Friday, January 7, 2011: 3:10 PM
Grand Ballroom Salon B (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
In 1959, the East African nation of Rwanda underwent a revolution that ejected the Belgian colonialists and brought about a Hutu-nationalist dominated regime that was determined to overthrow the heretofore Tutsi domination of the country. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi refugees fled Rwanda for neighboring countries in East Africa. The majority of them settled in southern Uganda where they lived in refugee camps until 1994 when they returned to Rwanda following the collapse the Hutu-led genocidal regime. Known in the literature as the “59ers”, they and their second-generation of descendants embraced the majority Anglican faith of Uganda, as opposed the predominant Catholicism of their home-country of Rwanda. As East African Anglicans, the Tutsi refugees saw themselves as the spiritual heirs of the Great East African Revival of the 1920s and 1930s, which was not only Anglican led but which also embraced an amalgam of evangelical Protestantism and indigenous African beliefs in such spiritual practices as prophecy and faith healing.
This paper will argue that the distinctly African revivalist tradition of the Anglican persuasion provided the Tutsi refugees with a powerful mechanism to explain their plight as a homeless diaspora in Uganda and a means by which to cope with and heal from their desperate situation. The narrative that emerged among the Tutsi refugees, that of a “Chosen People” who found salvation, redemption and healing in evangelical/African prophecy and with a Christian eschatological view of their future continued into post-genocide Rwanda when they as the Tutsi Diaspora returned to their home country. The same narrative framework is still at work in Rwanda as the Tutsi returnees now occupy the dominant social and political positions in that country while seeking to promote a new ethnically harmonious nation inclusive of themselves as recent newcomers.