African Invasion Theory and the Rwanda Genocide
The world knows the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust in which millions of Jews were exterminated as part of deliberate state policy. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the Jews with their powerful sense of history as well as several non-Jewish writers (like William Shirer) for keeping alive this terrifying chapter so future generations can its lessons, to remind us of the evils of sectarian hate. While the Nazi Holocaust is justly infamous, others of comparable horror have received little notice, much less analysis. Among these are the more recent Hutu-Tutsi massacres and the massacre in Belgian Congo before World War II. This lack of attention to these is partly because the victims were non-white. Here is the story of one of them.
An African tragedy: Tutsi invasion theory
While race theories have led to stereotyping and academic and ideological abuse, they are also guilty of horrendous crimes. What Indologists could not do in India with their Aryan theories, ethnologists succeeded in doing in Africa with their race-based Tutsi invasion theory: trigger genocide.
When we look at the map of middle Africa, we see two little countries named Rwanda and Burundi, bordering on Zaire (or the Democratic Republic of Congo). Few Indians know the modern history of these unfortunate countries or the cause of the catastrophes that engulfed them. As reported in the Western media, these countries are inhabited by two supposedly different ethnic groups, the so-called Hutus and Tutsis. The ethnic composition of these two countries is as follows.
Rwanda: Hutu 84%, Tutsi 15%, Twa (Pygmies) 1%
Burundi: Hutu 85%, Tutsi 14%, Twa 1%
In other words, their compositions hardly differ at all. But according to Western anthropologists, mainly colonial bureaucrats and missionaries, the Tutsi are supposed to be a Hamitic people, a race that was often intermixed with the whiter races of the North, notably from Ethiopia and Egypt, which in their turn were intermixed with some West Asiatic people, mainly the Hittites. This according to these ‘scholars’ was through repeated invasions from the North. These people, the Tutsis, are supposed to have arrived from the North and not native to Rwanda. The analogy to the invading Aryans is immediate and striking, but doesn’t stop here.
The majority of Hutus are said to be Bantu, of original African race, which spilled out from the middle of the West African coast of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cote d’Ivorie (Ivory Coast) and the inland countries of Burkina Faso and its neighbors.
In this scenario, which is contradicted by genetic analysis, the Tutsis (like the Aryans of the debunked Aryan Invasion Theory) are foreign invaders or migrants in the Rwanda-Burundi region. The Hutus, like the Indian Dravidians, are said to be much older people, but not the original inhabitants. The original inhabitants are said to be the Pygmies (or Twa), who constitute barely 1 percent of the people. The interesting part of the theory is the role assigned to the Tutsi minority. They are made into a superior race of invaders, just like the Aryans, and supposedly constitute the aristocratic elite and the oppressors of the Hutu majority.
According to this theory, the minority Tutsi have subjugated the indigenous, but not too indigenous (compared to the Pygmies) Hutus for centuries and forced them into the inferior position of agriculture. Now the key notion: Hutus and Tutsis are really two completely separate races, with the ‘black’ Hutus forming the oppressed majority, and their relatively fair invaders, the Tutsi, forming the oppressors.
This in essence is the Tutsi invasion theory, the African version of the Aryan invasion theory. The similarities are startling, even to the extent of the Dravidians in India being preceded by earlier inhabitants, the aborigines (the so-called adi-vasis), who have their African counterpart in the Pygmies. So we have the African Pygmy-Hutu-Tutsi sequence corresponding to the Indian aborigines-Dravidian-Aryan scheme.
Genetics has demolished this Hutu-Tutsi division just as it has done in the Aryan-Dravidian case. Recent studies have shown that generations of gene exchanger has obliterated whatever physical distinctions may have once existed between these two Bantu peoples, supposed to be height, body build, and facial features, just as the British had done in India. But using arbitrary measures physical variation in the peoples, Belgian colonial authorities legally enforced ethnic divisions in the 1920s, originally based on economic criteria. Based on this division that they themselves had created, they adopted a policy of favoring Tutsis over Hutus.
As just noted the original basis was economic. At one time, Tutsi simply meant anyone owning more than ten heads of cattle, a measure of wealth. So a Hutu could become a Tutsi simply by acquiring more cattle! But on top of this the Belgian authorities imposed non-existent racial differences and favored the Tutsis over the Hutus in education and government jobs. Thanks to Belgian patronage, Tutsi began to be seen as a privileged class and the Hutus began to feel oppressed. This created lasting resentment among the Hutus. This was abetted by academics and missionaries in the form of their Tutsi Invasion Theory!
It is a curious experience to look at the political evolution of this grotesque theory and its monstrous fallout. Until the coming of the Europeans, the Tutsis and the Hutus never saw themselves as different. Nor were they engaged in any racial wars. With the European scramble for Africa, Rwanda-Burundi became part of the short-lived German East Africa. After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, it became part of the Belgian colonies in Africa. This notion of the Tutsi-Hutu racial difference began to be drilled into the natives by colonial administrators, some academics (not unlike present day Indologists) and missionaries known as the Pere Blancs (White Fathers). (There are no Pere Noirs or Black Fathers.) They invented the Tutsi invasion theory and labeled the Hutus as the victims of Tutsi invasion and oppression.
Of the various colonial powers, Belgian rule was the most recent and influential and sowed the seeds of hatred that led eventually to civil war and genocide. Their colonial policy was exploited and aggravated by missionary meddling. Later, when German forces occupied the area during World War I, the conflict and efforts for Catholic conversion became more pronounced. As the Tutsi resisted conversion, the missionaries concentrated on and found success only among the Hutu. In an effort to reward conversion, the colonial government confiscated traditionally Tutsi land and reassigned it to Hutu tribes, igniting a conflict that has lasted into the 21st century.
It is worth noting that this period, between the two world wars, was the heyday of race theories in Europe. It seems the notion of superiority due to difference in skin color – imagined in this case – is indelibly ingrained in the European psyche. Its politics has collapsed, not due to any dawn of enlightenment on its proponents but the defeat of Nazi Germany. It has continued however in Western academia as Indo-European Studies and in other guises.
It should be obvious by now that this Tutsi-Hutu division never had a factual basis. They speak the same language, have a long history of intermarriage and have many cultural characteristics in common. Any differences are regional rather than racial, which they were not aware of until the Europeans made it part of their politico-religious policy and propaganda. The Tutsi, like the Indian Aryans, were supposed to be tall, thin and fair, while the Hutu were described as short, black and squat— just as the Indian Dravidians are said to be. Since the Tutsi today don’t fit this description, scholars claimed that their invading ancestors did. They are separate because government records carried over from colonial days say so.
This fictional racial divide was created and made official by colonial bureaucrats during Belgian rule. The Belgian Government forced everyone to carry an identity card showing tribal ethnicity as Hutu or Tutsi. This was used in administration, in providing lands, positions, and otherwise playing power politics based on race. This divisive politics combined with the racial hatred sowed by the Tutsi invasion theory turned Rwanda-Burundi into a powder keg ready to explode.
The explosion came following independence from colonial rule. Repeated violence after independence fueled this hatred driven by this supposed ethnic difference and the concocted history of the Tutsi invasion and oppression. Some 2.5 million people were massacred in this fratricidal horror of wars and genocides. Unscrupulous African leaders, like the self-styled Dravidian politicians of India, exploited this divisive colonial legacy to gain power at the cost of the people. Hutu leaders described the Tutsis as cockroaches, telecasting their tirades on the radio during the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis. This led ordinary Hutus to massacre the Tutsis en masse in a bid to annihilate them completely.
So a peaceful, placid nation with a common populace, sharing a common language, culture and history was destroyed by colonialist racist concoction, another “invasion theory”. It was entirely the handiwork of colonial bureaucrats, missionaries and pseudo-scholars building careers on the discredited notion of race.
It is of course no coincidence that ideas that led to the Holocaust in Europe should have led to genocide in Africa. The disgrace is that they continue to exist in Western academia in various guises, ready to come out of the closet at an opportune moment. This is what was seen during the California school curriculum revision of a few years ago.
History lesson: transplanting the poison tree
Why should we learn all this? Because the Tutsi invasion theory has ominous parallels to the Aryan invasion theory and the Aryan myth, which scholars are trying desperately to save using linguistics or, Indo-European Studies or some similar fig-leaf. Sectarian tension and violence, thankfully not on the same horrific scale, was incited between North and South Indians by self-styled Dravidian parties like the DMK, AIDMK and their many offshoots and incarnations. These are the poisonous legacy of the colonial-missionary racist offspring.
Why did India not go the way of Rwanda-Burundi? Not for lack of trying but because the cultural foundation of Hinduism proved too strong. It defeated the designs of politicians and propagandists masquerading as scholars. An Internet group (IER or Indo-Eurasian Research) co-founded by Witzel has been doing little more than spewing venom at Hindus and their practices, in language and style that bear comparison with Nazi era publications…
They may have been defeated this time, but there is no room for complacency. The divisive politicians of India and their friends and colleagues in academia can come together to defend the Aryan-Dravidian divide. Had Witzel and his colleagues succeeded in planting their poison tree in California schools, it would have become fertile ground for demagogues to turn the ethnically diverse California into a powder keg of animosities.
This brand of pseudo-scholarship cannot survive once their race theories – in linguistic or any other garb – end up in the dustbin where they belong. Recognizing this, their advocates no longer engage in debate but resort to name calling. Any opposition to the Aryan theories is denounced as emotional, chauvinistic, and the handiwork of Hindu nationalists and fundamentalists. Like the artificial Aryan-Dravidian divide, the Tutsi-Hutu divide is also denied by respectable scholarship, including Western scholarship. Are we to denounce these – and a million Tutsi victims of the genocide – as the handiwork of these nationalistic chauvinistic Tutsis who deserved their fate?
The Aryan myth – and its advocates – have both been exposed, but it would be a serious error to assume that it has been put to rest. Bad ideas have a way of resurfacing especially when self interest is at stake. Writing about the persistence of superstitions like belief in witches and witchcraft in Europe, Charles Mackay, in his famous book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and Madness of Crowds observed (1841):
So deeply rooted are some errors that ages cannot remove them. The poisonous tree that once overshadowed the land might be cut down by the sturdy efforts of sages and philosophers; the sun may shine clearly upon spots where venomous things once nestled in security and shade; but still the entangled roots are stretched beneath the surface, and may be found by those who dig. Another King like James I [a self professed expert on demonology] might make them vegetate again; and more mischievous still, another Pope like Innocent VIII [who initiated the Inquisition against witches] might raise the decaying roots to strength and verdure.
One may add that scholars and academics are no more immune to the lure of obscurantism than medieval popes and kings, especially when their survival is at stake. With their base crumbling in Europe, these purveyors of hate are looking for fresh soil in places like California to plant their poison-bearing trees.
Acknowledgement: I am grateful to Sri Pankaj Saksena for valuable information relating to the Tutsi invasion theory and its legacy of horrors.
(Editor: this article is an adaptation of Dr. Rajaram’s earlier write-up on political racism.)