Colonizing Colonizers: On the Colonial Transformation of “Pre-Colonial” Rwanda

  • Axel T. Paul (Prof. Dr., University of Basel)


Even before Rwanda became a German colony in the final years of the nineteenth century, the pre-colonial Rwandan kingdom ruled over western frontier territories which had already acquired a quasi-colonial status. Here, models and methods of domination and exploitation were developed that, under European colonial rule, came to serve as the blueprint for Rwanda’s pseudo-traditional socio-political structure. Yet, it was European colonialism which transformed Rwanda’s pre-colonial imperialism into a case of internal colonialism. The first part of the paper deals with general reasons for the development of statehood in interlacustrine Africa. The second part focuses on the rise and inner dynamics of the Rwandan empire from the mideighteenth century until the arrival of the European conquerors. The last part outlines to what extent the European presence in Rwanda enabled the Rwandan monarchy not only to survive, but to live up to its pretension to be the sovereign ruler of the country.

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How to Cite

Paul, A. T. (2020). Colonizing Colonizers: On the Colonial Transformation of “Pre-Colonial” Rwanda . Comparativ, 30(3/4), 353–371.