23 JULY 1954, Page 9

Ruanda —Burundi

By THOMAS HODGKIN .,, Mr. Hodgkin, who is travelling across Africa, and sending articles to the Spectator as he goes, recently passed the southern (prning-point of his journey—Elisabethville in the Belgian Congo. He is now making his way northward through Uganda and Abyssinia to the Sudan. .

Bukavu, Belgian Congo THE Hotel Paguidas at Usumbura has a map of Ruanda- Urundi hanging on the wall, full of useful, if odd, information: ' Nvengwe River: caves full of bat guano; lions rather troublesome." Shaky cable-ferry over 200-foot ever, Very dangerous approaches. It takes hours to muster the crew." Kayanza: residence of chief Baranianka, who Speaks French perfectly, and is the most important chief in Urundi. His son, Joseph Biroli, studied at Antwerp University." Large tree full of beehives in the centre of the road." Kigali: in this region Natives salute by making "Long Noses" and a slight genuflexion.'

Usumbura itself is one of these villes champignons, with a rapidly developing industry (a brewery, texiile and blanket factories, engineering workshops), the centre for procesSing and shipping Ruanda-Urundi's main export crop—coffee. I arrived just in time for an exhibition of children's work in the admirable new primary school for Asians. It might have been any progressive school in Belgium—or England. On the mountain side above the town the new Inter-racial Secondary School is being built, under the direction of a White Father in a red tarboosh.

Ruanda and Urundi: one must not confuse the two. Never Write, or say, ' Ruandaurundi ' (as bad as Czechoslovakia); or, even worse, just 'Ruanda.' There are two kingdoms, each With its own hereditary Mwami; its hierarchy of chiefs—chiefs of provinces, chiefs of hills, chiefs of spurs; its distinct history, traditions, and language. This lesson was taught me by a Murundi, an abb4 who, like me, had the good luck to turn up at tlie Bukeye mission in time for dinner on the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul; a grand festal dinner of five courses, beginning with hors d'a.uvre and ending with coffee cake. The differences between the Banyarwanda and Barundi, the abbe explained, are as marked and important as the differences between Englishmen and Scotsmen. Before the European occupation the kingdoms were as separate as England and Scotland before the Union, and as frequently at war. The word 'Urundi' anyway is a solecism. One should speak rather of 'Ruanda-Burundi.' I promised to try to encourage this usage.

Still, there are resemblances between these two kingdoms, lying along the watershed between the Congo and Nile river Systems. First, the great density of population: 184 to the Square mile; as much as 500 in some regions. Second, the fact that people don't live in villages, but in isolated huts (round, as a rule, except where the Administration has induced them to build rectangles) half hidden in banana plantations. One travels through these magnificent mountains, ridge behind ridge, disappearing into the midst, and sees every steep hillside for miles around, terraced, cultivated, dotted with tiny farms. Third, there is the Platonic social.system, based on the pre- dominance of the Batutsi leisure class-10 per cent. or so of the population—who came originally from the north-east, and established their ascendancy over the Bahutu—the other 90 per cent.—not so much by military force as by their Political finesse, their belief in the virtue of making other People work for them, and their monopolistic control of cattle. Since cattle were the basis of all value, and the Batutsi owned all the cattle, the Bahutu were compelled to give labour service to their Batutsi patrons, in return for protection against spoliation by other Batutsi and limited use of cattle. And below the Bahutu, who produced the food surplus to main- tain the Batutsi, there is also a third submerged class of a few thousand Batwa, pygmies, who performed the most menial tasks and provided clowns for the Court.

As one wonld expect, the energetic bourgeois Belgians are changing, or trying hard to change, all this. But even for them the problems are formidable. Whereas the Congo is an extremely profitable concern, Ruanda-Urundi is economically a liability. The central fact is the pressure of people on land, and cattle on pasture. And, according to official estimates, the existing population of four million is likely to double itself in less than forty years. This is the kind of situation, as the Belgians recognise, which can give rise to explosions. Various remedies are being attempted. But all are in fact tied up with the problem of social and political reform. So long as the Bahutu remain partly villeins, and under-nourished, their productivity is low. So long as they are tied to their Batutsi patrons, and regarded by them as a source of income, there are resistances to emigration. So long as cattle are divine they are not a commodity.

The traditional social order is exposed to shocks from many directions. Young men come back from working in the Katanga or Uganda with new ideas about liberty. Bahutu labour service has been commuted into money payments; and the institution known as ubuhake—the client-patron relation- ship based on the Batutsi cattle monopoly—is gradually giving way to a partition of cattle between patron and client. Most interesting of all : during the past couple of years the structure of local government has been reformed.

However, as in Northern Nigeria, it is possible to 'democratise' political institutions without having much immediate effect on the actual distribution of power. In Ruanda particularly, in the recent elections, though educated Bahutu were returned at the lower levels, at the higher levels the tendency was to vote back the old ruling-class. And in the Conseil Superieur du Pays, the highest authority, only one member out of thirty-two is an acknowledged Muhutu. While, as in Plato's Republic, an occasional Muhutu can climb the social ladder and gain admission to the Batutsi elite, the social conflict is still important.

It is the theme of a three-act play, L'Optimiste, written in French by a young Muhutu, M. was told is to be acted before the United Nations visiting mission later this month. The play describes the troubles of a twenty-year-old Muhutu agricultural assistant, Jules, who loves a Mututsi girl, Monica: she, in order to be on an intellectual level with her lover, is attending the girls' boarding. school. Jules's father. Joseph, the Optimist, is a successful businessman who runs a cabaret (not as exciting as it sounds) and has Wellsian principles; these conflict both with his ubuhake relationship with his hard Mututsi patron (and without cattle no bride-price), and with his inherited Muhutu sense of inferiority. So he opposes the match. Martin, Monica's father, is a tough High Tory Mututsi of the old school, who regards it as unthinkable that his daughter should marry a vulgar upstart Muhutu; and his opposition is even more violent. When a liberal Mututsi relative reminds Martin that times are changing, and he must accept the fact of social evolution, he simply repeats several times his favourite principle—' A burs revolution.' However, the play follows the classical model of comedy, and all comes right. External events change Martin's attitude. He learns by hard experience that the Batutsi cannot get on without the Bahutu—the productive element in society. And we are left with the impression that the Optimist is justified; that the marriage of Jules and Monica symbolises the future unity of the Banyarwanda nation—in which Batutsi will be no longer arrogant and idle, nor Bahutu servile and politically negligible.