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December 30, 2003

"Medieval" Africa

This War Nerd column about the Tutsi-Hutu conflict is pretty good. It gives a brief intro to the Bantu demic expansion that is well sketched out in Guns, Germs and Steel, though I think he simplifies when he terms the Tutsi "Bantu." Though they now speak the same language as the Hutu, they were probably originally a Nilotic people (though if you google this topic, the issue is very confused by racialist pseudo-hypotheses).

As for Brecher's observation that Tutsi rule(d) the roost in both Rwanda and Burundi through force of arms, he is spot on. If the Hutus did not constitute 85% of Rwanda's population I am not so sure that the Tutsi government that took over after the 1994 genocide would not have been more explicit in its own policies of ethnic cleansing (as it is, they pursue a pro-natalist policy for Tutsis). As long as the Tutsis are a ruling group, I doubt these two nations will ever progress very far on quality-of-life metrics. Dominant minorities have no reason to fully mobilize the human capital of the majority because once that happens-their own hold on power becomes tenuous. It is no surprise that the Mughal's and Manchus did not mobilize the populations of India and China against the European threat and modernize like Japan, both were alien elites! The Japanese had an indigenous elite.

Of course, minor note, the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa (Pygmy) are now genetically related. All three groups are somewhat distinct, but just like the various ethno-racial designations in Brazil, generations of intermarriage have confused the situation a great deal....

Posted by razib at 05:11 PM