The Twa, the aboriginal Pygmy inhabitants, have probably lived in the region since the first millennium of our era. Currently, the population of Rwanda consists of the Banyarwanda. Banyarwanda"" is Kinyarwanda for ""People of Rwanda"". The Banyarwanda share a common culture, language, and geographic space."
At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, there existed a Kingdom of Rwanda that covered modern-day Rwanda and parts of modern-day Congo-Kinshasa around Lake Kivu. It constituted a highly organized society that included its own religion and creation myths. The Banyarwanda were known even then for their military discipline, which enabled them to fend off attacks from outsiders and mount raids into the Kingdom of Burundi and the lands west of Lake Kivu.
According to the analysis of first colonizers to Rwanda and Burundi, Germans, Belgians later, the populations of Rwanda and Burundi were divided into three ethnic-based classes: Hutus, Tutsis and Twas. All three classes paid tribute to the king in return for protection and various favours. Tutsi who lost their cattle due to a disease epidemic such as Rinderpest sometimes would be considered Hutu; likewise Hutu who obtained cattle would come to be considered Tutsi, thus climbing the ladder of the social strata. This social mobility ended abruptly with the onset of colonial administration. What had hitherto been often considered social classes took a fixed ethnic outlook.
A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict, rendering justice and reconciliation. The Tutsi king was the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases that ever reached him. Despite the traditional nature of the system, harmony and cohesion had been established among Rwandans and within the kingdom.
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