Revisiting Tutsi Empire in the Great Lakes Region

In her response to my article titled ‘Why Bahima men will not marry Bairu women’ in which I inserted a paragraph on the Tutsi Empire in the Great Lakes Region of Africa which came up during my mission to Burundi, DRC and Rwanda in January/February 2010, Ms Kesaasi dismissed that paragraph in large part because there was no substantiated evidence. In other words I did not provide sources confirming that such a project existed. It would not have been possible to do so in an article limited to seven hundred words.

In the following paragraphs, I shall provide the sources at my disposal right now and will update the article as more information becomes available.

In order to understand how the Tutsi Empire project evolved and who has been the champion, one has to be familiar with some background information albeit not related to the project directly. Yoweri Museveni’s rise to power had external backing. The external powers were interested in the wealth of DRC and wanted some one in the Great Lakes Region to serve as their surrogate. At the beginning of the 1980s, there was no leader in the region that could be entrusted with that responsibility. Obote was not trusted because of his so-called socialist ideas (Vijay Gupta 1983).

Thus, “War for the control of the Democratic Republic of Congo – what should be the richest country in the world – began in Uganda in the 1980s, when now Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni shot his way to power with the backing of Buckingham Palace, the White House, and Tel Aviv behind him” (Peter Phillips 2006).

Adam Jones (2006) has written that “It is often easier for colonizers [or neo-colonizers] to secure the allegiance of a minority, which recognizes that its survival may depend on bonds with the imperial authority”. Yoweri Museveni fitted that definition.

With their help, Museveni launched the guerrilla war in 1981 that brought him to power in 1986. After coming to power Museveni helped Kagame to capture power in Rwanda in 1994 overthrowing a Hutu-led government.

Museveni then started talking against the balkanization of Africa and began promoting the expansion of the East African Community and the creation of East African Federation.

According to Pierre Gourou, “In the months following Museveni’s visit to Rwanda [in August 1995], there were numerous reports that the two countries had significantly increased their military cooperation. Although Uganda has rejected these allegations and asserted that there is no military alliance between the two countries, many observers remained convinced that President Museveni is seeking to impose stability on the central African region by supporting the Tutsi, not only in Rwanda but also in Burundi” (Europa Africa South of the Sahara 1999). Many believe Museveni is Tutsi. In 1996, Buyoya, a Tutsi soldier came to power in Burundi through a military coup against a Hutu-led government.

Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda hiding behind Kabila I invaded then Zaire and toppled Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 increasing Tutsi influence tremendously in Zaire renamed DRC after the fall of Mobutu. Attempts in 1998/99 to topple Kabila because he kicked Tutsi out of his government backfired because Kabila I got military assistance from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe in part because DRC is a member of the Southern African Community. Rebel General Nkunda, a Tutsi, with backing from Rwanda and Uganda declared that his goal was to topple the government in Kinshasa and replace it with a Tutsi-led one.

Sensing that his project was on solid ground, Museveni began to talk about a Tutsi Empire.

According to Joseph Were “Critics [of Museveni until then rather popular] say his problem began when he dreamt of a Tutsi empire … The donor mood changed, poverty increased and calls for reform [in Uganda] from the public increased” (Business in Africa April 2001).

While in Burundi, DRC and Rwanda on a mission already mentioned above, discussions about Tutsi Empire came up. The Congolese made it clear that an attempt to include DRC in that project will be resisted. On this point, the Congolese spoke with one voice. I checked with Burundians and Rwandese and none denied the existence of a Tutsi Empire project. This is what I reported in my article mentioned above to alert Ugandans and others about the idea of a Tutsi empire in the Great Lakes Region.

If this additional information is not adequate, Ms. Kesaasi should undertake her own research to confirm or reject that such an idea exists. What she cannot do is just to dismiss it out of hand.