It is practically impossible to describe the status quo as it was when the writer arrived in Kibungu Territory in May 1960, unless one takes a look at the immediate past history of Remera and its institutions. Some events and institutions are so recently past that in their effect they have the force of actuality.

Changes came about over the years that were not necessarily due to the events that will be described below, but which were certainly accelerated by them. The lineage still has some formal cohesion. People are still conscious of the duties and obligations between its members and cater to them. However, since the European occupation, all regulations and ordinances have been applied to individuals and heads of households rather than to lineage heads which had been the pattern in traditional times. As a result, the lineage lost at least one of its functions and thereby some of its cohesion. Then, its solidarity was further weakened because some of the lineages became divided along political party lines once these came into being.

There is a consequent and definite tendency for the various households of a neighborhood to group themselves into clusters for mutual help purposes. The groups of neighbors, as a mutual help working group, often include both Hutu and Tutsi neighbors. Indeed, except for those who have jobs with the administration, the Tutsi cultivate their lands as does everyone else. If they are cow-herders and cannot reciprocate the work in the fields, they either pay for labor, or they and their immediate families do both jobs — keeping cows and tilling fields.

These neighborhood groups are not new, but it is not so much the group per sowhich has acquired some importance, as the councils that sprang from them. These councils too existed previously to the extent that in cases of litigation the old men of the neighborhood were included in the “lineage council”. Now, however, the people have begun relying on these neighborhood councils more and more, and they no longer think of them as “family” councils. The trend in this direction may or may not have existed before the elections of July 1960, but afterthem it became clear that when lineage and umurenge council meetings were forbidden, the vicinage councils were taking their place. The latter can be held more surreptitiously.

But the vicinage councils are unorganized, uninstitutionalized people — either those without family or those who receive no help from their families, the old, the needy — could have recourse to the affairs that do not have the authority of the old councils. Some chieftain before the “democratic” system was installed. But this was no longer the case after the elections of July 1960. An example in point is the case of an old Hutu woman whose son, the head of his lineage, was in Uganda. The old lady was left in care of her son’s wife who illtreated her. The old woman tried to have her case taken care of by the newly elected burgomaster, but the latter would not accept this kind of responsibility. When her son returned, she brought her case before a vicinage council winch declared that the son was responsible for the actions of his wife. Moreover, the council said, it is the duty of the son to take care of his mother. Butthis man — as did many of the young men of the Hill — interpreted the new political order to mean that he was free of all responsibilities. The vicinage council had no authority with which to enforce its opinion, and the new burgomaster would do nothing, so that, finally, the old woman had to pack her few belongings and take refuge with a daughter’s husband living in Buganza, some fifty miles away.

By May 1960, the relationships that held the nuclear feudal cluster together had officially been abolished. Therefore, its existence was not recognized. However, the group was still active enough to present a solidary front against participation in the elections of July 1960. Even for some time after these elections the old ties persisted, but as a social group the nuclear feudal cluster was now without defense. It was systematically undermined and, finally, physically eliminated.


This is a time of great changes in Africa. Ruanda was not spared, and, inevitably, whatever occurred in Ruanda as a whole, necessarily affected Remera. The political changes were numerous and followed each other with vertiginous speed. Particularly since 1959, event followed upon event, and data could accumulate in the notebooks of political scientists in satisfying amount. These data could give a false sense of security, i.e., it is easy to comment on so much material, but it is even easier to make a false assessment.

After World War II, the United Nations began to press Belgium into accelerating the preparations for the independence of Ruanda. In 1953 and 1956, local elections were held on the Hill level. In both sets of elections the Territory of Kibungu showed a thoroughgoing conservatism.

These elections were followed by various political activities in Central Ruanda. The nature of these is expressed in such documents as the so-called “Bahutu Manifesto” of March 24, 1957.It is not relevant to analyze these events here, but only to note that tension mounted between Hutu and Tutsi. Political parties were founded, dividing the population into what one might call progressive groups and Conservative groups. Those which were of concern in Remera were, for the former, the Parti du Mouvement de l’Émancipation Hutu (the Parmehutu), a republican party identified with the Hutu, and for the latter, the Union NationaleRuandaise (UNAR), a royalist party identified with the Tutsi.

In July 1959, the Mwami died: a “coup d’état”was staged by the conservatives. At the burial of the Mwami, they elected the new Mwami even before the Belgian administration had time to choose and approve a successor.

In November 1959, a civil war broke out in Central Ruanda, causing much damage and many deaths. The violence was brought under control by the Belgian administration. The Territory of Kibungu was not touched by the violence, which continued sporadically up to the elections of July 1960.

In Remera everything remained calm until those elections. At the beginning of 1960, and in view of the approaching elections, the country had been reorganized into “communes” and the “sub-chiefdoms” were abolished. Remera, as a commune, had been increased in size by the addition of the following nearby Hills: Gasetsa— which included Muhurire and Rurenge — Shanda, and Kabare.

The Remera Commune was to have eleven councilors, who would elect from among themselves a burgomaster. Some 177 candidates (plus a few additional last minute entries), presented themselves for the eleven positions. However, a few weeks before the elections, which were tobe held on July 23, 1960, throughout the Territory of Kibungu, it was announced that the policy of the UNAR (Royalist) Party would be to boycott the elections. The Parmehutu Party, which had not even bothered to designate candidates in such a conservative area, upon hearing this news rushed in to select anybody who was willing torun as a candidate. They felt that they could be sure of victory, if they had no opposition.

Politically, the progressive changes that had been gradually imposed since 1924 had had their effect. However, change for change’s sake was not a feature of Remera society. Superficially, there may have been changes, but the principles remained the same. It has been stated, for example, that the Banyaremera had adopted the European-made hoe and machete; obviously, the “change” from their own generalized tools to these generalized tools was not a profound one. Formally, there may have been a change, but essentially — native hoe or European hoe — the tool remained the same, and so did their agriculture remain that of the hoe variety. That is not to say that there were no economic implications, such as the links it created with the European economy, or the effect it had on local smithing. These were more than formal changes, but they remained tenuous.

There were formal changes, too, at the level of the central government. But it was a fact accepted by both the Belgian administrative personnel and all of the natives, that the administration had played a great role in shifting the locus of power. It had simply removed its support from the traditional ruling class and given it to the Hutu peasants. This type of change was at least understood by the Banyaremera, if not universally accepted by them.

Within the Territory of Kibungu, the failure of the UNAR Party members to participate in the elections of 1960 had been a bitter disappointment to the personnel of the administration in that Territory. They became wary and suspicions of every move made by the UNAR Party after the elections. (On the international level, UNAR was lobbying at the United Nations to have the July elections rescinded.) Moreover, the administration knew that most of the new burgomasters had no authority in their communes. Therefore, they established the policy of backing the burgomasters to the hill, in order to build up their authority. The ex-chieftain, his Tutsi associates, all the people of Remera in general, knew this. Of course, in a world in which powerful protectors carry the day in the play for power, this gave the new burgomaster a definite advantage.

The people of Remera recognized the play for power for what it was though now the situation was such that all power backed by force, was shifted to one side. Perhaps a short sketch of the rise of the new burgomaster can best illustrate the logical end of such a situation.

The following narrative of recent events is designed to show how the principle behind the play for power was still operative in Remera. However, the new circumstances were such that one of the two forces in the balance of power had been removed. When this occurred in a society in which the “limits” of power were determined only by the relative power of one’s opponent, the “limits” were removed also.

Among the candidates for a councilor’s post in Remera was a young Hutu who shall be called Ijeri. Ijeri was a monitor in the first year of the local elementary school. He had come to Remera two years previously from teaching school at the mines in Rwinkwavu. Before that his past was obscure and difficult to trace. He claimed to have come from Tare in the Territory of Astrida. A check there revealed no one who knew either him or his father. He had claimed also to have a relative by the name of Innocent Nyiridandi living there. There proved to be a man by that name there, but when this man was questioned, it was found that he had never heard of Ijeri, nor of his family.

Ijeri’s former employers at Rwinkwavu were questioned, but all they could say was that Ijeri had been a petty thief and petty scoundrel while in their employ. He seems to have been disliked at the mine Further investigation showed that Ijeri had tried to pass himself off as a Tutsi of the royal clan (Umunyiginya), while at Rwinkwavu and he had tried to marry the daughter of a local Tutsi chief there, who, upon finding Ijeri to be a man with no traceable antecedants, rejected his suit in anger. It would seem also that during his stay at Rwinkwavu, Ijeri obtained a piece of land at the nearby Hill called Shanda. He brought his elderly father and mother to settle there.

After Ijeri came to Remera, he seems to have annoyed the chieftain with claims against him. Yet he obviously strove to emulate him: for example, when both of their wives gave birth to a daughter at about the same time, Ijeri called his daughter by the same name as that of the chieftain’s newborn. Generally speaking, the people of Remera, before the elections, seem to have regarded Ijeri as a young stranger of no consequence.

At the time the political parties were “invented”, Ijeri boughta card in the UNAR (Royalist) Party. When this party boycotted the elections, he registered himself — as a Tutsi, of Umunyiginya clan — as an independent candidate. Alter the elections, when it became obvious that the tide had turned, Ijeri became violently pro Parmehutu (Republican).

In the Commune of Remera, 215 persons voted out of a possible 1,939 eligible voters. Most of the 215 were from the Hills ofShanda and Kabareneither of which had had any previous social, political, or economic relationships with Remera. Not a single person from the Hill of Remera voted in the elections, not even Ijeri.

Two candidates who seem to have been from Shanda had earned more votes than Ijeri. These men were offered the position of burgomaster, but they both refused to serve at all, even as councilors. The Administrator of the Territory then offered the position to the ex-chieftain who had had votes in spite of the fact that his Party had not voted. He also refused, because he knew that his own people would boycott him if he accepted. The position of burgomaster then fell to Ijeri.

The very next day, a young woman of Remera, who was sister to Ijeri, refused to carry water for her husband because her brother was now burgomaster. ljeri, himself, was overwhelmed by what had happened to him. He was devoid of experience in administration, in leadership, even in sheer knowledge of the people of Remera. And, in this, the situation was unlike that of the preceding years. On the other hand it was similar, in that the burgomaster had a power group backing him — the administration.

Ijeri still had to test his new situation. His initial reactions were innocent enough. He went about the Hill answering greetings by saying, “The new burgomaster wishes you … etc.” He kept repeating, “I am chieftain.” And the people thought it was amusing. Then, Ijeri began to do little things, such as arresting people for being drunk; he began to strike them with his own hands. He took note of the fact that no one dared protest. He got bolder. At the same time, not knowing what to do, he would shun his responsibilities in settling petty disputes. He would put the disputants off with indefinite promises. He would refuseto hear cases such as that of the old woman who was illtreatedby her son’s wife in the absence of her son. If people protested against his arbitrariness, he would shout that lie was the chief, and explain that it was through his cleverness that he had become chief.

Ijeri’s behavior did not seem to endear him particularly to the people, but soon he had gathered around him a small band of opportunists. This group behaved much like a “gang” ruling a street in a large city. At this point, the burgomaster was trying out his new-found authority by now prohibiting hunting, now forbidding the people to leave their homes alter 6:00 P.M. Ijeri and his “gang” patrolled the Hill at night to see that his orders were obeyed, and — it is rumored — listening at doors.

Ijeri bragged that he was “out to get” the Tutsi of the commune, and little by little he started to put pressure on them. He advised those Tutsi who had jobs with the administration that he would see that they lost them. The administration, through fear of subversive political meetings, allowed the burgomaster to forbid imirenge and lineage meetings. This passed, the burgomaster arrested more and more Tutsi; it seemed that three Tutsi drinking beer together constituted a “meeting”.

Ijeri pressured Hutu into buying his Party membership cards by telling them that, on the one band, they could profit by signing up, while, on the other, they could suffer for not signing. He would have people believe that the administration not only backed him, but catered to him. For instance, he claimed that the administration was building a house for him; in fact, the administration was building little “communal” wattle and daub houses as “offices” in all of the communes, one of which was being constructed on Remera.

Eventually, Ijeri began to trample upon people’s customary rights, and yet they would not file complaint against him, because, they explained, the administration would support Ijeri in any case; it was better to say nothing and, at least, not be further harassed.

To obtain the burgomaster’s favors, people brought him gifts of beer — and probably other things, but these were not observed,Ijeri started to pressure cow-keepers to bring him gifts of milk. (The ex-chieftain’s cow-keeper was about to do so, when the ex-chieftain stopped him.) He was well on his way to claiming the prerogatives of the old regime’s chieftains.

At this time, on the national scale, a Parmehutu Provisional Government was nominated by the Belgian administration. On Remera, Ijeri demanded that the men of the Hill and commune attend indoctrination meetings at which members of the opposition party were forbidden to speak. The burgomaster finally felt confident enough to fire all of the Tutsi who held positions with the administration. He said that he did thus because it was “the aim of the Party”. The administration said that it had been awkward of him to have said so, but they backed him up.

Then, on January 28, 1961, a so-called “coup d’état” was carried out on the national level. The Provisional Government proclaimed itself the Constitutional Government of the Republic of Ruanda. To Ijeri, burgomaster of Remera, it meant that he had the backing of two powerful groups — the Belgian Trustee-ship administration and the Constitutional Government headed by his own Party. From this moment on, the local situation worsened.

Ijeri held the indoctrination meetings with increasing frequency. On Hills other than Remera, he began to confiscate land and to redistribute it.

Because of the increasing political pressure and threats, panic nearly overcame the Tutsi of Remera. They made plans for fleeing the Hill. The ex-chieftain, however, brought them back to reason. But more and more Tutsi were arrested by Ijeri on thinner and thinner pretexts. For example several such arrests were made because the individuals did not have two garbage pits dug near their rugos.

At the time when the United Nations rescinded the elections of July 1960, Ijeri seemed to become mad with power. His actions culminated in a real “Week of Terror”. He arrested some Tutsi, beat them in public, and sent them off to prison in Kibungu. Houses were burned; more people were arrested. Every day meetings were held at which attendance of all men was compulsory. Ijeri would call the meeting for 7:00 A.M. and would not appear before the group until 4:00 P.M. Once the meeting opened, the various men of Ijeri’s “gang” would be invited to stand up and excite each other with speeches concerning the wrongs of the old regime. The speeches would end in the systematic insulting and humiliation of the ex-chieftain, who, of course, was compelled to be present. At this time also, Ijeri confiscated some of the land belonging to the ex-chieftain. He also attempted to appropriate the banana plantation of a Tutsi whom he had sent to prison. The pitch of tension had become grotesque. It was calmed a bit by a visit by the Republic’s Hutu Minister of Defense. This man gave the complaints of the local Tutsi a public hearing.

Some of the men who had been incarcerated by Ijeri were released from prison one month after their arrest, because no formal charge could be brought against them. This occurred a few days before this field research was concluded.

A few months later, probably sometime in August and September 1961, reports from the field have it that burgomaster Ijeri reached the point of taking it upon himself to have two Tutsi executed. Many other deaths occurred, whether before or after this incident — it is not clear. The ex-chieftain, imprisoned by Ijeri and then subsequently released, fled to Tanganyika with his family, his house having been pillaged and burned while he was in prison. It seems that finally ljeri was arrested by the government authorities for the disorder and murders he allowed in his commune and was put in prison. No more details are available for the moment.

Obviously, the disintegration of the old regime was not effected entirely by the new burgomaster. Ijeri had the support of the administration, but, in a way, he had to have some sort of support within his commune. As was stated before, he formed a nucleus of young men, who went about wherever their leader went.

This movement in local support of the burgomaster was very slow in setting itself in motion. The first reaction, among those who were to react, was to accuse the ex-chieftain, in general terms, of having imposed upon them the various regulations and ordinances of the administration’s program. Later, other claimswere made — some against the ex-chieftain, some not — but all of them were against Tutsi.

These claims may or may not have been well-founded, but this is unimportant for the outcome. What does count is the contest of power itself. But it is also significant that the claims were made at all. The following fact illustrate some of the “test” cases that arase in this new phase in the play for power.

Some coffee plantations, which had been given up as inkungu property by their “owners,” had been redistributed by the chieftain to various Tutsi. The sons and grandsons of the original planters now claimed the plantations; these were given up to them by the Tutsi without contest — not because of any admission of rights, but because it was felt that the Hutu claimants had the support of the administration.

One of the Hutu whose son had won back such a plantation, felt encouraged. He, then, claimed land from his neighbor, a Tutsi of a local lineage, although the land had apparently never been in the possession of the Hutus lineage. The Hutu then occupied the property, feeling that he would be supported by the burgomaster. In fact, when the Tutsi came to file a claim against the man with the burgomaster, Ijeri refused tohear him and referred him to unattainable persons. Obviously, according to the new Constitution, the burgomaster had no right to do this, but it is unlikely that either he or his constituents could have defined their rights in terms of the Constitution. This case was not settled during the period of investigation, but, for illustrative purposes, it is the gesture inherent in the claim that counts. A similar case occurred when another Hutu, neighbor to the one in the above-mentioned incident, decided to test his strength. He sued the same Tutsi involved in the previous case on ground that a reed hedge the Tutsi had sown in his field did not leave enough room for the Hutu’s goats to pass comfortably along the path bordering the field. This Hutu, incidentally, had been among the most faithful caterers to the old system, always swearing by the names of his patrons, etc. Yet, sometime following the local elections, he also forbade a Tutsi herder to pasture his herd on his (the Hutu’s) lands even though the Hutu’s own cows were kept by that herder in the herd in question.

Other claims were made against the ex-chieftain. For example, a young Hutu put in a claim for a banana plantation that had been sown by a Tutsi on unoccupied land granted him by the chieftain. The plaintiff, however, claimed that he had wanted to occupy that land himself, and had already begun to cut the grasses from it, when it was given away by the chieftain. The ex-chieftain’s contention was that, if the young man indeed had wanted the land, he had never asked for it as he should have according to custom. Several cases of this type came up in the tribunal against the ex-chieftain and were not settled by the end of the investigation.

Some Tutsi attempted retaliation by claiming back the banana plantations they had let out on the uruharo principle. Plantations held under such understandings were still allowed alter ubuhake had officially been abolished. However, at least one such case was settled before the end of the field investigation. The Hutu tenant won his case on grounds that he had worked for nineteen years in return for the produce of the plantation, and that now it should be his. CitizenshipTHE SOCIAL STATUS QUO It is practically impossible to describe the status quo as it was when the writer arrived in Kibungu Territory in May 1960, unless one takes a look at the immediate past history of Remera and its institutions. Some events and institutions are so recently past that...AMATEKA