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The Tribal Era
The first humans to move into the Virunga region were the Twa people, believed to be related to the pygmies of the Congo basin. The time of the Twa's entry is unknown, but they probably lived in the area for several thousand years. The Twa were hunter-gatherers, dependent on the plant and animal resources of the vast forest for survival.

The next group of people to enter the area were Bantu-speaking (or Bantu) peoples originating from Central Africa, to the northwest of the Virungas. Scattered on the plateau between Lake Victoria and Lake Kivu, the oldest archaeological sites associated with these peoples are estimated to be a little over 2,000 years old. The Bantu differed from the Twa in physical appearance, culture, and lifestyle. In particular, the Bantu were agriculturists, using small-scale farming to obtain most of their food. More efficient than the hunting-gathering lifestyle of the Twa, farming allowed the Bantu to live in small communities and to increase quickly in numbers. As the Bantu population increased, more and more of the forest was cleared for crops, an activity that tended to crowd out the Twa. The Bantu consisted of several tribes, the largest of which is the Hutu in modern-day Rwanda and Burundi, and the Ganda, Soga, Nkole, Toro, and Nyoro in modern-day Uganda. Each tribe consisted of several clans, each ruling loosely over a small area. These tribes were numerous and well-established when the next wave of immigrants arrived, this time from the northeast.

The newcomers originated from Ethiopia and Sudan and differed from the established Bantu in many ways. They spoke Nilotic languages; they were taller, thinner, and lighter-skinned than the Bantu; they were pastoralists, raising cattle for food; and they were more skilled in the arts of war. The Nilotics became numerically dominant in the drier savannas north of Lake Kyoga. These people, the Tutsi (often called the Watusi in older books and movies), migrated into the Virunga area from the northeast between about 1200 and 1500 A.D. Eventually, the Tutsi politically dominated the more numerous Hutu and ruled the area when the Europeans came in force to take over around 1900.

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