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Hutu People

Updated on October 5, 2014

This article is about the Hutu people for the letter H of the A to Z African People Series.

Hutu People
Hutu People

Who are the members of the Hutu?

The Hutu are also called Bahutu, Wahutu or Abahutu.The Hutu and the Tutsi have intermarried and they speak the same language. According to historical, linguistic, and cultural definitions of ethnicity; I read that the Hutu and Tutsi are not distinct groups; I do not understand why this is, since "ethnicity" is defined as: Identity with, or membership in a particular racial, national, or cultural group, and observance of that group's customs, beliefs, and language. Even though they share many cultural practices, violent civil conflicts have polarized them. Based on history records,the most important difference between the Hutu and the Tutsi have been toward their occupations and political backgrounds. Traditionally the Hutu have identified themselves as agriculture people, at the same time the Tutsi were the cattle-owning political elite.


Where are they located?

The Hutu and the Tutsi are groups living primarily in east-central Africa in:

  • Rwanda (a small Central African country bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
  • Burundi (a small country located between East and Central Africa, bordered by Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania).

In 1972 thousands fled into Burundi, then when civil war erupted in Rwanda in 1994, millions of Hutu and Tutsi fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries. They started returning in 1996. Most reference sources estimate that both countries have a national population of approximately:

  • 85% Hutu
  • 14% Tutsi
  • 1% Twa (commonly refereed to as "pygmies")


How do they live?

Almost all Rwandans and Burundians live in rural areas. Traditional Hutu houses are huts shaped like beehives; made from wood, straw, and reeds. Modern houses have been made with modern materials.

Marriages are legal when the man's family pays (with cattle, goats, and beer) to the bride's family. The bride's body is covered with herbs and milk to make pure the wedding ceremony.

How do they communicate?

The Hutu people speak: Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, French and Swahili. 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.

Greetings of the Hutu are:

  • Morning: Warumutse ho? The answer is: "Waaramutse"
  • Afternoon: Wiiriwe ho? The answer is: "Wiiriwe"

How do they survive?

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


What characteristics define their diversity?

  • 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.
  • Christianity is their main religion, combined with traditional beliefs.
  • Peace Education is a class in Burundi that takes Hutu and Tutsi students through principles for working together, including working with love, peace, and joy.
  • The Hutu observe the Rwandan and Burundian independence days: May Day (May 1), New Year's Day (January 1), and the major Christian holidays.
  • 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.
  • 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.


This is my seventh hub of the series on African people. I have had quite a long trip searching, finding, exploring and living what I have not lived physically, but in emotions and in spirit, it captures more and more of my human appetite to know about the land I want to live in. I am seeing my life as in a mirror; all the worries I have had will never be called worries or problems compared to what others have and are struggling with. I just can not imagine what it is to hear steps of soldiers waking me up and seeing my home on fire, and my family being killed by my own people... Could you?

I once saw the trailer of the video below, but as I was in the process of writing this article, I found out that it was about the same people I just presented ...the Hutu people. Watch and seek in your heart if it is possible to do something in the behalf of those who suffer...first yourself, than your family, as you keep stretching out to your neighbors, without forgetting the rest.

Blessings to all!

© Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill

© 2012 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill


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    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      7 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      shiningirisheyes thanks, it makes me happy to know you have been around. As I write this series the more Africa grows in me.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      7 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      hockey8mn your comment draws a smile on my heart. I encourage to see the movie that I posted the trailer "Hotel Rwanda". If reading about their life change something in me and watching the movie moved me...just imagine what these people have lived.

    • Lastheart profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      7 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Froggy213 thanks for being here.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      7 years ago from Upstate, New York

      You have done another fine job debuting a fine colorful African culture I had never known until reading this.

    • hockey8mn profile image


      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      There is always one more culture you have never heard about. I learned that quickly when I started reading this series. Great hub. Voted up and interesting.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 

      7 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      Another well written African hub--good job honey!


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