In 1899, the first Europeans arrived in East Africa, and Ruanda-Urundi (now the countries of Rwanda and Burundi) was under the rule of the Germans. After World War I, the land was given to Belgium. Over the next 40 years, Belgians ruled the land and dismantled the previous systems and class relations that existed. What was previously a fluid and symbiotic relationship between the Tutsi and Hutu classes, became a rigid class system and exploitation of the Hutu people as a cash crop industry developed. This class divide furthered and intensified in 1933, when the Belgians instituted national ethnic identification. Those who had ten cows or more who officially registered as Tutsi, while those with less than ten cows were registered as Hutu. This laid the foundation for discriminatory practices that created the ethnic tensions that would permeate the history of Rwanda.
Initially, the Belgians identified with the ruling Tutsi class and encouraged discrimination against the Hutus within the educational and economic spheres. However, once the ruling Tutsis began to demand independence from Belgium, the colonial power quickly turned it’s support to the discriminated Hutu people, replacing Tutsis in power with Hutu elite. In 1959, the Belgians provided support to Hutus for the first mass Tutsi killings. In 1962, formal independence from Belgium and separation from Burundi was granted, thus the independent nation of Rwanda was formed.