Independence Day in Rwanda Date in the current year: July 1, 2024

Independence Day in Rwanda Rwanda Independence Day is celebrated on July 1 every year. It was established to commemorate the independence of Rwanda from Belgium in 1962.

The Republic of Rwanda is a small country in Central and East Africa. It is believed that the area was first inhabited shortly after the last ice age. Hundreds of years ago, it was inhabited by a Bantu-speaking group, now known as the Hutu. Another ethic group that lived there was the Twa, a pygmy people. Around the 15th century, the Tutsi people migrated to the territory of modern Rwanda and formed a distinct ethnic group.

Upon their arrival, the Tutsi dominated the other two peoples and formed a three-cased society. The Tutsi were the ruling caste, the Hutu comprised the bulk of the population, and the Twa were a small minority at the bottom of the social ladder. Some time later, one of the local chiefdoms managed to annex neighboring territories and established the Kingdom of Rwanda.

The colonization of the African Great Lakes region, which Rwanda is part of, began relatively late. Following the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, which regulated European colonization of Africa, Rwanda was given to Germany in exchange for giving Uganda to the United Kingdom. The territory of the Kingdom of Rwanda and a group of smaller neighboring kingdoms were incorporated into German East Africa. For the most part, the Germans didn’t have much actual control in the region and heavily relied on the indigenous government, supporting and encouraging the Tutsi as the ruling class.

After its defeat in World War I, Germany lost its overseas colonies. Its African colonies were divided between the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Portugal, and the Union of South Africa. As a result, Rwanda became part of Ruanda-Urundi, a Belgian-controlled mandate under the League of Nations. Belgium changed the administrative structure of Rwanda and introduced scaled projects of education, public works, health and agricultural supervision in an attempt to make the colony profitable.

Following World War II and the replacement of the League of Nations by the United Nations, Ruanda-Urundi became a UN trust territory administered by Belgium. As anti-colonial sentiment began to rise throughout Africa, the Hutu founded an emancipation movement, striving for independence from both Belgium and the Tutsi ruling class.

The tension between the two ethnic and social groups grew, leading to the Rwandan Revolution of 1959. About 150,000 Tutsis were expelled from Rwanda, and the Hutu became the ruling class. In the wake of the revolution, Belgium agreed to hold democratic municipal elections. After a referendum and parliamentary elections held in 1961, Rwanda became a republic. It was granted full independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962.

Unlike some other African states, Rwanda had a long and difficult road to independence, accompanied by much social unrest and racial tensions. Some Rwandans believe that their country has never been fully independent, with its corruption and lack of functional democracy.

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