Territoire du Ruanda-Urundi.

Brussels: Institut géographique militaire, 1958.

Colour photolithograph (Good, overall clean and bright but some old sellotape and stains and old tack marks to blank margins), 92 x 63 cm (36 x 25 inches).

A curious artefact from the end of the colonial era in the interior of East Africa, being one of the last official maps of ‘Ruanda-Urundi’, the Belgian territory that existed between 1924 and 1961, which was composed of modern Rwanda and Burundi; predicated upon the latest scientific surveys and published in Brussels.

The territory of Ruanda-Burundi was a Belgian colonial entity that existed between 1924 and 1961, with its territory composed of the combined territories of today’s republics of Rwanda and Burundi.  Historically, both constituent countries were monarchies, with Rwanda founded in the 15th century, and Burundi established in 1680.  In both cases, the royal families and the warrior class elites were composed of members of the Tutsi ethnic group, who ruled over a population that was over 80% from the Hutu ethnicity, so imbedding social tensions. 

In 1899, Germany took over Rwanda and Burundi, annexing the countries to their larger, existing colonial holding of Deutsch-Ostafrika (German East Africa, being the modern mainland of Tanzania).  However, the Germans allowed both the Rwandan and Burundian monarchies to remain as puppet regimes, retaining some control over local affairs. 

In 1916, during World War I, Belgian forces from the Congo took over Rwanda and Burundi, placing the countries under direct military rule.  In 1924, the League of Nations placed the countries under a mandate of Belgian rule.  The Belgians created the Territory of Ruanda-Urundi, which it governed separately from the Belgian Congo, while allowing the Rwandan and Burundian monarchies to remain on their thrones as puppet rulers.

The Belgian colonial regime commissioned a sequence of separately issued official large format maps of the Ruanda-Urundi territory, published from 1927 to 1961.  The present edition of the map was drafted by the Institut Géographique Militaire in Brussels from a manuscript made by Claude de Bruyn the chief cartographer of the Belgian Colonial Ministry, whose work was predicated upon the most recent scientific surveys.  The present edition of the map, published in July 1958, is one of the final issues, made only three years before Rwanda and Burundi’s independence.

The highly detailed and accurate map carefully expresses the region’s extremely diverse topography, with the boundaries of the ‘residences’ (provinces) and ‘territoires’ (counties) lined in orange.  The ‘Legende’ identifies the symbols used for cities and towns and administrative centres of various importance, as well as roads of various kinds; plus, it identifies the locations of Protestant and Catholic missions, hospitals, mines, aerodromes and military posts, etc.  Of note, the map identifies the national parks, which are home to some of the world’s most incredible wildlife, including gorillas.

Ruanda-Urundi gained its independence from Belgium in 1961, splitting into two countries, being the Republic of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Burundi.  Burundi subsequently became a republic, in 1966, when it deposed its monarchy.  While located in a region of outstanding natural beauty and considerable natural resources, both Rwanda and Burundi followed torturous paths.  Matters came to a head during the Rwandan Genocide (1994), when as many as 1 million Rwandans (mostly Tutsis) were killed.  Rwanda has since stabilized its society and economy and is one of the more promising Sub-Saharan African countries, while Burundi remains severely underdeveloped.

References: British Library: Cartographic Items Maps 66125.(63.), OCLC: 875003519, 557291100, 54320835, 642544357.

180 EUR