General issues: Belgian mandated territory 1922-1946, Belgian trust territory 1946-1962
Country name on general issues: Ruanda-Urundi
Special issues: Belgian occupation of German East Africa: General issues 1916-1922, Issues Ruanda 1916, Issues Urundi 1916
Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1922-1962
Population: 3 368 000 in 1925, 5 930 000 in 1962
Political history Ruanda-Urundi
Ruanda-Urundi is located in eastern Africa. The country derives its name from Ruanda and Urundi – the two dominant kingdoms in the region. In both countries the majority of the population is of the Hutu – a Bantu people. The minority is of the Tutsi – a people with a disputed origin: the Tutsi have long been considered to be of mixed Bantu and Nilo-Saharan origin, more recent insights suggest the Tutsi to be a Bantu people akin to the Hutu, differences being socially determined rather than ethnically. Although the minority, the Tutsi have, in the 19th century, attained the leading position in what can be qualified as a feudal society – the royal families in Ruanda and Urundi are of Tutsi origin. A small part – 1% – of the population is of the Twa – a people of Pygmy origin, the Pygmy being the original inhabitants of the country, Bantu peoples having moved in at later dates.
Part of German East Africa
At the 1885 Berlin conference where the colonial powers divide their respective spheres of interest in Africa, Ruanda and Urundi are awarded to Germany. A further agreement with Great Britain in 1890 secures the German claim, Germany relinquishing claims on parts of neighboring Uganda. The Germans send the first military expeditions into Ruanda in 1894 and into Urundi in 1896. Ruanda is more inclined to accept German rule and is brought under effective German colonial administration by 1897. Urundi will oppose German rule until 1903. Both territories are made part of the Ruanda-Urundi district of German East Africa in 1899. In 1907, civil administration replaces military administration, in 1908 Ruanda and Urundi are to become separate districts of German East Africa. The borders with the neighboring countries – although subject of treaties from 1885 – are finally determined in 1910. The Germans have a limited presence in Ruanda-Urundi and establish indirect rule of the district through the kings of Ruanda and Urundi. Coffee is introduced as a cash crop.
WWI and aftermath
During WWI, German East Africa is one of the important theaters of war outside of Europe. In 1916, the Belgians, the British and the Portuguese invade German East Africa. The East African Campaign will last until, in 1918, the German administration capitulates. Large parts of the country are, by then, occupied by mainly British and Belgian forces. In 1919 the Belgians and the British – following the treaty of Versailles where Germany ceded its possessions to the Allies – agree on a division of German East Africa – Ruanda and Urundi to become Belgian mandated territories, and the larger part of German East Africa to become a British mandated territory renamed Tanganyika in 1920. A small part adjacent to Mozambique – the Kionga triangle – is awarded to Portugal. The extent of the mandates of Belgium and Great Britain is defined in 1922 by the League of Nations. The borders have, in 1919, been defined as we know them until today – these borders differing slightly from the borders of the former districts of German East Africa.
Belgian mandated territory
The Belgians administer the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, from 1925, as part of Belgian Congo. They continue the policy of indirect rule through the respective royal families. The Belgians enforce the position of the Tutsi upper class, thus deepening the rift with the Hutu majority. The Belgians diversify the agricultural economy by introducing new crops. Apparently, diversification was aimed at increasing the revenues for the Belgian treasury rather than to actively support the economic development of the mandated territory. In 1946, the mandate of Belgium is extended – Ruanda-Urundi becoming a United Nations trust territory. In the late 1950’s, Ruanda and Urundi move towards independence. In Ruanda, the growing tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi lead to a Hutu revolt in 1959 that is suppressed by the Belgians. By way of a referendum, the monarchy is abolished in 1961. Ruanda gains independence as the republic of Rwanda in 1962. In Urundi limited self government is established in 1961 – Urundi to become independent as the kingdom of Burundi in 1962.
Postal history Ruanda-Urundi
The first stamps used in Ruanda-Urundi are the stamps of German East Africa. The first post office is opened, in 1902, in Usumbura, the current Bujumbura – then the capital of the Ruanda-Urundi district of German East Africa.
For the occupied territories in German East Africa, stamps are issued by the Belgians from 1916 until 1922. The first general issue are stamps of Belgian Congo overprinted ‘Est Africain Allemande Occupation Belge/Duitsch Oost Afrika Belgische Bezetting’French and Dutch for ‘German East Africa Belgian Occupation’.. These are, in 1922, reissued with an additional overprint of a new face value. A further set is issued in 1918, stamps of Belgian Congo overprinted ‘A.O.’ for ‘Afrique Orientale’‘East Africa’. Local issues have appeared for Ruanda and Urundi, the overprints reading ‘Ruanda’ and ‘Urundi’. Stamps with similar overprints for several other locations in German East Africa – Kigoma and others – are not recognized by the catalogs.
Stamps for the mandated – later trust – territory of Ruanda Urundi are issued from 1924 until 1961. The first issues are overprints on stamps of Belgian Congo – the overprint reading ‘Ruanda Urundi’. Definitives are issued from 1931. The 1931 set has, by the author of the Big Blue 1840-1940 blog, been called the ‘signature’ set of Ruanda-Urundi. And rightfully so – an attractive set, designed exclusively for Ruanda-Urundi, engraved by the renowned Institut de Gravure in Paris. Most issues for Ruanda-Urundi, however, are of similar designs and, in some cases, identical designs as the issues for Belgian Congo. An example is the 1948 set – another attractive set, but already issued in Belgian Congo in 1947 and depicting masks of the Luba people – a people living in Belgian Congo, not in Ruanda-Urundi. The stamps of Ruanda-Urundi are, from 1962, superseded by the issues of Rwanda and Burundi.