Rwanda – The Republic of Rwanda is a state in East Africa


The anthem of Rwanda

Rwanda is a small country (26,338 km²) in East Africa that is landlocked. From 1894 Rwanda was a German colony and after World War I until independence in 1962 was a mandate territory of Belgium. Administrative and territorial division: 10 prefectures and the equated capital Kigali. The official languages are French and Kinyarwanda.

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Rwanda’s territory is a hilly plateau with elevations of 1,500-2,000 meters, with the Virunga volcanic mountain range rising in the northwest, the highest volcano, Karisimbi, 4,507 meters, on the border with Zaire. In the west, the highlands descend to Lake Kivu, the most beautiful of Africa’s Great Lakes. Because of the large amount of natural gases dissolved in the deep waters of the lake, it is completely free from crocodiles, as well as from dangerous for humans microorganisms and parasites. Along the eastern and southern borders of the country, the smaller lakes Shohoha, Rugwero, Ihema and Kisinga form a chain. The rivers connecting these reservoirs merge into the swift Kageru (source of the Nile), which flows into Lake Victoria.

The climate is equatorial, but the heat is moderated elevated above sea level: the warmest period (September-October) does not exceed 21 ° C, and in June and July is about 17 ° C. A country of “eternal spring”, Rwanda is almost drought-free: in most areas rainfall is 1500-2000 mm, only in the east there is a dry period (2-3 months), in which rainfall is 900-1000 mm.

Once the territory of Rwanda was almost entirely covered by dense rainforests, which are now preserved only on the lower slopes of Virunga (above ficus, palms and other trees are replaced by bamboo thickets, tree crosses and lobelia). Most of the highlands are covered with secondary savannahs, cultivated lands, artificially created groves of eucalyptus. The animal world, protected in the national parks of Kagera and Virunga, is severely impoverished, but has preserved several very rare and interesting species, such as mountain gorillas. There are herds of antelope (topi, oribi, cannes, impala), elephants, hippos and crocodiles.

Rwanda in 1994-1995 experienced a civil war in which 500,000 people died. Numerous refugee camps formed in the border countries. Since then, the plight has persisted. Nevertheless, travelers can be found here as well. Rwanda is an agrarian country, but there are virtually no villages, the settlement resembles a farm. The most characteristic type of applied art is weaving from papyrus or raffia palm fibers (mats, screens, baskets, decorated with ornaments). The capital of Rwanda is Kigali, a modern city and the most important transport hub of the country.


As a result of the civil war that engulfed Rwanda in the 1990s, killed hundreds of thousands of people and approx. 2 million fled to neighboring countries, so it is impossible to accurately determine the total population. It is estimated that in the late 1990s it was 8 million people (including refugees). As of 2015, Rwanda’s population was estimated at 11 million.

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa (population density about 300 people per square km). In 1960-1990, the annual natural increase of the population was estimated at 3-4%.

Only a small proportion of Rwanda’s population live in towns and cities. The main form of settlement is the family farm, consisting of a small cone-shaped hut on a hilltop with farmland on the slopes.

The peoples of Rwanda belong to three main ethnic groups: Hutu (Bahutu), Tutsi (Batutsi or Watutsi), and Twa (Batwa). According to official statistics prepared by the Belgian administration on the eve of independence, in 1962 their proportion was as follows: Hutu – 85%, Tutsi – 14% and Twa – 1%. According to the 1978 UN census, the Hutu were 74%, the Tutsi 25% and the Twa 1%. As a result of ethnic conflicts, many Tutsis were forced to leave the country in the 1990s.

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The most widely spoken African language in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda, which along with French and English (since 1996) is the official language of the country. Swahili is widely used in commercial transactions.

In 1996 about half of Rwandans remained attached to traditional local beliefs, about 48% were Catholics and 2% were Anglicans, Evangelicals, and Muslims.


Rwanda is an agrarian country, with over 90% of its population engaged in consumer agriculture. Because economic growth has lagged behind natural population growth, per capita incomes fell in the 1980s and 1990s.

About 44% of the country is suitable for farming, 44% for grazing, and 12% is forested. Hoe farming of the swidden type dominates. The main food crops are bananas, yams, sorghum, cassava, pulses, peanuts and corn. The main export crops are Arabica coffee, tea and pyrethrum. In 1972-1989 tea production increased from 2.5 to 13 million tons, but because of the civil war in the 1990s, its yields declined sharply. The high number of livestock prevents the development of cattle breeding and leads to excessive overgrazing. All fish catch goes to the domestic market. Wood is harvested exclusively for fuel.

Rwanda’s mining industry is underdeveloped. The main types of minerals for export are cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite, and columbitotantalite. In Lake Kivu, at a depth of more than 270 m, the industrial stocks of carbon dioxide and methane are concentrated in a dissolved state. There are a few small enterprises for the processing of agricultural products, including the production of sugar. Cement, footwear, and paint production are established.

Coffee, tea, leather are exported. The share of coffee in export earnings usually exceeds 50%. About 80% of import-export operations are carried out through Uganda or the Kenyan port of Mombasa. In 1993 the value of exports was $ 68 million, imports – 268 million. The main trading partners are Belgium and other EU countries, as well as Japan and the United States.

The country has 8,100 km of roads. There is an international airport in the capital Kigali.

The National Bank of Rwanda issues Rwandan franc, the national monetary unit. The Development Bank of Rwanda was established in 1967.


It is unknown when the first Hutus settled in what is now Rwanda. The Hutus appeared in the area in the early 15th century and soon created one of the largest and most powerful states in the interior of East Africa. It was characterized by a centralized system of government and a strict hierarchy based on the feudal dependence of subjects on their lords. Because the Hutus recognized Tutsi domination over them and paid tribute to them, Rwandan society remained relatively stable for several centuries. Most of the Hutus were farmers and most of the Tutsis were pastoralists.

In 1899 Rwanda, as part of the Rwanda-Urundi administrative-territorial unit, became part of the colony of German East Africa. The German colonial administration relied on traditional institutions of power and dealt mainly with peacekeeping and public order.

Belgian troops invaded Rwanda-Urundi in 1916. After World War I Rwanda-Urundi was placed under Belgian rule as a mandate territory by the League of Nations. In 1925 Rwanda-Urundi was united in an administrative union with the Belgian Congo. After World War II, Rwanda-Urundi was given the status of a trust territory under Belgian administration by the UN.

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The Belgian colonial administration took advantage of Rwanda’s institutions and maintained a system of indirect administration based on the Tutsi ethnic minority. The Tutsis cooperated closely with the colonial authorities and received a number of social and economic privileges. In 1956, Belgian policy changed radically in favor of the majority Hutu population. As a result, Rwanda’s decolonization process was more complicated than in other African colonies, where the metropolis was opposed by the local population. In Rwanda, the struggle was between three forces: the Belgian colonial administration, the discontented Tutsi elite seeking to dismantle the Belgian colonial administration, and the Hutu elite, who fought against the Tutsis for fear that they would become a dominant minority in an independent Rwanda.

But the Hutus prevailed over the Tutsis in the civil war of 1959-1961, preceded by a series of political assassinations and ethnic pogroms, which led to the first mass exodus of Tutsis from Rwanda. Over the following decades, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi refugees were forced to seek refuge in neighboring Uganda, Congo, Tanzania, and Burundi. Rwandan authorities considered the refugees foreigners and prevented them from returning to their homeland.

On July 1, 1962, Rwanda became an independent republic. The constitution adopted on 24 November 1962 stipulated the introduction of a presidential form of government. The first president of Rwanda was Gregoire Kayibanda, a former teacher and journalist, founder of the Movement for Hutu Emancipation (Parmehutu), which became the only political party in the country. In December 1963, a group of Tutsi refugees from Burundi invaded Rwanda and were defeated by the Rwandan army with Belgian officers. The Rwandan government responded by instigating a massacre of Tutsis, which triggered a new wave of refugees. The country became a police state. Kayibanda was re-elected president in 1965 and 1969.

Over time, the Hutu elites of northern Rwanda began to realize that they had been cheated by the ruling regime. As a result, the ethnic conflict turned into a confrontation between the region and the central government. In July 1973, two months before scheduled elections in which Kayibanda was to run unopposed, there was a military coup led by Major General Juvenal Habiarimana, a Hutu northerner and Minister of National Army and State Security in the Kayibanda government. The National Assembly was dissolved and Parmehutu and other political organizations were banned. The functions of the president of the country were assumed by Habyarimana. In 1975 the authorities initiated the establishment of the ruling and the only party in the country, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (NRMD). First elected president in 1978, Habjarimana was re-elected in 1983 and 1988. Although his regime claimed to be called democratic, it was in fact a dictatorship that ruled by violence. One of his first steps was the physical extermination of some 60 Hutu politicians. The destruction of some 60 Hutu politicians from the previous government was one of his first steps. Relying on a system of nepotism and not shying away from contract killings, Habyarimana officially announced the advent of peace between ethnic groups in the country. In reality, official policies, including education, in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s further divided Rwandans along ethnic lines. Rwanda’s historical past was falsified. Access to education and public office was restricted for the Tutsis who remained in Rwanda. In 1973, the authorities ordered all citizens to carry ethnic identity cards, which later became “exemption cards” for Tutsis. Since that time, the Hutus have been considered the “internal enemy” of the Tutsis.

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On October 1, 1990, Tutsi refugees living in Uganda (mostly children of the first wave of 1959 emigrants) who had formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda. Sixty kilometers from the border with Uganda, the convoy of refugees was stopped by the Rwandan army, supported by French and Belgian military units. This did not stop the Rwandan government from staging an attack on Kigali by RPF forces on the night of October 5. The authorities deliberately went to the provocation to justify the ensuing arrests of thousands of people accused of collaboration with the RPF and to justify the armed intervention by France and Belgium. The RPF forces made new invasion attempts in December 1990 and early 1991. Under pressure from several Western countries and in the context of the need for political reforms in June 1991, Habjarimana was forced to agree to a constitutional amendment introducing a multi-party system. A new RPF offensive in February 1993 led to the emigration of another 500,000 Rwandans, Hutus and Tutsis.

In August 1993 an agreement was signed in the Tanzanian city of Arusha which set out the terms of an armistice that included the formation of a unified national army and a coalition transitional government of Hutus and Tutsis. In October 1993, the Security Council established a UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda to monitor the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreement (never implemented).

Throughout 1990-1994, Hutu extremists within the government steadily increased repression of Tutsis, working with the PDRR (Interahamwe) militia and using media propaganda to foment ethnic hatred. In a campaign of terror in Rwanda, politicians, journalists and all those who disagreed with the policies of the ruling regime were physically annihilated.

On April 6, 1994, a plane exploded at Kigali airport, carrying J. Habiarimana and President of Burundi S. Ntanyamira, who were returning from a summit in Tanzania. The version that the plane was shot at from the ground is widespread. Within an hour, a bloodbath began in Kigali, which, the next day, engulfed the entire country. In an ethnic cleansing unprecedented in brutality, Hutu extremists massacred an estimated 500,000 people, including some of the most notorious Hutus. 500,000 people, including women and children. Most of the victims were Tutsis, but many Hutus, considered political opponents of the regime or uncooperative, were also exterminated. The atrocities peaked in April and May, but the terror continued until July. As it turned out later, these were not spontaneous massacres, but a carefully planned operation prepared by extremists from government circles, as well as Interahamwe with the support of the army. The extremists took advantage of the age-old Hutu-Tutsi enmity, which was fueled by radio calls for the total annihilation of the Tutsi.

In response to the carnage, RPF forces invaded Rwanda and advanced westward. At the same time, approx. 2 million Rwandans fled abroad, mostly to Tanzania and Zaire. This time the majority of the refugees were Hutus, who left their villages in an organized manner, led by elders and accompanied by Interahamwe militia. The refugee camps were turned into RPF resistance strongholds, where military training was provided, genocide was glorified, and even as refugees the Hutus continued to kill Tutsis. On June 22, 1994, the UN Security Council instructed France to send an armed humanitarian mission to Rwanda. But the French saw this as a plot by Anglophone Ugandans to place the French-speaking country under US control and confined themselves to establishing a security zone in southwestern Rwanda, providing protection to Rwandan soldiers who had fled from the RPF and to survivors of the J. Habyarimana government, many of whom had been responsible for the massacres. Meanwhile, the U.S. opened its humanitarian mission in Kigali, where the RPF was forming a new government, composed of Hutus and Tutsis, in accordance with the Arusha Peace Accord. In July 1994, when the RPF declared total victory, more than a quarter of the Rwandan population either died or fled abroad. The Tutsi-controlled RPF appointed Hutu Pasteur Bizimungu, known for his moderate views, as president and Major General Paul Kagame, head of the RPF military organization, as vice president. The post of prime minister was reserved for a Hutu representative.

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To restore peace to Rwanda, the new government had three major challenges to address. First, since the country had been destroyed and chaotic, immediate steps had to be taken to secure the livelihoods of the population, re-establish state authority, and begin economic recovery. Second, the problem of refugee camps in neighboring Tanzania and Zaire, where well-organized and armed Hutu militias were entrenched, had to be addressed immediately. By holding civilians hostage in the refugee camps, the militia was plotting to invade Rwanda and seize power. Third, the true perpetrators of the genocide had to be identified if peace was to be maintained in the country and peaceful coexistence between Tutsis and Hutus.

By the end of 1996, Rwanda’s economic recovery and development had moved from an emergency phase to a recovery phase. Donor countries – the United States, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands – pledged more than $2 billion in financial aid. By the spring of 1997, the threat of foreign invasion had diminished. Refugee camps in the border areas of Zaire were closed, and approximately 1.5 million civilians returned home to Rwanda. In 1997 production was estimated at 75% of its pre-war level.

Rwanda: map and country information

Rwanda: a country on the map of Africa

Rwanda on a map of Africa (all pictures are clickable)

  • Official name: The Republic of Rwanda;
  • Capital city: Kigali;
  • Area: 26 338 km²;
  • Population: 12,330,500 (as of July 2014);
  • Population density: 468.1 people/km²;
  • Largest cities: Kigali (920,340), Butare (83,700);
  • Official language: Kinyarwanda, French;
  • Currency: Rwandan Franc (RWF);
  • Phone code: 250;
  • International alphabetic code: RWA;
  • Internet domain: .rw;
  • Time Zone (difference with Moscow): -1.

Geographically, Rwanda can be classified as both East and Central Africa – it is located at the junction of two subcontinents. The main western neighbor, with which the country has the longest border (partly on Lake Kivu) – the Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda (north), Burundi (south) and Tanzania (east) surround the republic from the other three sides. There is no access to the sea.

Rwanda owes its unofficial title of “the country of a Thousand Hills” to its landscape features – it occupies a part of the East African Plateau, which rises above sea level by an average of one and a half to two kilometers. The highest mountain range with inclusions of volcanoes is located in the northwest. The plateau drops off sharply near the Congo border, while in the east, it lowers gradually, becoming a strip of marshy valleys and shallow reservoirs.

This diminutive state is ahead of many countries in Africa in terms of drinking water reserves. On its territory there are many freshwater lakes of different sizes, as well as – part of the Congo and Nile basins. The total area of the state is small – about 26.4 thousand square kilometers.

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The equator passes near the northern borders of Rwanda, so the temperature here does not depend on the change of seasons. Never too hot on the plateau – local summer lasts all year round, but is more like a warm spring (+17 to +22 ° C). Precipitation is sufficient and regular. The dry season is short (July-August) and not too severe, with occasional rains.

In former times Rwanda with its uniquely mild climate was a paradise with luxuriant tropical flora and diverse fauna. Today the natural vegetation remains only on the mountain slopes, which are not suitable for farming. Destroyed forests have been replaced by eucalyptus groves, plantations of bananas and coffee. Most of the territory was occupied by cultivated fields or savannahs.

The extermination of local flora has led to the disappearance of many animals. Now the country has allotted large areas for national parks and protected reserves, where elephants, giraffes, zebras, several species of antelope, rhinoceros, mountain gorillas, lions find refuge. Hippos and crocodiles can be found near reservoirs.

Map of Rwanda with cities

A Map of Rwanda

This multi-party republic is ruled by a president who is elected by popular vote. The parliament consists of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The state is divided into five main provinces, which in turn are divided into three dozen districts. The capital is Kigali. The majority of the population is Christian (Catholic or Protestant). About two percent of the population is Muslim.

Rwanda is the most populous state in continental Africa. At the end of the last century there were 8 million people living there; today the number of natives has increased one and a half times. Ethnic composition: Bantu or Hutu people (about 85%), Tutsi (various estimates from 9 to 15%) and a small number of descendants of the Twa Pygmy tribe.

The urban population is relatively small, with most Rwandans choosing to live on farms suitable for subsistence farming. The official state languages are English and French, as well as Kinyarwanda, which is spoken by most citizens.

The state has considerable natural wealth – deposits of tin, gold, tungsten, natural gas reserves. However, Rwanda (as almost the rest of East Africa) survives due to the agricultural sector.

Imports are several times higher than exports: most of the necessary industrial goods, building materials, fuel and food are imported. The country is considered one of the poorest in the world, although in recent years the economic growth shows positive dynamics.

For centuries, among the peoples inhabiting the territory, was built a special hierarchy: the dominant tribes of the Tutsi harshly suppressed and practically kept in slavery Twa and Hutu. From the end of the nineteenth century, Rwanda became a European colony (first under the protectorate of Germany and later Belgium). At the same time, the state itself was a monarchy.

In 1959, after the Hutu rebellion in the country, a brutal civil war broke out, which caused the mass flight of the indigenous population. A year later the Tutsi monarch was overthrown, another two years later Rwanda declared independence, and ten years after that began a series of endless coups and armed clashes between Hutus and Tutsis. In 1994, in a few months of total genocide, more than one million civilians were exterminated along ethnic lines.

The tense political situation hinders tourism, although there is much to see in Rwanda. The national parks stand out, and the shores of the Kivu attract surfers. Highlights include the palace of former monarchs and several major museums in Kigali.

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