Cultural Diversity of Rwanda

Cultural Diversity of Rwanda

The largest ethnic groups in Rwanda are the Hutus (about 85% of the population), the Tutsis (14%), and the Twa (1%). Starting with the Tutsi feudal monarchy rule of the Tenth century, the Hutus were a subjugated social group. It was not until Belgian colonization that the tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis became focused on race, the Belgians propagating the myth that Tutsis were the superior ethnicity. The resulting tensions would eventually foster the slaughtering of Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide. Since then, government policy has changed to recognize one main ethnicity: "Rwandan".

In comparison to the Hutu, the Tutsi have three times as much genetic influence from Nilo-Saharan populations (14.9% B) as the Hutu (4.3% B)


Missionaries have converted many Rwandans to Christianity since the colonial era (1890–1962). Today about 60 percent of Rwandans are Roman Catholics. Another 20–30 percent are Protestants. There is also a small Muslim (followers of Islam) minority and some followers of the Baha'i faith.

Rwandans often combine native religions with Christianity. They believe that Imaana, their traditional god, is well-meaning but distant. Imaana is most often contacted through the spirits of deceased family members.


Rwandan cuisine is based on local staple foods produced by the traditional subsistence agriculture. Historically, it has varied among the country's different ethnic groups. Rwandan staples include bananas, plantains (known as ibitoke), pulses, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava (manioc). Many Rwandans do not eat meat more than a few times a month. For those who live near lakes and have access to fish, tilapia is popular.

The potato, thought to have been introduced to Rwanda by German and Belgian colonialists, is now also very popular. Ugali (or bugali) is a paste made from cassava or maize and water, to form a porridge-like consistency that is eaten throughout East Africa. Isombe is made from mashed cassava leaves and served with dried fish.

Lunch is usually a buffet known as melange, consisting of the above staples and possibly meat. Brochette is the most popular food when eating out in the evening, usually made from goat, but sometimes tripe, beef, pork or fish. In rural areas, many bars have a brochette seller responsible for tending and slaughtering the goats, skewering and barbecuing the meat, and serving it with grilled bananas.

Milk, particularly in a fermented form called ikivuguto, is a common drink throughout the country. Other drinks include a traditional beer called urwagwa, made from sorghum or bananas, which features in traditional rituals and ceremonies. Commercial beers brewed in Rwanda include Primus, Mützig, and Amstel.


Kinyarwanda is the first language of almost the entire population of Rwanda. It, French, and English are the official languages of the country. Rwandan Sign Language is used by the educated deaf population.

Since the 1994 genocide, the complications of relations with the current French government, the return of numerous Tutsi refugees who went to Uganda (anglophone), and also the intervention of the United States, English has been used by more of the population and administration.

In 2008 the government changed the medium of education from French to English. Swahili is used by some people, in commerce, and as a subject in schools.


The traditional clothing style is called ‘Mushanana’consists of a floor-length skirt with a sash draped over one shoulder, worn over a tank top or bustier. A traditional hairstyle consists of a bun decorated with beads and tied in place by two ribbons that pass across the forehead and over the bun, crossing above the ear. A comb is placed above one ear beneath the crossing point of the ribbons. This costume is often worn by female dancers in Intore dance troupes. It is no longer common daily wear but may be worn at weddings, church services and other formal events. A beaded necklace may be worn with this outfit, particularly during weddings or by the musicians during traditional dance performances. Male dancers may wear a wrapped skirt without a shirt; they wear beaded straps that cross over the chest.

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