amounted to a feudal bureaucracy, in which the king had less and less place. Major Tutsi lineages courted the new focus of power within the State, the Belgian administrators, and handed over to their sons if they politically overreached themselves.
Bishop Classe was perhaps premature in his identification of a ‘pro-European faction’ at court in 1916. Five years later the Belgians had transformed wishful thinking into reality. The court began to split into a group that looked to the Belgians for patronage, the Inshongore – or complainers- and one that still courted the mwami; these traditionalists were called by the Nyiginya leader Ntulo Abayoboke — those who knew only a single way. The Inshongore wished to take the process of accommodation further than Musinga would contemplate; there were more ways than one of staying in power.
As the old tension between king and nobles was transformed by Belgian patronage the mwami struggled to keep control of the provinces by multiplying the number of his garagu and providing them with ibikingi. ‘The king is actively working to dispossess all the province chiefs,’ wrote Classe in 1923, ‘and to increase his personal power, which was once so great.’ But Musinga no longer held the top of the clientship chain; his fury mounted as nobles denounced him to the Belgians, and the Marangara chiefs proudly boasted their independence from Nyanza.
With the Ega chief Kayondo and the Nyiginya chief Ntulo ranged against him, the king had no alternative but to look to his enemies, the White Fathers, for support. To ingratiate himself with the missionaries and tighten his hold on the newly returned Gisaka, Musinga look the unusual step of warning the Gisaka nobles against rival missions.
To my chiefs: much greetings.
Through this present letter I announce to you that the Bapadri are my friends as they have always been. So if they wish to build schools to teach the people of Rwanda, give them land and help them. I am happy under the rule of Bulamatari and for that reason I want there to be Europeans of no other nationality in my kingdom. And you will tell your sub-chiefs what I have told you. It is I, the king of Rwanda.
There were to be no reforMist British, nor their CMS missionaries. Protestants were now refused audience at court, and the Fathers reciprocated by intervening with the Belgians on the mwami’s behalf. But the drift away from Musinga was irrevocable; when he tried to set an example and attended the government school several pupils left to join the Fathers.
Signs of the mwarni’s softer attitude seem to have made a great impact on the ordinary Hutu; after Musinga attended the blessing of Kabgayi cathedral, catechists on neighbouring hills were overwhelmed by postulants. The Catholic missions continued to make gains throughout 1924. Rwabusisi, a nephew of the Queen Mother, was
now openly recruiting for Catholic schools among chiefs and sub-chiefs. ‘All the youth of the ruling class want to learn how to read and write,’ the Fathers observed. Several years education was now the condition for retaining or augmenting Tutsi power. Nobles came en masse to enrol, and soon the catechism classes included young married men among the children. One of Kabare’s sons became a fervent evangelist at court, but for many the important part of their classwork came after the catechism lesson, when they learned reading, writing and arithmetic.
By the beginning of 1925 the Catholics had 17,475 pupils crammed into their classrooms or being taught in the open air by teachers who barely managed to stay one step ahead of their pupils. With a 12,000 increase since 1922 the Catholic school system was swamped, and was sustained only by the eagerness of its clients. In contrast there were about three hundred young Tutsi in the Belgian school at Nyanza, sixty of them catechumens. They attended a four- to five-year course and then spent a year at an administrative post learning the European tax and court procedures. Until the secular school system was phased out in 1929 approximately 400 secretaries, chiefs’sons and a few veterinary students passed through Nyanza, where they received two years of French and a final year of Swahili. After1925 the Catholics ran their own Swahili classes at Kabgayi, but teaching in the bush schools was, of course, in Kinyarwanda and learning was by rote.
The change in the balance of power between mwami and nobles, coupled with the new educational definition of eligibility for political office, combined to make mission patronage highly desirable for ambitions Tutsi. It cost little now to please Fathers, and sophisticated nobles soon learnt Musinga’s trick of using rival protestant missions to great effect. When Protestants in Kinyaga requested Rwagataraka’s permission to build, the chief wrote an effusive letter to Father Lecoindre. ‘Ni wowe mukuru’,’You are my superior,’ he declared. ‘Njewe inshuti yanyu itabafatanya na Abaportesitani nkabandi bose,’ ‘I am your friend who will not be taken by the Protestants.’ As this shrewdest of the Ega remarked, ‘If a man serves two masters he will hate one and love the other.‘ Whether feudal or biblical in inspiration, his words summed up the mood of the times; increasingly the Tutsi were obliged to make choices between old and new channels of power and patronage.
The movement of Tutsi into the mission orbit transformed the position of the Catholic Church. It was appropriate that as Monsignor Classe moved in as leading spiritural authority in the State so Gashamura, the king’s leading ritual expert and head of the Tsobe clan, should pass out the other door. Gashamura, never forgiven for his part in ousting the Ega when the Belgians arrived, was haunted by Kayondo. The Ega chief was jockeying his nephew, Rwigemera, Musinga’s second son, into line for succession and denounced Gashamura as a fanatical ‘sorcerer’, a charge bound to succeed with Europeans. It was in vain that Musinga appealed to the Bishop to save his umwiru; the Inshongore knew only too well how to manipulate the missionaries.
Musinga seemed to be at a loss how to counter the massive onslaught on the traditional prerogatives of king and court. He reeled from one humiliation and defeat to the next; the Belgians forced him to disband the ntore so that he watched helplessly white the pride of his entourage fell under European influence. ‘Musinga seems to me very clumsy at the moment,’ wrote the Kigali Resident. ‘Fear, perhaps, has made him lose a little of what I took to be his political sense . . . it seems to me that we have been frightened of a phantom. Can it be that native institutions are destined to disintegrate at our touch ?
Perhaps the Liberal left hand was at last aware of what the right hand was doing; nonetheless, concession after concession was wrung from the Mwami; the first fruits ceremonies were abandoned, and in April 1925 Musinga took the unprecedented step of sleeping away from the capital after visiting Kabgayi. A visit from the Governor brought another humiliation; Musinga refused to acknowledge his presence and was summarily ordered to Astrida (Butare), whence he was instructed to return to Nyanza and receive the Governor with fitting protocol.
The mwami’s recourse to the missionaries was not exclusive; any solicitous noble had the Bishop’s ear. Kayondo, who was turning his attention to the Nyiginya traditionalists at court, helped the Fathers by provisioning the seminaries in times of scarcity. Ntulo felt obliged to follow suit. At the end of 1926, when an important court case was proceeding at Nyanza, Father Lecoindre was petitioned by Rwagataraka, Ntulo and Serukenyinkware, the latter a litigant; they let the priest know that their correspondence was being kept a secret from the king. More threatening to the mwami than these clandestine letters was the way Rwigemera, his second surviving son, was complaining to Kabgayi that he was more and more persecuted by his father because of his rapprochement with the Europeans, government and missionaries. The young prince was another masterful exponent of the art of priest-handling, and laid great stress on Musinga’s homosexual habits, doubtless after hearing stories of the Uganda martyrs. ‘Our Musinga,’ Classe was to write, ‘has nothing to envy a Mtesa or a Mwanga in old Uganda in this sphere.’ The Bishop was informed that Rudahigwa, the mwami’s eldest son, had all the king’s favours since he had promised to continue the traditions of the dynasty ‘over which the famous Bandora has been put as custodian’.
The strategy of the Inshongore was clear; they saw Musinga as a spent force and tried to isolate him further by picking off, one by one,
his closest abiru and allies; seeing the threat of an all-Hutu Church in a Belgian territory, they were manoeuvring to maintain the position of the ruling class and major Tutsi lineages. Their appeal was irresistible to the Fathers. Their ‘collaboration’ might be contrasted with the traditionalists ‘resistance’, but the contrast would detract from the more important point that the struggle between king and nobles, the feudal dynamic, had been transformed by the Fax Belgica and the demands of Western Christianity.
The Belgians had thought the worst of Musinga since an insurrection scare at the end of 1924. His behaviour during the Governor’s visit had not helped matters, so when Rwagataraka put around the story that Rwigemera was about to be poisoned, on account of his close association with the Fathers, it was readily believed; the scheming prince was moved to the safety of Kigali. Evidence is scanty, but it seems that the administration contemplated deposing the mwami at this point. Musinga certainly began doing his utmost to gain the Fathers’ favour. When they sent Rwagataraka to court in November 1926 to plead for a site for Nyamasheke mission, it was granted. The White Fathers considered it a great stroke, because the place chosen, on the shores of Lake Kivu, was an ikigabiro, sacred ground on which one of Rwabugiri’s residences had once stood. In January1927 Musinga wrote the Bishop a pathetic letter begging him to be friends again and warning him against rumour-mongers. ‘These people [the Inshongorel,’ he wrote, ‘want the king to be caught like Gashamura.’ To oppose the traditionalists, he explained, was like trying to make an enemy of the thunder God, Inkuba; ‘you can do nothing against them but they can harm you’. Perhaps Musinga was a prisoner of the court, to be sacrificed for the survival of the Tutsi State, as he was symbolically in the appeasement ceremonies. Bishop Classe was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; he went to Bujumbura to plead on his behalf with the Governor, but even he was abandoning the illusion that the Queen Mother was the source of all evil and realising that what he called the marche-en-arrière had the king in the vanguard.
Probably the Belgians did not depose Musinga in 1927 for want of a suitable successor. The Vicar Apostolic, it seems likely, was unwilling to cause a disturbance at a time when the Tutsi were beginning to flock into the Church; the flamber of catechumens at Kigali rose from 353 in 1924 to 2,697 in 1928, and at Kabgayi the numbers doubled. The movement was limited to the Catholic Church; according to the White Fathers the Tutsi were unimpressed by the eschatotogical doctrines of the Seventh Day Adventists.
The Tutsi were now divided into traditionalists who regretted the passing of court ritual and who frequented the Lyangombe cult on the hills, and progressives who were ready to take a little Catholicism with their education. But disruptive prophetic religion had nothing to commend it, whether represented by Nyabingi propbetesses or Adventist preachers. An interesting spread in the popularity of the Nyabingi mediums between 1924 and 1928 appears to have been limited to the Hutu. Sharangabo, the leading Nyiginya noble in Buganza, viewed both the Nyabingi and the CMS with a jaundiced eye; he had threatened to kill the English missionaries when they first arrived. Whist the Tutsi were ready to assimilate institutional Catholicism they saw a danger to their monopoly of power in aberrant eruptions of the spirit world.
These were heady days for Bishop Classe. Tutsi diviners were reported to be burning their amulets and equipment, two hundred of the pupils at Nyanza school were catechurnens, and, though the old guard like Sharangabo died resolutely refusing baptism, their sons were one step from the font. Musinga’s wife, the mother of Rwigemera and so banished from court, asked the Zaza Fathers in February 1928 to build her a hut near the station so that she could receive regular instruction. Unspoken but understood, pretenders were moving forward to be groomed for the role of Christian king.
The vision of a Catholic aristocracy, inforrned by the Faith and leading a subject peasantry along the paths of righteousness and economic development, now seemed something more than a mirage glimpsed by Lavigerie from across the Sahara. It was a peculiarly Catholic habit to refer to common sense when a point was proven, and to dogma when it was not; reason and pragmatism increasingly characterised Classe’s correspondence in the 1920s.
If we want to take a practical point of view, and look to the country’s real interests, we have in the Tutsi youth an incomparable element for progress that nobody knowing Ruanda can underestimate. Avid to learn, desirous of becoming acquainted with all that comes from Europe, wanting to imitate Europeans, enterprising, realising well enough that traditional customs have lost their raison d’être, but nonetheless preserving the political sense of the old-timers and their race’s adroitness in the management of men, this youth is a force for the good and for the economic future of the country.
Poised at the portal of Mother Church, the Tutsi again appeared to the Bishop as ‘born chiefs’.
The Belgians had made a half-hearted attempt to introduce a sprinkling of Hutu chiefs and karani but it had foundered on the entrenched opposition of the Tutsi. The impossibility of ruling without the nobles’ consent was well illustrated in the case of Joseph Lukamba of Zaza. He rose to prominence in Gisaka during the British interlude on the strength of his literacy and mission connection; in September 1924 he was replaced by one of Gashamura’s sons on orders from Musinga. Pressure from the Belgians enabled him to retain two hills for a while, but he was soon chased off and left with control of only
Zaza hill, on which the mission stood. The only career left open to him was within the mission orbit; he later became a school inspector, and his son, a sub-deacon in 1928, was to be consecrated Bishop Aloys Bigirumwami. The Catholic Hutu chief of Ndiza, literate after attending Nyanza school, was in charge of seventy-three hills and 3,913 head of cattle; an administrator described him nonetheless as ‘held in low esteem, if not despised by the Watusi’. If Classe could not conceive of a Rwanda ruled by the Hutu, it was because no one else could.
Nor had the reductio ad anarchia argument dear to the Vicar Apostolic lost any of its force in the 1920s. The Bushiru umuhinza had little control over break-away segments of his lineage, and clan feuds abounded; he was notoriously anti-mission and led a rising in June 1925 with a disaffected catechumen against the collection of crop dues. The last of the independent Hutu kingdoms fell in 1928, when the mwami of Bumbogo was deposed; his lineage had held the office of umuganura, bearer of the first fruits to the king of Rwanda. There was little in the Hutu politics to appeal to the Fathers; the Mibirisi Superior saw ‘the lack of authority of the chiefs over their subordinates’ as ‘a very serious cause of the mission’s slow progress… The former belong to the Hutu class and around here Hutu chiefs are little respected.’ When Europeans thought of Hutu kingdorns they thought of the rebellions Kiga and the Nyabingi mediums who disturbed Belgian rule. ‘A Hutu does not want to be commanded by a Hutu,‘ one administrator roundly declared.
The visit of Monsignor Hinsley to Africa in 1927 and the Vatican’s commitment to educating an African elite pushed the White Fathers further into the Tutsi camp; the Superior General reiterated HinsIey’s message on the necessity of preparing clerical and lay leaders for Africa. Classe immediately took up the theme.
The question is whether the ruling elite will be for us or against us. Whether the important places in native society will be in Catholic or in non-Catholic hands; whether the Church will have through education and its formation of youth the preponderant influence in Rwanda.
If, as he suggested to the Belgians, ‘the historical privilege of birth must be provisionally maintained’, it followed that the historical privilege of the Catholic Church could be assured only by educated Catholic Tutsi. Consensus between Church and administration now existed.
Government subsidies helped the Catholic school system respond to the enormous demands placed on it in the late 1920s. The Catholics produced a formidable array of 467 teachers, 297 of them with basic training and diplomas. The government schools were staffed almost entirely by mission-trained teachers, with only a dozen or so ‘secular’ teachers for 677 pupils. At Kigali and Ruhengeri the Fathers ran separate classes for the nobles whose education was entrusted to them. French courses were provided for Tutsi pupils at four mission schools, so most of the country’s clerks and French teachers were trained exclusively within the Catholic system.
Each mission had a central school around which radiated a large number of bush schools where, after catechism reading, writing and arithmetic were taught. At Kabgayi, for example, there were seventy-five chapel schools, twenty-eight serve by catechists with training as teachers, instructing a total of 1,194 catechumen-pupils. Although at least four of these schools had mostly Tutsi children, one with seventy-nine Tutsi from poorer families, only a single teacher appears to have been from the nobility. The ten-classroom central school served 143 pupils who took a four-year course; lessons lasted four hours a morning four days a week, with a month’s holiday at the end of July. About a quarter of the teachers at the central school seem to have been Tutsi; Chrysostome Mushumba, the son of a notable, with a certificat d’aptitude pédagogique, taught one class in the ‘first degree’ — the first two years — and Augustin Gatabazi, a married ex-seminarian, taught in the ‘second degree’ — the last two years.
Bishop Classe concluded a ‘Contrat Scolaire’ by which the Church assumed responsibility for the entire educational system and the government schools were phased out in the early 1930s. Each pupid was worth forty-seven francs in government subsidies, each diplomaed teacher 600 francs per class of twenty-five pupils. Such was the harmony between Church and State, the shared goals, that the secular schools were reclundant. ‘You must choose the Batusi,’ Classe told the missionaries, ‘because the government will probably refuse Bahutu teachers . . . In the government the positions in every branch of the administration, even the unimportant ones, will be reserved henceforth for young Batusi.
As the mission central schools assumed the full burden of instructing the ruling class Catholic education took on a two-tiered appearance; in several stations an almost segregated stream of Tutsi with well qualified teachers was eligible for special additional subsidies. In1928 the segregation of Save school was rigid, with Hutu and Tutsi sections in each grade. The Tutsi first year had thirty-seven pupils registered, with an average attendance of twenty-seven; the Hutu class, twenty-nine registered, with an average attendance of eighteen. The school inspector noted little progress among the Hutu; only four or five knew how to read. The second-year Tutsi were taught by Petro Mukangale, described as ‘a calm man with a great deal of authority over his pupils, and a very good teacher’; his average attendance was twenty-five out of twenty-nine. The Hutu stream, though, was taught by Joseph Ngendahimana, reported to be an ‘élément assez médiocre’; ‘very little energy, lacks frankness, has had several absences from his class without explanation, and often leaves his pupils’; attendance in his class was eighteen out of twenty-six. The numbers of Hutu in ‘second degree’ classes still exceeded that of Tutsi, and the final two classes could read and write Swahili. Ignace Nyayabosha, who had been to the old Dar es Salaam Normal school, took a third section of eight Hutu pupils for vocational training as teachers; Tutsi pupils were given special French classes.
The main centres which reflected the recent inrush of Tutsi were at Kigali and Kansi, where only sixty-three out of 326 pupils and fifteen out of 198 pupils were Hutu. At Zaza forty-eight out of seventy pupils were Tutsi, but attendances were low because Kanuma, the Nyiginya chief, and his son were against the school. Broadly speaking, the picture was one of a pronounced movement into Catholic schools amongst the poor and ambitious members of the ruling class, the ‘petits Tutsi’, especially where the Banyanduga were influenced by the towns. Around Nyanza, though, it was as if some inhibitory influence radiated from the court. ‘The mututsi element,’ wrote the Catholic school inspector of nearby Kabgayi, ‘is rather the exception in the station school. The Catholic schools reflected Rwanda’s Church history. The majority of the teachers were Hutu, just as were the mission catechists, but among the pupils were many ‘petits Tutsi’ seeking the advantages of education and church membership.
The Belgian policy of providing a crash programme for their Tutsi bureaucracy spelt the end of the Hutu Church. The educational system, ‘the portal to the Church’, now became the great generator and stabiliser of class structure. Bishop Classe, lured by the prospect of a Christian ruling class, a ‘racial aristocracy’, contributed to the process. ‘We must not for all that neglect the classes of Bahutu young people and children,’ he told the Fathers. They also need to be schooled and educated, and they will take up places in mine workings and industry. It mattered little that the ‘reading’ schools in the bush were hopelessly overcrowded so long as the central schools kept vaguely to the 1925 government syllabus and did not forfeit their subsidies. The streaming system guaranteed that the Tutsi were given a superior education and was the means by which the Belgians were able to impose an ethnic definition of eligibility on the new political class. However sub-standard the general level of education, the nobility was assured of special attention.
As the streaming system allowed the Tutsi to consolidate their position while undergoing the transformation demanded by the colonial situation, so the tensions created amongst them, as poorer families clambered up the educational ladder, were reduced by an increasing racial solidarity. The ruling class could now identify themselves as ‘Hamites‘ and their subjects as inferior ‘Bantu’. Father Pages’ Un Royaume hamite au centre de l’Afrique fixed court history for the first time in written form; privileged pupils at school in Kisenyi could hear from Pagés himself the glorious exploits of the Nyiginya dynasty. It seemed to the missionaries that Hamitic history had involved the progressive dilution of some religions essence pre-ordained to flower into the fulness of Christianity. As early as 1907 the White Fathers were speaking of Tutsi history, ‘which obviously evokes biblical memories, by their customs, often borrowed from Jewish customs’. The link between the ‘Hamites’ and Semites appeared to be incontestable at that time.
But what in a writer like Pagés was a pleasant speculation, a bringing together of Church history and Rwandan history, became unmitigated racism in some Belgian administrators. The Banyarwanda could in their view be placed on an evolutionary ladder whose rungs were the crudities of physical anthropology. For such heirs to the evolutionary sociology of the nineteenth century Tutsi rule was un-questionable, ‘their intellectual superiority has imposed them’. Hutu, on the other hand, needed fond but firm paternal authority. ‘Mahuku is not a bad sub-chief,’ wrote another Resident, ‘but, Muhutu, you have to supervise everything he does.’ Several missionaries agreed that the Hutu were incapable of governing, indisciplined and vulgar. The Hutu Church gave the lie to this, but it had faded into insignificance in the shadow of the Tutsi nobility and the Church triumphant.
The 1920s brought no succour to the Hutu; the initial effect of Belgian legislation was to worsen the lot of the peasants. They suffered the additional burden of unpaid kazi labour in public works and compulsory planting of food crops like manioc and sweet potatoes. Tax revenue rose from one million francs in 1925 to almost two million in 1928 as the three francs fifty centimes were collected more efficiently. Attempts at legal reform were hopeless. Only two or three Residents spoke tolerable Kinyarwanda, and courts could be visited only two or three days each week. The Belgian dependence on Swahili meant that the Hutu could gain access to Residents only through interpreters. Spot checks on the court records were made, but the Tutsi found countless loopholes and many occasions for bribing judges, assessors and secretaries. Since the Tutsi lord could still exert his influence through the legal system, arbitrary exactions continued; to counter the reduction in ubuletwa some chiefs began demanding it per individual rather than per inzu. ‘Even garagu were asked to hoe for their lords.’ Tax collection for the Belgians provided an additional excuse for pillaging, so was more and more directly supervised. The administration was too small and too sedentary to control the chiefs’exercise of power; one Belgian admitted that the small Rwandan police force were ‘brutes‘, and it was recognised that the new chiefs, lacking great wealth in cattle and land, were more rapacious than their predecessors. From 1924 to 1930 the
good intentions of Indirect Rule gave way slowly to direct, though inadequate, supervision by selected Belgian agents and the harassed Residents.
The Ruanda-Urundi Ordinance of 7 November 1924 on compulsory crop cultivation gave the Hutu an additional incentive to leave Rwanda. Owing to the favourable exchange rate, a good worker could earn one franc a day in Uganda on the cotton estates. The price of hoes rose from thirty-five centimes in 1916 to three or four francs in the mid-1920s, and finally to ten to fifteen francs by 1929, so the cash economy was as much pushing as pulling the Hutu out of Rwanda. The White Fathers were to a man opposed to the exodus, as were the Tutsi, who lost their ubuletwa labour; the Zaza Fathers let those leaving know that their banana trees on mission grounds would be confiscated. But it was just as bad to remain if others left; kazi and ubuletwa labour fell on any unprotected individual, and the numbers available grew monthly smaller in areas of high emigration.
The White Fathers’attitude towards economic development remained equivocal. They saw cash cropping as a safeguard against emigration, but also as a danger. ‘The small native producer, too tempted by the lure of profit which exportable products would bring him, may forget or neglect indispensable food crops,’ one missionary feared. Yet Rwaza mission stimulated tobacco production in the 1920s by opening a factory which made cigars that were sold throughout Rwanda. Mulera farmers, far from being simple ‘subsistence farmers’, had in the past proffied by provisioning drought-stricken regions out of their food surpluses. In this area where the Hutu felt confident of adequate food supplies a small tobacco-growing industry sprang up around Nyundo market.
Perhaps because of the pre-colonial economy of Mulera, Rwaza proved the most successful of the White Fathers industrial ventures, with its cigar factory, four mill and furniture workshop, but there was also basketmaking at Kabgayi, mat-making at Nyundo and pottery at Save, while all the major stations had their carpentry shop. With the arrival of mining companies in search of tin, and the parcelling out of the Rwandan economy to the Banque Populaire Belge, PROTANAG (Syndicat Belge des Produits Tannants et Agri-coles), and the Empain and Ryckman de Betz companies, the missions as employers of labour became relatively unimportant. Training in skilled manual work still continued under the Brothers; the mission received a grant of 23,500 francs for it in 1927, although the Belgians were not satisfied that enough was being clone. There were, however, only a very few jobs for such mission-trained men, and the most they could hope for in Kigali and Ruhengeri was a monthly salary of fifty to sixty francs.
The mission stations were also centres of modest agricultural experimentation. The Fathers issued coffee plants to their catechists, who began cash cropping on their out-station grounds. The success of the cigar factory at Rwaza inspired a number of Hutu to start buying tobacco at Nyundo themselves, make their own cigars and market them wrapped in banana leaves. Some of the Bugoyi Christians took to buying fibre bracelets from the Hunde and selling them for cattle in central Rwanda.
The missionaries were never enthusiastic about their role in trade and cash cropping, seeing it in moralistic terms as ‘amour du lucre’. Nor did they want the Hutu for ever sunk in a degrading poverty, eking out a meagre living from the soil. Far from it; they saw Tutsi domination as a reason for the damaging flight from Rwanda, and complained when the Belgians wanted to start hotels on Lake Kivu that Bugoyi would be turned into a human ‘zoological park’. They opposed the ‘wrong type’ of European coming into the territory and the cession of large tracts of land to Belgian companies. But their training in apologetics had taught them only what to condemn; beyond the Bishop’s call for private property they had few positive ideas on development save the belief that the Church ought to be both Mater and Magister.
By 1927 the political balance of power had swung decisively in favour of the Inshongore and away from Musinga; feeling that Rwanda was on the verge of social and economic transformation was common. There were cars on new roads, ‘a race for the tin Klondike’ in Gisaka, imported hoes and corton cloth in the markets, talk of a new Catholic vocational school at Astrida, and CMS missionaries with qualified medical personnel. Musinga and the court traditions began to seem an irrelevance, an anachronism.
At this point the king, despairing of effective Catholic support, made the serious blunder of trying the Protestants. Not only had they little power but there had been brawls between Catholic and Adventist catechists around Kabgayi, and the Fathers resented the intrusion of the new sect. The Adventists were quite successful among the Hutu, and had opened a training school for pastors at Gitwe. A pastor was invited to teach the young Tutsi at court, and a few months later the CMS were welcomed in Nyanza and allowed to give Bible lessons. Whereas in 1926 the mwami wrote anxious letters if the Fathers failed to make their courtesy calls, now there was silence. Musinga carefully noted the names of nobles confessing Catholicism; catechumens of five or six years standing dared not receive baptism for fear of incurring the mwami’s wrath. ‘The sultan Musinga,’ wrote Classe to Algiers, has become, or rather revealed himself to be, absolutely anti-catholic.’ If the Bishop’s ‘fiat’ counted for anything in the question of Musinga’s deposition — and it seems probable that it did — then the mwami had alienated a useful ally and gained nothing in return.
After their appearance at court the Catholics took the Protestants seriously; the Vicar Apostolic ordered the throwing up of temporary structures throughout Protestant-threatened areas, and tried to pass these off to the Belgians as chapel schools. Since Classe had faithfully echoed the administrators’social policy to the point where Tutsi ride was a resonating orthodoxy, he was somewhat affronted to find the Belgians limiting the proliferation of these poorly equipped mud-and-thatch chapel schools, the defiantly planted flags of the religious scramble.
Protestant competition made Bishop Classe even more concerned that the missionaries should do nothing to offend the chiefs; he wanted the Tutsi’s entry into the Church to be made as easy as possible. ‘Special rides according to the taste of individual missionaries which are exaggeratedly severe must go. On no account must the Fathers threaten the chiefs with denunciation at the Residence for their misdemeanours: ‘We need them and we will need them all the more when freedom of worship is better and more completely practised.’
This is not to say, though, that the White Fathers suddenly lost all interest in the conduct of Tutsi rule; the behaviour of the chiefs during the particularly severe famine in 1928-29 appalled them. Over 35,000 died and 70,000 emigrated to Uganda, while chiefs hoarded grain and seed, and continued, as was their wont, to allow cattle to trample over the Hutu’s crops. Around Lake Mohasi and in Gisaka, where the rains failed completely, mortality was as high as 50-60 per cent; at the height of the famine 1,000 refugees a week were passing north through Gahini. In thinly populated areas there were no reserves and no roads over which relief supplies could be brought. The Tutsi consistently opposed extension of arable land for fear it would eat into pasture land, and the Hutu saw the planting of food crops as yet another punishment or kazi labour.
It was shortly after informing the Governor of the gravity of the famine that Classe felt obliged to don the mantle of the reformer once more. He dwelt on two main injustices, suggesting that it was unfair to deprive dispossessed chiefs of their cattle and men when they lost political office, and deploring the failure of chiefs to recognise that the Hutu had more than usufruct right’s over their land and cattle. It was some measure of the Bishop’s influence that the Governor circulated the following suggestions to the Rwanda Residents.
A second abuse . . . is to recognise that natives of lower rank (bahutu or batwa) have even over goods produced by their labour . . . only incomplete rights (unsufruct, use possession for life, etc) . . By allowing property rights over wealth not created by them, and without their having truly contributed, a land concession or breeding cattle, to pass into the hands of the Batusi chiefs or other notables, the authorities would actually make themselves accomplices to an assumption of rights which neither custom nor tradition suffices to justify or authorise . . . If the native does not at the moment have any precise notion of these juridical ideas, it is incombent on us to educate him on the matter, correcting his errors and forming his mentality with perseverance and patience.
The Bishop saw the instructions as a ‘point de départ for the recommencement [sic] of certain property rights for the natives, rights without which the development of these regions will be impossible.’
This liberal reform mooted in 1923 and now quite strongly pressed might seem out of keeping with Classe’s reverence for the status quo. The Kigali Resident opposed agrarian revolution on the most Catholic of grounds. ‘The muhutu farmer has been accustomed for generations to work the land… for himself,’ he wrote… He is an individualist by nature. Now, the cult of the individual without any powerful cohesive bonds engenders anarchy. Will not the fact of proclaiming too baldly ‘rights over land’ lead the primitive into an exaggerated idea of liberty and ordering of his life? Coffee and tobacco cash cropping did in fact produce a new form of land ownership. ‘European’ land with ‘European’ crops — for example, catechists’ plots — tended increasingly to fall outside the chiefs jurisdiction and to become Christians’private property. But such change was essentially the result of continuing mission patronage and protection, and took place within a clientship context.
Classe had not renounced his conservatism and become a social revolutionary, he was merely parroting the major theme of Leo XIII’s encyclial Rerum Novarum. Private ownership… is the natural right of man; and to exercise that right, expecially as members of society, is not only lawful but absolutely necessary — a liberal doctrine belatedly espoused by the Church in order to defend herself against the onslaught of atheistic Marxism. The spectre of communism was never to leave the Catholics throughout the colonial period, and much that was doctrinaire and shortsighted may be attributed to the clerical ‘Cold War’ many a bush missionary imagined himself to be fighting. This obsession was shared by many Governors, Postiaux confided to Classe the disturbing news that ‘communism and bolshevism, in other words the two parties which have inscribed on their programme the ruin of society, are about to turn their forces of destruction on the colonies.’
The movement of the ruling class into the catechumenate continued unabated throughout 1928-29, especially in regions like Muramba and Rambura where there were newly arrived Banyanduga out to seek their fortune, and ‘petits Tutsi’ of long standing.’ Important women, like Nyirashongore, a wife of Rwabugiri, and Mukamulera, one of Musinga’s daughters, were swept up. News that his favourite daughter, Musheshambugu, who was married to the Ega chef Rwagataraka, had begun to receive instruction, was too much for the king. He cursed her in a heart-rending letter which ended with a plea that site should show whether or not she was a true daughter of the mwami of Rwanda.
Although the king was a very rich man, under Belgian rule he had become a powerless symbol, pathetic, irascible and fast aging. His sons manoeuvred for the succession and his daughters turned away from him. Under pressure from the Belgians, he threw caution to the winds and, for the first time, officially visited the provinces, possibly in the hope of drumming up support. Belatedly he crossed the Nyabarongo and was given a warm reception by the Hutu throughout the north. If it was a last bid to save his throne it was somewhat half-hearted; attempts had already been made to contact the British with a view to his seeking asylum in Uganda with the royal herds and retainers. Money poured into his treasury, Nyanza was strong, but the king was weak. The crossing of the Nyabarongo in defiance of the tradition of the ‘Yuhi’ kings was a final defeat for the Abayoboke. The king was trying another way but too late for both Inshongore and Belgians.
As the Great Depression brought commercial activity virtually to a halt young Tutsi flocked into the schools and catechism classes to secure the benefits of the Western bureaucracy and economy. Tutsi accounted for 1,934 of the 9,014 baptisms in 1930; at new stations like Nyamasheke, where Rwagataraka’s influence was strong, figures were as high as 193 out of 393. Tutsi now became the majority in the minor seminaries, and nineteen out of twenty-five Bayozefiti were from the ruling class. The noviciates of the Benebikira had a smillas lease of life; there were thirty postulants in all at Rwaza, Save and Kabgayi.
At the capital only Musinga’s two sons, Rudahigwa and Rwigemera, were not on the catechists’ registers, and the king was openly mocked by catechernens. The Fathers installed themselves at Nyanza with a permanent pied-à-terre for catechism lessons. The mwami’s ill-considered approach to the British had finally alienated the Belgians, while his hysterical outburst at his daughter’s conversion had destroyed any lingering sympathy in the Vicar Apostolic; it was said that he raved openly and trampled a crucifix underfoot.
White Classe had been willing to plead for Musinga in 1926, he now used his influence to prepare Belgian public opinion for the mwami’s deposition. Shortly after the king’s anti-Christian letter to his daughter Classe wrote the Governor a letter which described Musinga as ‘haineusement anti-européen’, and sent off two articles to L’Essor Colonial et Maritime; one again pressed the case for guaranteed property rights, the other denigrated the mwami. With the Colonial Ministry behind him and public opinion in Belgium prepared, the new Belgian Governor could get rid of the king. Committed to social reforms that were being rendered ineffective by Tutsi intransigence, yet wedded to the Tutsi by the policy of Indirect Rule, the Belgians needed a scapegoat for their failure to provide the Hutu with real protection. ‘He would quite deliberately wish stagnation on his people’, wrote the Governor, Voisin, ‘if an early dotage still allowed him any will for anything other than his perversity and hostilhy to the Christianisation of his country’ The new Governor planned to raise and diversify Rwandan agricultural production, improve livestock, codify customary law on dues, provide new schools, and carry out a census. It was to be a clean sweep. He wanted a list of the king’s sins for the Minister’s use in case there were repercussions in Geneva. Ten days after the Governor’s first confidential letter to the Bishop the echo came back from Kabgayi. ‘The peace, good order and good administration, on one side, and on the other the material, moral and social progress of Rwanda, will never be achieved in a lasting and profound manner as long as Musinga is mwami of Ruanda.’
Musinga was to join Kabakas Mtesa and Mwanga in the Catholic chamber of horrors, but the problem of finding a successor remained. Voisin suggested Rudahigwa, but the Bishop was unenthusiastic; the man was ‘craintif’ and ‘indécis’, thought Classe, who feared the influence of his mother, the adroit politician Kankazi. Rudahigwa had so far failed to make a good impression on Europearts; one observer had described him in 1929 as ‘distinctly and artfully hostile to the missions. . . very intelligent but completely lacking in character, a knave and a deceiver’. Much to Musinga’s displeasure, since it put the prince close to the Kabgayi Fathers, Rudahigwa was appointed to Marangara province, where he inherhed 10,040 cattle; Marangara was in chaos for the next year as Rudahigwa tried to wrest the cattle from the garagu of Tutsi lords and ibikingi holders. Resistance was led by Kayondo’s lineage, which was struggling to place Rwigemera in line for the succession. Since few of the Marangara Tutsi would obey him, Rudahigwa began to court the Kabgayi Fathers — a move that assured his future.
The Vicar Apostolic received two visits from Rudahigwa in June 1931, and spoke to the prince about the changes that had been taking place in Burundi, where the mwami lived in a luxurious house and drove around in a car. Classe had decided to make the best of a bad job, to wean the prince from the old style of kingship and to start him on French lessons. The heir apparent next went to Bujumbura for a secret meeting with the Governor. ‘Rudahigwa spontaneously asked me if you were au fait with rny intentions,’ wrote Voisin to Classe…on my assurance that you were in perfect agreement, he seemed very satisfied.
Under Voisin the amalgamation of provinces was given a fresh impetus, and new chiefs were appointed over newly enlarged jurisdictions. Mirenge province in Gisaka was unified under Simon Nyiringondo, a Christian from Zaza and other mission men gained several Kanuma complained of being slighted and rejected, though he had handed over his chieftancy to no one. Rudahigwa was given a car in which to return from Bujumbura; the mwami complained that everyone but the king rode around in cars. As senior chiefs converted to Christianity, some fearing deposition, the mwami was left alone with the Queen Mother; ‘there would be no one left to conserve our customs and our cult to the ancestors,‘ he lamented.
The Governor General of the Congo visited Bishop Classe in September to set a date for the deposition. Rudahigwa was introduced to him, and a week later the notables were called to Kigali for discussion about the economic crisis. Musinga was conveniently alone in Nyanza when he was informed that his son would succeed him. The king seemed to be expecting the news, cried a little and left almost immediately for a special residence at Kamembe. Rwanda appeared indifferent to his fate; only Le Drapeau Rouge, the Manchester Guardian and the Queen Mother protested — she was reported to be threatening suicide. Musinga had ceased to rule long before; his whimpering departure simply removed the last major obstacle in the mission’s path. The enthronement of his son was that of a Christian king.
Rudahigwa was proclaimed mwami by the Governor, and Monsignor Classe, replacing the abiru, supplied his reign name, Mutara IV. Only then were the six court abiru officially informed. Champagne toasts were drunk, a White Father acted as official photographer, and the royal drum Kalinga was shown to the crowd; Rwagataraka translated the speeches. Mutara made the first visit of his reign to Kabgayi, where the seminarians presented him with a Larousse and a childhood friend read a discourse on the divine dependence of kings. The departed Musinga had been ‘like the rock that stops the torrent’; ‘once removed, the water surges on’ More than ten thousand new catechumens enrolled at Kabgayi alone, and within the year nearly four thousand new Christians were baptised; a rumour circulated that Rudahigwa wanted people to make the sign of the cross to greet him and desired them to register as catechumens; even the new Queen Mother became a postulant. Owing to the clientship structure of society in central Rwanda, the dense population and the absence of discrete villages, the movement, once started, soon involved massive numbers. The Fathers called it a Tornade, and indeed it did blow away the White Fathers’ usual restraints and strict discipline for the catechumenate. Bishop Classe himself was carried away and, with the CMS beginning to take up the overflow, few could resist the eager Tutsi who clamoured to join the catechumenate. The end of Musinga’s reign marked the end of the young Hutu Church. At first the ‘petits Tutsi’ and Banyanduga settlers north of the Nyabarongo, then the nobles, and finally women and old people, chiefs and their garagu joined the rush. The enthronement of the catechumen king came as a climax to the conversion of the ruling class that Classe had so ardently desired; it was a triumph for a mission that had held on to the hope of becoming the State religion against apparently insuperable odds.
The Belgians had not only recognized Rwanda’s social stratification but had given it a new definition and rigidity by their political, educational and language policies; the Tornade began simply as a response to the new qualifications now needed for chieftaincy and status, but as the Inshongore gained ground at court it took on a new meaning; the nobility were searching for a fresh religions legitimation for the mwamiship and their own offices. Traditional rituals had been stripped one by one from the king until the completely mystical support for his role disappeared. Obsessed by the doubtful legitimacy of his claims to the throne, Musinga could never share Kabare’s cavalier attitude towards tradition, nor could he see, like the Inshongore, that a powerful intrusive religious system such as Christianity must be assimilated, as the Lyangombe cult had been in the past, if it were not to destroy the kingship.
The conversion of the Tutsi was a corporate recognition that the source of power within the State had shifted away from the mwami. For some it was a fatalistic acknowledgement of the bankruptcy of the old order and its religious system. ‘My child,’ Nyirashongore is said to have told her daughters, ‘we have always believed in the spirits; we have offered them sacrifice and we have followed the customs of our ancestors in everything; what was the use of all that to us?‘ For others there was the stark realisation that without Christianity a man might be excluded from wealth and prestige, that he might be left out of the new order. This fear, which drew strength from hell-fire sermons and perhaps even from the traditions of Nyiragongo Volcano, inforrned the dreams of at least one young Tutsi convert.
When we were sleeping together in a large hut we were the king’s ntore — I had a terrifying dream. I saw God in a beautiful court with lovely children who were enjoying themselves playing happily. As I tried to approached them, Imana [God] pushed me back towards a very deep chasm in which were hideous men weeping and groaning. ‘There is your place,’ He said to me. ‘You are wicked and must suffer with the wicked.’ Then I replied, ‘Have pity on me, I will do all that you ask,’ trembling all the while: He pushed me back again into this foul, smoking pit, when luckily I caught hold of some branches which were hanging by the abyss. I went on begging for pardon, and those who filled the pit, including my uncle who died some years ago, said to me, ‘Come down. Do not waste your strength. It is no use saying that you didn’t know. We said the same, and look, we are still here. The only thing is to do His will. Even more angry, Imana came and pushed me back with his foot. I let go of the branches and made a grab for a tuft of grass, which gave way. Just as I was about to fall I awoke. That night I told the dream to my companions, and the next morning I took my leave of our chief. When I reached home I went straight to see the catechist, Augustin, who admitted me as a postulant.
In a remarkable way Catholicism became ‘traditional’ the moment the Tutsi were baptised in large numbers. ‘It was the ‘done thing’ for almost all the chiefs to wear the medailion around their necks and to expect their people to accept the State religion without question,’ a CMS missionary remarked. The term ‘State was not merely a sour Protestant fancy. Residents warned the White Fathers when CMS missionaries appeared in their province, and Governor Tilkens encouraged Bishop Classe to multiply the number of Catholic stations to counteract the Protestant invasion of the 1930s. The terms of the convention between the Holy See and the Congo government of 1906, to ‘favour’ and ‘protect’ the missions, were perhaps nowhere so broadly interpreted as in Rwanda; Voisin contributed 50 per cent of the cost of new churches in Kigali and Astrida. The Bishop’s opinion was sought on weighty topics, from minimum wages to the mechanics of deposing kings.
The key to the happy marriage between Church and administration was Monsignor Classe. He was what the Rwandans would call ‘the man of the Belgians’. It was largely his definition of Rwandan politics and social structure which guided Belgian policy and initiatives in the early years. Or, to state the case less strongly, he gave the Church’s imprimatur to policies that seemed to all right-thinking colonials self-evident. He was certainly as much a part of colonial administration as were the abiru of the traditional court. Indeed, the Vicar Apostolic could find no more fitting tribute for Monsignor Hirth in his eulogy of the veteran’s fifty years of Christian ministry than ‘doyen des coloniaux.
Intellectuals like Father Schumacher found Classe’s ‘seigneurial’ style of episcopate insufferable, and downright dishonest or stupid his lumping of Musinga with the Uganda Kabakas, but he pleased men like Tilkens, Declerck, Voisin and Postiaux: a few words between gentlemen, indiscreet Fathers to be kept in the dark, nothing more was needed; that was the world in which he liked to move and the rock on which he hoped to build his Church. If the Catholic Church in Rwanda grew so quickly into a State Church it was largely because this was the part Classe was determined it should play, a part which few of his contemporaries would have found inappropriate. The Hutu Church had indirectly split the Tutsi and divided the missionaries; Classe had been toppled in its heyday and the king in its decline. If, after 1932, it became a Tutsi Church, in the sense that its life
Increasingly served the interests of the ruling class, it was because the nobility, having done away with Musinga, needed a new ‘tradition’ to legitimate their role as custodians of Rwandan culture and owners of its material wealth.https://uk.amateka.net/seven-the-conversion-of-the-tutsi/https://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/royal_family.jpghttps://uk.amateka.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/royal_family-150x150.jpgChurch and RevolutionWhen Léon Classe returned to Rwanda in 1922 the Tutsi had already abandoned direct opposition to Catholicism for cautions accommoda-tion, and within the next decade were to adopt a third course — conversion. The Hutu inside the Church who had, when expedient, exchanged their Tutsi overlords for a missionary...BarataBarata firstname.lastname@example.orgAdministratorAMATEKA | HISTORY OF RWANDA