Many Tutsis Are Strangers in Their Own Homeland

Most of Rwanda’s new Tutsis hardly know the country they call their homeland.

After Hutus first seized power in Rwanda during the early 1960s amid the region’s transition to independence (in Burundi, the Tutsis never lost power), more than 150,000 Tutsis fled to Uganda and other countries. There they eventually grew to more than 1 million.

Minorities in foreign lands, they were made scapegoats by dictators including Uganda’s Milton Obote and Idi Amin. That led many Tutsis to join forces with Ugandan guerrillas led by Yoweri Museveni, who seized power there in 1986.

Some Tutsis, including Paul Kagame, the leader of Rwanda’s new army, and Kayizali Caesar, one of his most respected field commanders, served as senior officers in Museveni’s army.

In October 1990, after almost 30 years in exile, both men returned to Rwanda, leading an invasion force of Tutsi guerrillas armed with Ugandan weapons. They won their battle in July 1994.

Caesar is now the field commander for southern Rwanda, bordering volatile Burundi and anarchical Zaire. His enemies are the Rwandan Hutu rebels who operate among 1.7 million Hutu refugees throughout the region, about one-fourth of Rwanda’s pre-genocide Hutu population, who two years ago fled the country in the face of advancing Tutsi fighters.

The rebel leaders are the same men who during the genocide encouraged Hutus to put aside their differences and exterminate the “cockroaches” (Tutsis).