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Ethnic Groups Of Rwanda[]

Rwanda has worked hard to move forward in the wake of the horrific genocide that plagued the country in 1994.

The Republic of Rwanda is located in Central and East Africa in the Africa Great Lakes Region. The geography of Rwanda is dominated by mountains and Savanna with several lakes spread throughout the country. Rwanda has an estimated population of 11.2 million with 43% of the population aged 15 years and below. Kinyarwanda is the first language for the majority of Rwandans and also the national language while English and French are the official languages. There are three main ethnic groups in Rwanda. These ethnic groups include;

The Three Major Ethnic Groups Of Rwanda


Hutu is an ethnic group found in the African Great Lakes regions in Rwanda, Burundi, and some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hutu are the ethnic majority in Rwanda and Burundi. According to the 2015 census, 84% of the Rwandese population is Hutu. The Hutu immigrated into the Great Lakes region from the great Bantu expansion in West Africa. The Hutu are almost similar to the Tutsi who are also an ethnic majority in Rwanda. The two tribes share a common ancestry or origin. The Hutu people speak Rwanda-Bundu as their native language. Rwanda-Bundu is divided into two dialects; Kinyarwanda and Kirundi which are the official languages of Rwanda and Burundi respectively. Some of the Hutus also speak French. In the post-colonial era, the transfer of power from the minority Tutsi to the Hutu led to the Hutu violence against the Tutsi with thousands of Tutsi killed and several displaced to other countries in what has been described as the deadliest genocide in the history of Africa.


The Tutsi are a sub-ethnic group of the Banyarwanda who are found primarily in Rwanda and Burundi. They are the second largest ethnic group in Rwanda accounting for 15% of the population. The Northern Tutsi residing in Rwanda are known as Ruguru while the Southerners living in Burundi are called Hima. The Tutsi have lived in the Rwanda for over 400 years and have intermarried with the Hutu. Before the arrival of the colonialist Rwanda was ruled by the Tutsi Monarchy. However, the Tutsi were replaced by the Hutu after the 1962 independence in anti-Tutsi violence. During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, an estimated one million people, largely Tutsi, were killed. The Tutsi’s native language is the Rwanda-Rundi which is subdivided into Kinyarwanda and Kirundi. Many Tutsi also speak French as a second or third language.


Twa is the longest surviving people of the Great Lakes region currently living as Bantu caste in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Twa are an ethnic minority in Rwanda accounting for only 1% of the population. They are semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers living in association with agricultural communities. The Twa arrived in Rwanda alongside the Hutu as distinct people and also mixed ancestry in the 15th century AD. The expansion of agriculture and increased logging has forced the Twa to leave the mountain forests for new homes. They have been marginalized with little access to basic amenities like schools. They continue to suffer discrimination and prejudice due to their pygmy ancestry.

Ethnic Identity of Rwandan Youth[]

Many young people in Rwanda are of mixed ethnicity due to the ongoing intermarriages, in particular between the Hutu and the Tutsi. These young people are confronted with many challenges and decisions with their background affecting their interactions and social identities. Intermarriage is encouraged in Rwanda to dilute ethnic purity and is seen as a way of preventing Genocide in the future.


What Languages Are Spoken In Rwanda?[]


Rwanda is a small landlocked country located in East Africa. Language is central to the culture and belief system of the Rwandese people. The people of Rwanda mainly speak three major languages: Kinyarwanda, French, and English. These three languages are also official. Interactions with other members of the East African community have led to the introduction of the Swahili language into the country, especially for trade purposes. The pre-colonial, colonial, postcolonial, as well as the post-genocide periods of the country have influenced the adoption and use of these languages.


Kinyarwanda is a Bantu ethnic language with more than 12 million speakers in various countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. In Rwanda, Kinyarwanda is an official language and the only ethnic language. Kinyarwanda is an ethnic language spoken by the three Rwandan ethnic groups: the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa people. The language developed as the cultural identity of these ethnic groups during the 15th century, following close interaction among the three. The language is a national language and the most widely spoken in the country, with about 93% of the population using the language. Being an official language, Kinyarwanda is used as a medium of instruction in Rwandan institutions, administration, in media, and commerce for daily business transactions.


Since Rwanda is a former Belgian colony, it adopted French as an official language. However, despite being the colonial language, only about 0.1% (mostly the educated) of the Rwandan population speak French. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 negatively affected the status of the language among the Rwandese people, leading to its slow replacement by English. The involvement of the French in the genocide triggered efforts by the Rwandese people to detach themselves completely from the French and francophone influences.


English is the third official language in Rwanda, spoken by about 0.2 % of the population. English became an official language in Rwanda in the late 20th century and was introduced in schools in 2008. The transition from French to English in Rwanda was triggered by the desire to break the influence of French and to align Rwanda with the East African community, where English is the official language. Furthermore, the use of English provides an economically viable option by increasing the number of foreign investors from English speaking countries. The language is currently used as the primary mode of instruction of Rwandese institutions.


The Rwandan government in February 2017 passed legislation making Swahili an official language in the country. The adoption of the language as an official language came following requests by the East African community for members to include Swahili as one of the official languages. Swahili is to be used in administrative functions, as well as in official documents. The language will also be adopted into the curriculum as a compulsory subject.

Significance of Languages Spoken in Rwanda

Besides serving the primary function of being a medium of communication between the residents of Rwanda, the languages spoken in the country also play other important roles. Language is used as the basic form of transmitting knowledge in Rwandese institutions of learning, therefore increasing the literacy rates. Language is also important in record keeping for administrative and commercial purposes. In Rwanda, the adoption and focus on some languages, such as English and Swahili, serve to promote the economy of the nation by improving trade and communication with other nations.