There are many cultural groups that make up a complete people of the Republic of Rwanda; however three distinct ethnic groups stand out: the Hutu, Tutsi and Pygmy Twa. Known as the Rwandese or Banyarwanda, the people of Rwanda speak a common Bantu dialect known as Kinyarwanda.
The territory that is Rwanda today is said to have originally belonged to the pygmy Twa, who were hunter-gatherers as well as potters. They dominated the hilled landscape that was largely forested until the Hutu who now make up the larger Rwandan population stumbled onto the scene around 11 AD. The Hutu are Bantu speakers from the Congo basin in the west who are traditionally farmers. At around the 15th century, the Tutsi who are a Bantu nomadic group subsequently followed and occupied patches of the country, herding their cattle. They are the second largest populace of Rwanda followed by the Twa.
Uniquely, the ethnic communities of Rwanda traditionally speak the same language and share similar cultural practices. There major differences, unlike with many African communities, are based on the perception of their historic origins rather than spoken language and traditional practices.
Besides the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa, Rwanda showcases a wider cultural diversity with a populace that includes the: Rundi, Lingala and Swahili speaking communities, Hima, Belgian-Fleming, Arabs, French and Gujarati Indians.
Conversely, the people of Rwanda today are happy to identify themselves simply as Rwandese - one people unified under the flag of the Republic of Rwanda. Referring to a Rwandan as Hutu, Tutsi or Twa is unacceptable. This is owing to the fact that this kind of labelling is one of the key aspects that fuelled the tension that resulted in the 1994 genocide that left the country devastated and on its knees.
Through years of healing, the people of Rwanda have grown to embrace and rise above ethnic differences to become a people... one country, one flag, one people!
The main languages spoken are Kinyarwanda, French and English which are the official languages, and Swahili, the lingua franca of East Africa, which is used widely though not official.
While on travel through Rwanda, a larger percentage of the population will clearly speak in French and English will be farely understoon in and around the main towns and spoken by many safari guides.