Whilst there is some debate on the differences between colonialism, imperialism and ‘informal empire’, this article is more concerned with the period of ‘high’ imperialism in Africa from the 1880s - more commonly known as the scramble for Africa. Unlike earlier models of colonialism, high imperialism was more concerned with gaining spheres of influence. These spheres were gained through treaties, local agreements or by force if necessary. This facilitated the development of new trade networks to offload the surplus of production and to procure rights of access to raw resources. The availability of cheap labour was exploited, strategic land and maritime locations were acquired and the national prestige of the imperial power became elevated. The rhetoric to ‘stamp out the evil’ of slavery and slave-trading and the mantra proclaiming a ‘civilising mission’ on the ‘Dark Continent’ were also functional aspects of European imperialism. However, this article is primarily concerned with the process and experience of decolonisation in Africa.
For the purpose of this article, the neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Uganda in East Africa have been chosen as case-studies. Both countries experienced different European imperialist influences as well as different decolonisation processes. Moreover, in post-independence both countries developed a saliency of indelible conflict. Conflict in both Rwanda and Uganda was not only an outcome of colonial legacies, but was also a consequence of historical circumstances and opportunistic power struggles. For this reason, this article will briefly examine the pre-colonial history of both Rwanda and Uganda, respectively. Subsequently, the dynamics of imperialism will be explored in Rwanda under Belgian influence and Uganda under British influence. The affinity between self-determination and African liberation will then be discussed. The process and experience of decolonisation in both Rwanda and Uganda will be compared and contrasted, as will the final outcome of independence for both. Finally this article will determine how European imperialist influences contributed to the ensuing violence which erupted in both countries in post-independence.
Prior to a European presence, the Tutsi’s and Hutu’s were not identifiable through religion or language, and intermarriage was not uncommon. The population was divided as Hutu 85%, Tutsi 10-15% and Twa, less than 1%. Most commentators agree that the pgymoid Twa were present in the region of modern day Rwanda before the Bantu (Hutu). The Bantu migrants arrived circa the mid-thirteenth century and were an arable farming people. From the fourteenth-century, there was a gradual migration of Tutsi pastoralists to the region. The origins of the Tutsis are contested, with some placing them as a Cushite people from south Ethiopia, or possibly of Nilotic origin. Nonetheless, the Tutsis became noted as tall pastoralists who ‘used their ownership of cattle [and]...