LOCATION: Rwanda; Burundi

POPULATION: Approximately 10 million

LANGUAGE: Kinyarwanda; Kirundi; French; Swahili

RELIGION: Christianity combined with traditional beliefs


The word Hutu is the name for the majority of people who live in the countries of Rwanda and Burundi. The Hutu have much in common with the other peoples of these countries, the Tutsi and the Twa. All three groups speak the same Bantu language.

Social relations in Rwanda and Burundi were affected by European rule. Both countries were European colonies between 1890 and 1962. The Germans ruled from 1890 until the end of World War I (1914–18). They favored the upper-class Tutsi. The Belgians who followed the Germans also favored the Tutsi at first. In the 1950s, however, they supported Hutu leaders because the Tutsi were seeking independence.

Rwanda and Burundi took very different paths to independence in 1962. In Rwanda, Hutu leaders overthrew the mwami ( the Tutsi king) and seized power by force. In Burundi, the change to independence was more peaceful. The mwami helped the Tutsi and Hutu reach an agreement. However, the peace did not last. The Hutu tried to gain power by force, and they were defeated.

At the time of independence, opposite sides controlled the two countries. Burundi is controlled by a branch of the Tutsi. In Rwanda, the Hutu ruled until 1994. Then Tutsi refugees from Uganda invaded the country. The government was overthrown and thousands of Hutu fled to neighboring countries. Many have returned since 1996.


Rwanda and Burundi are mountainous countries in east-central Africa. They share a common border. Their total combined area is roughly 20,900 square miles (54,100 square kilometers)—about the combined size of the states of Maryland and New Jersey.

The combined Hutu population of Rwanda and Burundi was about 13 million in 1994. Many Hutu have left the two countries in recent decades. Thousands fled Burundi in 1972. Hundreds of thousands fled Rwanda in 1994. Many ended up living in refugee camps in neighboring countries. They started returning in 1996.


The Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa all speak the same Central Bantu language. It is called Kinyarwanda in Rwanda and Kirundi in Burundi. The two versions differ slightly in pronunciation. Some words are different, also.

Many Rwandans and Burundians speak French and have French first names. Swahili is also spoken, especially along the Tanzanian border and in the cities.

The Rwandans and Burundians have long names with clear meanings. For example, the name Mutarambirwa means "the one who never gets tired."


The Hutu tell proverbs, folktales, riddles, and myths. Samadari is a popular folk hero. He broke the rules everyone else had to follow. He could make fun of the rich and powerful and insult the wealthy cattle owners.


Today most people in Rwanda and Burundi are Christians. However, they have kept some of their ancient beliefs. The ancient Hutu god, Imaana , had many human qualities. Imaana meant well, but he was distant from the people.

The abazima were the spirits of the ancestors. They could become angry and bring bad luck to the living. Gifts were offered to the abazima for protection. People contacted them through fortune-tellers.


The Hutu observe the Rwandan and Burundian independence days, May Day (May 1), New Year's Day (January 1), and the major Christian holidays.


When a baby is born, the baby and mother stay alone in their house for seven days. A naming ceremony is held on the seventh day. Children who live nearby take part, and food is served.

Marriages are legal when the man's family pays the bride wealth to the woman's family. It is paid in cattle, goats, and beer. For the ceremony, the bride's body is covered with herbs and milk to make it pure.

Death is marked by prayers, speeches, and rituals. Close family members do not take part in certain activities. After a death, they do not work in the fields or have sexual relations during the period of mourning. When the family declares that the mourning period is over, they hold a ritual feast.


The Hutu have different greetings for morning, afternoon, and evening. The morning greeting— Warumutse ho?— is answered with Waaramutse. The afternoon greeting— Wiiriwe ho?— is answered with Wiiriwe.

Hutu young people meet each other through group activities such as dances and church events. Western-style dating is practiced by wealthier Hutu in the cities.


Almost all Rwandans and Burundians live in rural areas. Traditional Hutu houses are huts made from wood, reeds, and straw and are shaped like beehives. High hedges serve as fences. In recent years, modern houses have been built with modern materials.


Women take care of the home. They also plant, hoe, and weed the crops. Men and boys look after the livestock and clear the fields to prepare them for planting.

In the past, the families of the bride and groom decided all marriages. These days most young people choose the person they want to marry.

Marriages between Hutu and Tutsis have always been rare, although Hutu men were allowed to court Tutsi women. Such marriages occur more often today, but they are still uncommon.


In the past, Hutus wore skirts of cloth made from tree bark, and cloaks made of animal hides. These have long been replaced by Western-style clothing. However, handmade beaded necklaces and bracelets are still worn.

12 • FOOD

The staple foods of the Hutu include beans, corn, millet, sorghum, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Milk and beef are important foods. Goat meat and goat milk are eaten by people of low social status. Meals are often planned around a family's work schedule.

An alcoholic drink made from bananas and sorghum grain is saved for special occasions.


Only about half the people in Rwanda and Burundi can read and write in their native language. Even fewer can read and write French. There are schools for teachers and at least one university in each country. Well-educated persons speak French. Rwanda's educational system was disrupted by the 1994 conflict.


Music, dancing, and drumming are important parts of rural life. Men and women have different dances. The dancers move their arms and bodies quickly. They also stomp their feet in time to the music. People sing alone (solo) or in a chorus. There are many different kinds of songs. They include hunting songs, lullabies, and songs in praise of cattle ( ibicuba ).

Hutu literature consists of myths, legends, and praise poetry.


Most Hutu have always been farmers. Raising and herding cattle are ranked more highly than raising crops.


Both young people and adults enjoy a game called igisoro (or called mancala in other parts of Africa). Beans are placed in holes in a wooden board. The players line up their own pieces in rows and try to capture those of their opponent.

The main spectator sport in Rwanda and Burundi is soccer.


Movie theaters in the capitals of Rwanda and Burundi show current European and American films.


Hutu crafts include pottery, woodwork, jewelry, metal work, and basket weaving.


Thousands of Hutu civilians fled from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1994. In 1996 they were caught up in a civil war in that country. Many returned to Rwanda.


Lemarchand, Rene. Burundi: Ethnocide as Discourse and Practice . New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Malkki, Liisa H. Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Twagilimana, Aimable. Hutu and Tutsi. Heritage Library of African Peoples. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1998.


Weiner, Neil. Background Briefing: Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi. [Online] Available , 1994.

World Travel Guide. Rwanda. [Online] Available , 1998.

Also read article about Hutu from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

kit kat bar
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 22, 2008 @ 4:16 pm
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 31, 2008 @ 11:11 am
Thank you so much. this was a great help for a school project! thank you so much!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 21, 2008 @ 10:10 am
wonderfulit had everything i needed but current issues. just great though.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 26, 2008 @ 9:21 pm
this site had almost everything i needed for my school project. Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you so much (now i need to find government)
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 16, 2008 @ 5:05 am
I seems like it helped with all of our projects. Thanks for writing it, it gave me plenty of data for my project.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 9, 2008 @ 4:16 pm
Thanks so much for all your information. It's so easy to understand and a lot better than what wikipedia had to offer on African tribes.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 23, 2009 @ 12:12 pm
this website is GREAT!!! This website takes some of the stress off from doing a project and better than many others i've come across. THANKS A LOT!!!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 24, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
Good job with this research!
It was a good source for research in school.
dont worry i didnt playgirize
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 12, 2009 @ 9:21 pm
Very clear and informative, just what I was looking for!
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 10, 2009 @ 9:09 am
Very very helpful for my paper on Rwandan Genocide. Thank you so much.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 29, 2009 @ 9:09 am
Retracing my roots just gets started. The article at least gave me a starting point from which to rally efforts to visit Rwanda where my forefathers were born, grew and died. In a nutshell insightful article.

Sebastian Eckert
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 25, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
Good Website I really thought it helped me learn better about the different societys
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 11, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
"wht good memories i get being reading this web information. Iam proud to be a Rwandese, may God the creator bring happiness and joy Rwnda had like before.. AMEN...
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 6, 2010 @ 10:22 pm
I looked up the Hutu language because I have just sponsored a child from Uganda. I chose a child from this region because of what I heard about Darfur five years ago. I cannot believe I waited so long to act...shame on me.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 13, 2010 @ 10:22 pm
this is so cool becouse you get info about stuff you need to learn about. :-)
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 14, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
Thank you SO much this website was a HUMONGOUS help for a school project. This website helped me (by far) the most out of any other website i went to. Thank you SO much!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 5, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
Thank-You,i understand things a lot better. African culture is very imprtnt for me right now. i wanted to know more about it, an this is the website to go to.!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 14, 2011 @ 8:08 am
thanx it helped a lot i really liked how it tells me all the cultures and it also helped me with my project in school
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 17, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
AWESOME!GOOD HELP ON SCHOOL PROJECT. Thanks for this great website where you can learn cool things about cultures.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 26, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
thanks this really helped my report about the Hutu
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 3, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
Ton of help for school!! Thank you!!I needed it for a school project and it was one of the most helpful sites.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 4, 2012 @ 4:16 pm
Thanks so much!!! this helped a lot on a school paper, and had all the info i needed.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 22, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
Thank you I just had my DNA tested and the test revealed that my DNA matches people in Rwanda. However it did not break down the tribe so I guess I am either Hutu, Tutsi or Twa. I just wanted to read up on the country and this was very insightful.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 19, 2012 @ 10:10 am
Hey i really like this website it helped me on my social project
Shyna Marek
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
this information is very important it helped alot i feel that i will pass my project due to this web site :)
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 4, 2012 @ 5:05 am
Thanks to you because i am in a hurry and i found this information, thanks you, you saved my life!!!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 5, 2012 @ 4:04 am
Hi, can anyone provide me with 'The Hutu Ten Commandments', I cannot find it anywhere, Thank you
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 5, 2013 @ 10:10 am
I love Hutus, they are amazing and I wish to become one! Where did they first originate from?
Matilda Giampietro
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 23, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
Thank you for the information on this website. I am interested in that fact that there is not much information about Tutsi customs, or the smaller minority, the Twa. Almost all of what is here is about Hutu customs.
I would like to know more about Tutsi and Twa. Many of the people writing comments mention that they are using this for school projects. It seems important to me to include Tutsi information here as well as Hutu.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 28, 2013 @ 12:00 am
Thank you very much. I love this information. very helpful.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 16, 2015 @ 5:17 pm
This article is amazing. It has helped me so much do a research paper for a play I am participating in. Plus, I find it more reliable than Wikipedia, or some other sites. Thank you to whoever took their time to write the article. I hope you know how much you have helped me and I believe other people too. God bless you.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 10, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
This article was a huge help thank you. It was great for a school project.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 29, 2016 @ 11:11 am
This article was such a big help as well as the one about the Tutsi. Thank you! It helped me do research for a paper on the Rwandan Genocide and who the two tribes are.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 6, 2017 @ 7:07 am
it was ok but it would be a little bit better if you added there traditions, political government, but other than that it was pretty good
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 15, 2018 @ 3:03 am
The article is biased guys. When they say that Hutu seized power by force in Rwanda in 1950s, that's not true. There happened a referendum to abolish the Monarchy and adopt a Republic-like style governance, with democratic processes where Rwandans had to vote to elect their leaders. When the elections came, the Hutu won (probably because of their majority by that time) but many Tutsis also supported the Republic over the Monarchy. However, the election losers mainly Tutsi Monarchists refused to recognize the Republic and rebelled. Most chose to flee to neighboring countries rather than living without their Kingdom. Hutu people are Bantu People of the Central, East, South and Ouest of Africa. They originated in heart of Africa. Hutu means Bantu which means Abantu in Kinyarwanda, MEN in English, HOMES in French. Tutsis are not spoken very much because when they came in Rwanda-Urundi, they adopted the way of life of Hutu who stole the way of life of Twa people and revolutionized it by introducing farming activities which were non-existent before Hutu arrival from mainly Central African countries. Tutsi were also interested in farming activities mainly looking after cows. However, the Tutsi were very much interested in leadership and running both countries (Rwanda and Burundi). They overthrown almost all Hutu small Kingdoms except some in North of Rwanda.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 15, 2018 @ 3:03 am
The history is too long between Hutus and Tutsi as they kept hunting each all the time. But most leaders from Kingdoms to the Republic were killed by Tutsis. For example, if the Tutsis did not like their own King, they could kill him and replace him with a young one or another one of their choice. They used lies saying that a King or a Queen is born with a FRUIT (imbuto/ubwiru) to rule. In other words, they always lied that to be a Kind or a Queen, you have to have born with something like fruits in your hand which is not possible. So to achieve this, they used a trick...if a boy is born, they would put a fruit in his hand and then declare that a child was born with fruit therefore is a king.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 3, 2019 @ 10:10 am
This was just a great reading helped me in my high school class. Hope to use it again some day.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 15, 2020 @ 2:14 pm
this is very helpful but the introduction is rather confusing
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 2, 2020 @ 9:09 am
Thank you I was in a big jam. I kept getting rwanda in my google searches

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: