A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Ruanda Urundi - Bud's Big Blue

Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Belgium gained governing control over Ruanda /Urundi, now renamed Rwanda and Burundi, in 1918 under the Treaty of Versailles. Germany, defeated in World War I, lost its control of German East Africa, the western part of which was given to Belgium. Neither Germany nor Belgium had much knowledge or insight about the people living there but, because the territory bordered on Belgian Congo and none of the other victorious Allies particularly wanted it, Ruanda/Urundi passed to Belgium.

Not until 1924 was the first postage issued, all repurposed stamps of the 1923 Belgian Congo series. These overprints continued in use until 1931, Scott numbers 6 through 36. For some reason, a lower case “i” is used in the spelling of “URUNDi.

Scott 10 green, 12 rose red, and17 red orange,

Scott numbers 1 through 5 no longer appear in the Scott’s Ruanda /Urundi listings. Being wartime occupation stamps, they were shifted to Scott’s section for German East Africa and identified as n25 – n29.

German East Africa n25 green and black, n26 red and black, 
formerly Rwanda/Urundi 1 and 2

In precolonial times the population of Ruanda/Urundi was comprised mainly of the Bantu-speaking Hutu and Tutsi tribes (the latter being known to Europeans as Batutsi or Watusi). Society was organized in a feudal system with the Tutsis as chiefs and Hutus as workers. The lines between the two groups were porous. People could intermarry and move back-and-forth socially. Those identifying as Hutu outnumbered the Tutsi six to one. An additional very small minority identified as Twa, a marginalized pygmy people.

The Germans and Belgians turned this traditional arrangement into a rigid race-based class system, using now discredited European theories of race as justification. Tribal identity was fixed at birth and remained that way throughout life. Moreover, the Belgians favored the Tutsi over the Hutus, giving them European-style education and privileges of power. In 1926, the Belgians introduced separate ethnic identity cards (indangamuntu) for the Tutsi and Hutu to carry, a policy that helped the Tutsi enforce Belgian control.

This hardline classification provoked the tensions that led, in great part, to genocide in the 1990s. During and after the genocide the cards were used to identify victims; most were Tutsi. The card, originally signifying entitlement to power, became a passport to death.

A Tutsi identified.

Credit: Montreal Holocaust Museum

Does anything in the early stamps of Rwanda/Urundi, I wonder, predict the ensuing horrors of the genocide?

In 1931 Belgium issued the first stamps with “Ruanda/Urundi” inscribed. The artwork features native people in a variety of settings. Although the tribal identity of the subjects is not mentioned on these stamps, Tutsis likely posed for the original artwork (or were imagined by the artists). The resulting images conform to the European racial biases of the time – tall body, narrow nose, slender face, etc. Belgium chose their favored subjects for colonial stamp designs.

Scott # 54 brown, 52 gray, and 53 brown violet

Otherwise, I find no philatelic hints about the underlying conditions that led to genocide.

The late 1990s the genocide eventually spent its anger and, in more recent years, Tutsis and Hutus are learning to live together again.

Census: in BB spaces 31, on supplement pages 38. Catalog values for mint and used stamps are basically the same.

Jim's Observations

Of interest, the current Scott catalogue for Ruand-Urundi begins with number 6 - what happened to "Scott 1-5"? It turns out those numbers were for the 1922 Belgium occupation stamps of German East Africa, and they were moved into the Belgium occupation stamp section of German East Africa in the current catalogue. The 40s editions Scott catalogue had the stamps listed under "Belgium East Africa" as Scott 1-5.

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