In the previous section we have analysed the Rwanda political system as it existed at the court. The system through which the king delegated his powers must be seen as an extension of the royal power, particularly as the kinghad ultimate control over the distribution of offices within the delegated power structure. The Mwami administered the country through two structures: the army and the administration, headed by army and high chiefs respectively. Moreover the king had at his disposal for consultation a council composed of these chiefs.
This section deals specifically with these three institutions which can however only be understood in relation to the previous analysis of political organisation at the court.

⦁ The Council of Paramount Chiefs

This council had neither a fixed number of members norwas it called for consultation on certain occasions or onfixed issues. Neither was the council in any senserepresentative. The king consulted his council mainly in times of crisis or on occasions of special importance. He would summon some of the high and army chiefs although he was in no way bound to accept their advice. Nevertheless the council acted as a screen between the king and his subjects, since blame resulting from any miscarriage of the king’s policy could be diverted from his person on to one or more individual members of the council. It also constituted an instrument of ranking within thebody of high and army chiefs as not all of them would be summoned.

Through it, the king’s pleasure was expressed and competition for the king’s favour took place. The function of the council as a screen and as a focus of competition largely determined the actual choice of the council members. The greater the support and popularity of the chiefs chosen as council members vis a vis their own direct subjects, the less damage was done to their image by being used as scapegoats. The weaker their support, the greater was the danger for them of being relieved of their position. Although membership of the council enhanced their status and increased their power position within the system, the hold on their office of chief became more precarious as the result of the potential role of scapegoat which membership of the council involved. This risk could only be offset by strong and extensive support from their subjects.
Concomitantly the institution of the council of the high chiefs acted as a brake on possible abuse of the powers of the high chiefs vis a vis their subjects since this would result in discontent and loss of support. Further the element of competition for the king’s favour, involved in membership of the council, again made for dependence of a chief and for building up support amongst his subjects.

In 1931 this council was replaced by a four-member council and another process of competition among the Tutsi chiefs for the king’s and the subjects’ support went out ofthe system, thus removing one of the checks on the power of the chiefs.

Within that part of the political system which constituted the delegated power structure, we can distinguish two complementary structures, the administration and the army.
Maquet (,1961 p.l00-120) has given a detailed description and functional analysis of each of the two structures separately, interpreted on the basis of his “premise of inequality”.He concludes: “to sum up, this political system was a means of maintaining a certain social order in which the group of rulers and their caste appropriated to their consumption a considerable part of the country’s goods without having to use their labour in the productive process”.

I want, moreover, to underline the fact that the system not only contained elements of inequality and tension but that the nature of this inequality and these tensions must be further qualified. The system contained major elements making for social cohesion. Some of these can be seen in the checks and balances in the manipulation of power, the various alternatives for power support and different avenues for the seeking of justice. Others concern a certain redistribution of wealth and a complex pattern of cross-cutting ties.

(2) The Army Structure

Every male, independent of his age or whether he was Hutu, Tutsi or Twa, was by birth a member of one of the dozens of armies, ingabo, existing in Rwanda. At the beginning of his reign the new Mwami started to organise a new army unit.The original nucleus of recruits for the new army unit were some one hundred and fifty to two hundred sons of importantTutsi families, most often the king’s personal clients, who had not as yet received any military training. They were called intore and received an extensive and prolonged military training under the army chief called Chief of the royal palace. Every five or seven years a new group, recruited on the same basis, would be organised and added to the ingabo. These different units formed the warrior section of the army and consisted exclusively of Tutsi, whose families were moreover sufficiently rich to give the Chief of the royal palace a cow for every member incorporated into the new army. By being recruited into the new army they were detached from the army unit to which they belonged by birth.

After the formation of a section of warriors the king would call all his army chiefs and withdraw from each of their armies a certain number of lineages, Tutsi, Hutu and Twa, who were to be detached from their original army and incorporated into the new army. These comprised the herdsmen section. In this way the warrior section was recruited on an individual basis and the herdsmen’s section on a lineage basis, normally on the inzu level. The army continued its existence through the descendants of the original recruits, with the exception of those who would in turn again be recruited into other army units under a new king.

At the death of the king, the chief of the royal palace became one of the army chiefs, head of his particular army. His office however was not only not hereditary, it was not necessarily for life either. However the king could give the office to the army chief’s son as soon as a new army unit was formed the warrior section became the army on active duty and the warriors belonging to the army organised by the previous king were withdrawn from active service. From the recruitment it is clear that the warrior section is entirely Tutsi but that like the rest of the army it is recruited without reference to territorial division; unlike the rest of the army however recruitment was on an individual and not a lineage basis. In the army the inzu was incorporated as a group under the inzu-head and constituted the smallest unit within the army structure.

The king was the commander-in-chief and all army members were in this respect his direct servants owing individual loyalty to him. By virtue of his role in the army structure every male had the right of access to the king and the right to be tried by his court. However the normal representative of the king not only in the field of command but also in the field of appeal was the army chief whom he had appointed. It was a crime meriting capital punishment if the army chief tried to prevent one of his army members from having direct recourse to the king in lodging complaints or seeking justice.The inzu was taxed for the upkeep of the army structure, including the training of new recruits, outfit of the army, etc,.The inzu-head apportioned this tax among the different rugos of the inzu.

However the army was not only a fighting unit, it was in the civil sphere also a unit of jurisdiction and protection. The army chief was not only a commander but also a protector of its members in inter-army disputes and in disputes with the administration. He was judge between members in inter-army disputes. The right of the army members to lodge a complaint against him or demand his removal from office provided a sanction to ensure thatthe army chief fulfilled his obligations towards members. This was of special importance as the office was not hereditary nor did it necessarily remain within the army chief’s lineage. The replacement of army chiefs was not uncommon. There were three names of army chiefs who were relieved of their function by Rwabugiri, following complaints of the army members, and one instance during the reign of Musinga (Kagame 1953 p.38).

Just as every Rwanda was a member of an army unit, so was every head of cattle associated with and incorporated in the army structure. All cattle, regardless of the basis of their possession, were attached to the army of the possessor, except in the case of cattle held in usufruct by a client in which case the cattle were attached not to the client’s army but to the lord’s army. We must however make a distinction between the cattle owned by the army as such and cattle attached to the army because they were held by the army members. The chief of the army was in charge of the official army cattle but these cattle were public property under the Mwamiin the sense that the chief of the army could not use them for his private property. Among these public cattle under the charge of a particular army we must still distinguish between royal cattle and army cattle proper.

(i)Royal cattle.

In this category a distinction, necessary for the understanding of the role of the army and the importance of the army chief, must be made between cattle belonging to the king and cattle belonging to the dynasty.
(a) The king’s cattle.
In principle all cattleowners customarily gave one cow to the king on his accession. These were called indabukirano (the same word as used for the cow given by the lineage head to his successor as an external sign and public registration of his will).These head of cattle plus those obtained by him as his share of possible war or raiding booty constituted the king’s personal herd. These cattle he could use for the buildingup of his own private circle of clients.

(b) The cattle inherited by the king from his predecessors however became not his own butdynastic property and could not be used for his private purposes. These inherited cattle became public property inasmuch as they were given to a particular army unit or units.

The dairy products from these herds were used by the herdsmen caring for them and by army members who were sick. Young mothers needing milk for their babies or girls needing butter to oil themselves before marriage could also claim these products.

(ii) Army cattle.
Tutsi who were incorporated into a new army unit had to give the army chief, who was called Chief of the royal palace, one cow (indabukirano) while non-Tutsi gave him a sheep or one or more hoes. Kagame remarks,, « 0n appelle Tutsi en droit pastoral, quiconque possèdeplusieurs têtes de gros bétail » (1952 p.96).These cattleformed the army chief’s personal herd to which could be added his share in the war booty. These cattle could be used byhim to build up his following of personal clients. But theclientships thus formed were related to his office and not tohis person or to his lineage, which is of special importance as his office was not hereditary.

Among all these cattle a distinction was made between pedigree cattle, i.e. heads of cattle which were light-brown with long curving horns called Inyambo. All cattle of this kind were king’s property and much of the breeding and rearing techniques were directed towards producing these cattle. A chief called Umutware w’inyambo was placed in charge of the long-horned pedigree herds, while the chief in charge of the other herds was called Umutware w’inka. These latter herds were sub-divided into smaller groups of thirty five to forty five head of cattle and the army chief appointed an official herdsman called umutahira in charge of these smaller herds. None of these positions were hereditary and the man in charge could not use the cattle to create a following of clients asthese herds were not allowed to be further sub-divided. Products from the herds accrued partly to the herdsmen themselves and partly to those in need of them.

Among the cattle attached to the army but which were privately possessed we must distinguish between those cattle of the warriors which they had received as part of the war booty or as a reward for special military bravery and the cattle of all the army members, whether warriors or herdsmen, which were their private property (imbata) acquired through exchange, gift or bride-wealth. The private cattle of the members of the army were not grazed communally but individually by their owners or by those to whom they were given in usufruct.The official army cattle herds had their own grazing ground. Although, as we have seen, the army structure was a supra-territorial one and recruitment was based on lineages and not on the neighbourhood or hill, the structure was in different ways related to and integrated with the system of territorial divisions. In all parts of Rwanda where the army had efficient control, the land was divided into pasture districts equal in number to the army units, which we will call zones. Every zone had at its head one army chief. With the creation of a new army unit the borders of the zoneswere redefined. The hills within each zone were administered by hill chiefs appointed by the army chief. These hill chiefs were nearly always Tutsi, although either a warrior or a herdsman could be appointed. The territory for which a hill chief was responsible was called igikingi (plural ibikingi) which should not be confused with the Ibikingi by’iBwami, which were crown domains outside the normal-pattern of the administrative and army structures. Ibikingi land referred specifically to pasture and the hill chief was theguardian of the pastures of his hill.Thepublic herds were given special hills but the inyambo herd had to be grazed in the hill of the army chief.The function of the hill chief was to ensure that all those who had cattle in the area, whether belonging to his army or not, had sufficient pasture for their cattle. It was the hill chief who allocated rights to pasture on unoccupied land. To add to the confusion a concession to pasture was also called ibikingi.

Once granted, a right to pasture could not be withdrawn as long as the dues were paid. The extent of the pasture granted as a concession was in relation to the number of cattle to be grazed. If the number diminished the hill chief could reclaim a prorata portion and could give it tosomebody else whose herds had increased. Thus a cattle owner could be given a new piece of pasture hitherto not used or by extension of his grazing rights he could obtain a piece which had already been in use as pasture.

Having obtained pastureland the holder could reserve a part of it for agriculture and give it to his clients, thereby obtaining the products which he needed in exchange for the usufruct of cattle. In this case the owner of the ibikingi kept his right to graze his cattle on the cultivator’s land after the harvest, but as long as the cultivator paid his prestation he could not force him to leave or to leave his lands fallow. If a cattle owner obtained, through extensionof his pasture rights, an ibikingi which already had cultivators settled on it, these cultivators did not owe the new holder any prestation.

According to Kagame (1952 p.100) the hill chief – could not prevent settlement of Hutu cultivators on landnot reserved as pasture and not as yet occupied. Although the hill-chief was the administrator and judge responsible for the pastures of his hill, the actual distribution was done by the chief of theinyambo and the umutware w’inka. The basic unit of organisation of the army was the inzu.
The inzu head was the link between the descent group and thearmy structure and he determined who, in case of war, was to go on active service. He also determined the contribution of each rugo to the total tax demanded from the inzu. If a member refused to obey the inzu head’s orders he was liable to be deprived of his possessions but this was not kept bythe inzu head but became official army property. The normalway for an army member in need of protection of the army chief was to make his demand through the inzu head. However in case of dispute with the inzu head, the individual member could approach the army chief without passing either through the inzu head or the hill chief. It was only at the inzu level that the two structures interrelated.

Apart from military organisation, bovine administration and jurisdiction, the army structure was also a channel of taxation. The army had to have some cattle near the court in order to provide the court or other royal residences with a traditionally fixed number of jars of milk. Moreover the army had to provide the court with a number of young steers for sacrificial -rituals. Bourgeois states that in 1926, one hundred and twenty two steers were provided to the court for this purpose (1959 P.88). However the cattle acquired by warriors as war booty were exempt from all taxation. Taxation in milk and butter was also paid to the army chief and the hill chief. Moreover the cattle owners had to help in exercising the official herds of the dynasty and of the army in building their kraals and in their general upkeep. Members of the army who were not cattle owners had to pay their taxation in agricultural produce. However inhabitants of certain regions, especially those which were more distantfrom the court or which produced specialised products, paid their tax in tobacco, mats or ironware such as spearheads, etc. These products were partly used by the king and the court and partly by the army units, either those in training as for example the intore, or those on active duty in the different camps along the border. The Batwa paid their tax in pottery and in hides used for ritual and royal ceremonies such as the leopardskins for the dancers. The king, however, always made a return gift to the Batwa in a form which they highly appreciated, i.e. bullocks which were not kept by them but eaten.

It is clear from this description that through the army structure the king had a powerful instrument in the control of cattle and chiefs and that it constituted a charnel of taxation. The description also shows how the instrument of coercive power was exclusively recruited from among the Tutsi lineages. However, the fact that recruitment of warriors disregarded normal territorial divisions and that it was on an individual basis, meant that warriors on active duty were all members of army units different from the units of the lineages to which they belonged.

(3) The Administration

Independent of but complementary to the army structure there existed what has been called a system of administration, which was based on the territorial division of Rwanda.

The chief of the province who was not uncommonly also an army chief was, like the district chiefs, appointed directly by the Mwami. The administration of each district wasgenerally committed to the two chiefs who were independent of each other: the chief of cattle, and the land chief.
As one of the major functions of the district chiefs was the levying of taxes, the fact that generally the cattle chief was a Tutsi and the land chief a Hutu was of added importance in relation to the dual administration at this important level. The duplication acted as a check on theactivities of both chiefs and increased the king’s controlover his officials when they attempted to become too powerful or overstepped their rights. The land chief, in contrast to the cattle chief, also had judicial powers in disputes over arable land but not over pasture as this was reserved to the army chief. However each of the hills which made up the district had- only one hill chief and he was not the district chiefs representative because he was appointed by the army chief. The hill chief chose the neighbourhood chiefs called abakoresha from among the inzu heads of his hill. Taxation for the king was levied on agricultural and dairy produce but the province, district and hill chiefs had the right to keep a portion of it for their own use. This taxation, like that for the army, was demanded from the inzu head who had to apportion the amounts due from the various lineage members. It is very important to note that the amount to be paid was not fixed and that it was left to the discretion of the hill chief to strike the balance between the demand of the court for regular supplies and overburdening his people. It is especially against this background that we must see the importance of the mechanism of control resulting from the fact that the hill chiefs were not representatives of their immediate superiors, the district chiefs. The organisation at the local level was left to the umukoresha and the inzu head neither of whom could claim a portion of the tax collected. The products themselves were sent to the royal residences in each district from where the king claimed whatever he needed. The timing of the levies coincided with the harvest and at no other time of the year could demands he made. Next to this taxation in dues, the people were obliged to work a certain number of days for the administration either in the local area or at the royal palaces. This taxation was not demanded from the inzu but from the rugo. Maquet states moreover that labour prestations were exclusively demanded from the Hutu stratum of the population (1962 p.105). The prestationsdemanded from the Tutsi were more in the form of acting as advisers and companions to the different chiefs.

Cutting across this pattern of administration were those territorial units which were directly controlled by the king and which were given by him to his personal clients or close agnates. Here we must also include the enclaves administered by the queen mother and the abiru. Those who held these areas were exempt from normal taxation and paid their dues directly to the king, the queen mother or the abiru. In this and other ways they did not fit into the normal pattern of administration.

However they were incorporated into the army structure as far as membership was concerned. But as long as they were direct clients of the king, the queen mother or the abiru they were exempt from direct army taxation. Recruitment for office holders in both the administration and army structures was largely based on kinship. Chiefs were recruited largely from the king’s consanguineal and affinal kin, and therefore often changed from one reign to another, especially as these offices were not hereditary. d’Hertefelt estimates that the total number of office holders involved only some thousands of individuals (1960 p.116). However, most of them belonged to a limited number of lineages relatively close to the king. The fact that there were unequal rewards attached to the different offices led to competition for office between and within those lineages. The nature of this competition is described by the same author as «U ne jungle politique ou les plus puissants menaçaient et annihilaient les plus faibles »(1962 p.69).

The monopoly of political power was held by:

  1. The Nyiginya clan which provided the king;
  2. The different clans which provided the queen mother;
  3. The Abiru lineages who were the repositories of tradition and the safeguards for the continuity of the power structure.
    Together these formed the stable power-holding group. On this basis we can say that power was the monopoly of the Tutsi, although this does not mean that all Tutsi were rulers.Pauwels sums this up:« Or parmi ces 16% (%Tutsi sur la population) le très grand nombre n’était guère plus fortuné que les Hutu. Ce n’est donc qu’une très petite minorité des Tutsi qui faisait au Rwanda la pluie et le beau temps » (1967 p.301).

However the full extent of the ruler’s power position cannot be expressed in numbersas their sphere of influence, emanating from their office, must be assessed in the light of the clientage system.

This description of the two structures as instruments of political control brings out two main elements. On theone hand we find clearly a premise of inequality while on the other hand we find inbuilt mechanisms for practical limitations on benefits accruing from this unequal access to power. The political system formed a “network of reciprocities in which power carried obligations and lack of power had its real compensations”. We find tensions but also counterbalancing mechanisms containing these tensions. we find divisions and cleavages but also mechanisms operating for social cohesion.

⦁ Ideological framework and social cohesion.

An ideology has been defined as:
“a more or less coherent system of beliefs held in common by the members of a group or collectivity and which, through an interpretive evaluation (weber) of the situation in which the group is placed, explains and justified its existence andcontributes to its integration” (d’Hertefelt 1967 p.217).

When speaking about the court, as distinct from delegated power, particularly in the case of the king, we have pointed out how the sacredness of the king and his ritual function expressed his identification with Rwanda as a whole and at the same time provided an explanation and ajustification for his position in the overall political system. This body of beliefs was known to all the members of the society and was regularly and publicly expressed in ritual and ceremonies. Thus it contributed to the integration of Rwanda society because of the common dependence of all members of the king for their individual well-being, fertility and occupational success and for the prosperity of the community at large.
Moreover, as we have seen, the body of beliefs, basic to the ritual and to the kingship, embodied a concept of common rights in the kingdom inasmuch as the king transcended ethnic and occupational cleavages. To this transcendence of the kingship corresponds a subjective role expectation by the people. As in all societies with a centralized government, the king delegated his powers. In Rwanda this was done through the administrative and army structures.

As such they were accordingly extensions of his kingship since it is through them that the powers of the king flowed, not only in demands, e.g. for taxation and army recruits,but also in the administration of justice and the provisionof land and pasture. D’Hertefelt has explained how; “an abundant court literature (dynastic, genealogic, pastoral and martial), was directly or indirectly intended to glorify and exalt the dynasty as well as the existing social and political structure”.(i960 p.128)

Independent as to whether it was indeed “intended”, the fact that the structure was mythically andhistorically sustained, served not only as a rationalisation and explanation of the status quo but gave it the sanction of being a link with and an expression of the kingship of divine origin. This mythical sanction constituted a justification of existence of the kingship and contributed to the integration of all groups in Rwanda society.

In relation to this some points should be made concerning the superiority of the Tutsi. These have been classified according to the following themes:
(a) The celestial origins of the Tutsi
(b) The fundamental and natural differences which exist between Tutsi and others
(c) The superior civilisation of the Tutsi (d’Hertefelt 1964 p.221)
D’Hertefelt further remarks that these inegalitarian myths were on the whole not known by the Hutu and Twa and that some were only known at the court as a great secret. Important as this ideology might have been for the cohesion of the power-holding lineages it does not detract from the ideology as expressed in the king’s ritual and as seen by the ruled.

The existence of opposing ideologies constituted however a weakness in the system. It led to a conflict between the role expectancy expressed in the body of beliefs of the rulers assuming inegalitarianism and the role expectancy corresponding to the body of beliefs held by the ruled. It is in the office of the chief that this latent conflict is focussed. The nature of the power of the king and the nature of the delegated power structure enabled the expression of conflict to be confined to the field of inter-personal relations. Conflict could be solved by the king in removing the chief. & cultureIn the previous section we have analysed the Rwanda political system as it existed at the court. The system through which the king delegated his powers must be seen as an extension of the royal power, particularly as the kinghad ultimate control over the distribution of offices within the...AMATEKA