Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence

Rwanda and Burundi are two small neighboring countries in East-Central Africa that share the same ethnic composition: approximately 85-90 percent Hutu, 10-14 per- cent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa. Their climate, topography, population density (the highest and the second highest in Africa, respectively), predominantly agrarian econ- omy, religion, language, and history are also very similar. Most significant, they both have been theaters of massive violence between their main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi. Given these similarities, it is no surprise that most analysts approach mass violence in both countries in an almost identical manner. Kuper describes Rwanda and Burundi separately but treats them as examples of the same processes of polarization based on overlapping inequalities. Comparative political scientists almost always lump Rwanda and Burundi together. Gurr treats them both as “ethnoclass” conflicts; Harff categorizes them both as “politicides against politi- cally active communal groups”; and Stavenhagen treats them as resulting from the overlap of both socioeconomic and ethnic divisions.