Pre-colonial Rwanda was a highly centralized Kingdom presided over by Tutsi kings who hailed from one ruling clan. The king ruled through three categories of chiefs: cattle chiefs; land chiefs; and military chiefs. The chiefs were predominantly, but not exclusively, Batutsi, especially the cattle and military chiefs. While the relationship between the king and the rest of the population was unequal, the relationship between the ordinary Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa was one of mutual benefit mainly through the exchange of their labour. The relationship was symbiotic. A clientele system called "Ubuhake" permeated the whole society.
In 1899 Rwanda became a German colony. After the defeat of the Germans during WW1, subsequently in 1919 Rwanda became a mandate territory of the League of Nations under the administration of Belgium. The Germans and the Belgians administered Rwanda through a system of indirect rule. During this colonial era, a cash crop economy was introduced in Rwanda, and this was administered through harsh methods that further alienated the King and his chiefs from the rest of the population.
In 1935 the Belgian colonial administration introduced a discriminatory national identification on the basis of ethnicity. Banyarwanda who possessed ten or more cows were registered as Batutsi whereas those with less were registered as Bahutu. At first, the Belgian authorities, for political and practical reasons, favoured the King and his chiefs, who were mostly a Batutsi ruling elite. When the demand for independence began, mainly by a political party - Union Nationale Rwandaise (UNAR) - formed by people from the aforementioned ruling elite, the Belgian authorities hastily nurtured another party called PARMEHUTU that was founded on a sectarian ethnic ideology. Under the Belgian supervision, the first massacres of Batutsi at the hands of the PARMEHUTU occurred in 1959. With Belgian connivance, PARMEHUTU abolished the monarchy amidst widespread violence. On 1st July 1962 Belgium granted formal political independence to Rwanda.