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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 324
Khalid Medani

“Colonialism, Ethnicity, And Rural Political Protest” M. Catharine Newbury 1983 Rwanda and Zanzibar in Comparative Politics This article stresses the structural variables that contributed to ethnic violence in two African states, Rwanda and Zanzibar. The reassessment proposed here explores the relationship between the colonial state-building process and the emergence of a collective “ethnic” consciousness among subordinate groups in each state. On the eve of independence Rwanda and Zanzibar shared man apparent similarities. The political elites constituted highly privileged minorities favored by European colonial policy; in both states the end of colonial rule brought with it a period of violent social revolution. In this article ethnicity is seen as a dependent variable. The argument will be made that political centralization and changes in land tenure arrangements under colonial rule altered class relations and created new forms of ethnic cleavage in Rwanda and Zanzibar. The perspective reflected in this essay is based on the conclusion that ethnic groups are not “primordial” categories but groups based on cultural affinities that become self-conscious communities as a result of social and political changes. But unlike instrumentalist analyses in which leaders or elite groups are portrayed as the critical factors in the politicization of ethnicity, the discussion stresses the important role of non- elites in forging new forms of political identity. Colonialism and Political Centralization European colonialism in both Rwanda and Zanzibar introduced a system of dual colonialism. Through superior force, prestige, and wealth, the colonial powers persuaded and often coerced the incumbent elite (Arabs in Zanzibar, Tutsis in Rwanda) to serve as intermediaries for colonial administration. The Arab rulers of Zanzibar and the Tutsi rulers of Rwanda lost much of their autonomy; but they obtained new and more effective forms of power, which 1could be used to consolidate a position of superiority vis-à-vis the populations they ruled. The former sultanate of Zanzibar consists principally of two islands, Zanzibar th and Pemba, lying off the coast of East Africa. During the 19 century, large numbers of mainland African people were brought to Zanzibar as slaves. After the departure of the Portuguese in the 17 century, Zanzibar and Pemba were for many years under the nominal control of Arab governors. During the 19 th century, the sultan and his Arab followers gradually imposed control over the local rulers in Zanzibar and Pemba. The policy of appointment by the sultan became fully operative only during the time of formal British overrule (after 1890). During the colonial period, Rwanda was a centralized kingdom incorporating three major groups: the Tutsi (16%), the Hutu (83%), and the Twa (1%). Tutsi tended to be pastoralists, Hutu were more commonly agriculturists, and Twa were often hunters or potters. Unlike Unlike Zanzibar, which had experienced continuous European influence from the early 19 century, Rwanda entered into contact with Europeans only at the very end of the century. In 1916, Rwanda subsequently came under Belgian rule. Under European rule, the process of hierarchialization was intensified to serve the interests of colonial administration. It was a basic tenet of Belgian policy in Rwanda that Europeans should instruct local elites in how to govern effectively (actually to administer effectively) through a form of indirect rule. The impact of administrative changes in these two states was twofold. On the one hand, colonial rule placed new power resources of great magnitude in the hands of the administrative elite. On the other hand, the centralization of power greatly increased differentiation among social groups. Agrarian Change In the rural areas of Rwanda and Zanzibar control over land is an important indicator of wealth and also of power. In the Zanzibar economy, cloves assumed increasing importance during the 19 century. In both Rwanda and Zanzibar demographic growth during the European colonial period exacerbated competition for land resources. But even more 2important was the commercialization of economic life that occurred as each state became more closely integrated into the world economy. Zanzibar’s economy as well as government revenues came to depend increasingly on clove production. The development of clove cultivation significantly transformed land tenure arrangements. On Zanzibar Island the less fertile regions had preserved apparently long-standing form of land tenure: rights of habitation and cultivation were based on membership in corporate kin groups. The other major form of landholding on Zanzibar Island consisted mainly of clove plantations held by individual tenure. During the 19 th century, the Hamidu who held rights over this land were progressively dispossessed; Arabs forcibly acquired the land, using slave labor to plant clove trees. Most of the non-Arabs who lived in the clove plantation region of Zanzibar were squatters. In the clove areas of Zanzibar Island, then, the political-economic elite had acquired control over land in a way that gave rise to patron-client linkages between the Arab (or Asian) landowners and their non-Arab subordinates, most of whom owned no land. During the 20 century the development of the Zanzibar economy had led to significant changes in the status of squatters. Squatters suffered an abrupt reduction in status and security that threatened their very subsistence. This trend and the efforts by Arab and Asian landowners to abolish the squatter system altogether in the 1957-1963 period were important factors catalyzing the rebellious potential of the rural areas of Zanzibar Island. Landholding patterns on Pemba differed from those on Zanzibar in three principal ways. Unlike the fertile areas of Zanzibar, those of Pemba are more evenly distributed. Second, there was a much greater proportion of smaller plantations there than there was on Zanzibar. Finally, the observable tensions between landowners and squatters in Zanzibar during the late 1950s had not arisen. These factors led to a greater intermingling of groups; a separate landowning aristocracy defined exclusively as Arabs did not develop in Pemba as it did in Zanzibar. Land Policies Perhaps the most significant contrast between administrative officials in Rwanda and in Za
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