Rwanda  |  General Info
 
 

The Republic of Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.
The country, in the heart of Africa, has been described as 'the land of a thousand hills' (French: Pays des Mille Collines; Kinyarwanda: Igihugu cy'Imisozi Igihumbi). It is full of stunning scenery including an undulating landscape of hills, gardens and tea plantations. The mountain ranges, volcanoes, rivers and lakes will take your breath away.
Home to nearly 10 million people, Rwanda supports the densest population in continental Africa, most of who engage in subsistence agriculture.
In the north, the Parc National de Volcans is home to one third of the world's population of endangered mountain gorillas. There are not many things in life as absolutely thrilling as watching gorillas go about their daily life of feeding, resting, playing and raising their young in their natural habitat, at very close range.

The country has received considerable international attention due to its 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed. In 2008, Rwanda became the first country in history to elect a national legislature in which a majority of members were women. Three quarters of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day Rwanda is, as of November 2009, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, making the country one of only two in the Commonwealth without a British colonial past.
With easy flight connections to and from Nairobi, Rwanda is the perfect complement to a Kenya or Tanzania safari.

 

History

It is not known when the territory of present day Rwanda was first inhabited, but it is thought that humans moved into the area following the last ice age either in the Neolithic period, around ten thousand years ago, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter gatherers in the late stone age, followed by a larger population of early Iron Age settlers, who produced dimpled pottery and iron tools.

These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, a group of aboriginal Pygmy hunter-gatherers, who still live in Rwanda today. Eventually these settlers were joined by Bantu farmers from the west, known as the Hutus. The exact dates of this are not certain, with estimates varying from 700 BC up to the beginning of the Christian era, around 1 AD.

The Hutus, with their sedentary farming lifestyle, soon outnumbered the Twas and began to take over their traditional hunting grounds, forcing them to retreat into the forests. Later a third group, the cattle-raising Tutsi, migrated to the area. The Tutsi were generally taller than the Hutus and the Twas, and were distinct in physical appearance It is not known when the Tutsi arrived and from where they came, but there is evidence that they were of Cushitic origin, coming from the Horn of Africa. Over time, the distinction between the three groups became blurred and some sources question whether they are truly of separate racial or ethnic stock. Considerable controversy surrounds the origins and the organization of Rwandan society before the arrival of Europeans, however, and the Rwandan government disputes European historical records and scientific evidence of migrations and cultural society within the region. Even in pre-colonial Rwanda, however, the Kinyarwanda language was widely spoken. A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict and rendering justice. The Tutsi king (mwami) became the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases over which he had jurisdiction. Through this system, stability was achieved in large areas of what is now Rwanda.

 

Colonial era

After signing treaties with chiefs in the Tanganyika region in 1884-1885, Germany claimed Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi as its own territory. Count von Götzen met the Tutsi Mwami (king) for the first time in 1894. However, with only 2,500 soldiers in East Africa, Germany did little to change societal structures in much of the region, especially in Rwanda. After the Mwami's death in 1895, a period of unrest followed. Germans and missionaries then began to enter the country from Tanganyika in 1897-98.

By 1899 the Germans exerted some influence by placing advisors at the courts of local chiefs. Much of the Germans' time was spent fighting uprisings in Tanganyika, especially the Maji Maji war of 1905-1907. On May 14, 1910 the European Convention of Brussels fixed the borders of Uganda, Belgian Congo, and German East Africa which included Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi. In 1911, the Germans helped the Tutsi put down a rebellion of Hutus in the northern part of Rwanda who did not wish to submit to central Tutsi control.

In 1916, during World War I, Belgian forces advanced from the Congo into Germany's East African colonies. After Germany lost the War, Belgium accepted the League of Nations Mandate of 1923 to govern Ruanda-Urundi along with the Congo, while Great Britain accepted Tanganyika and other German colonies. After World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a United Nations (UN) "trust territory" administered by Belgium. The Belgian involvement in the region was far more direct than German involvement and extended its interests into education and agricultural supervision. The latter was especially important in the face of two droughts and subsequent famines in 1928-29 and in 1943. These famines forced large migrations of Rwandans to neighboring Congo. In 1933 ethnic identification cards were used to classify one's ethnicity.

The Belgian colonizers also accepted the existing class system, featuring a minority Tutsi upper class and lower classes of Hutus and Tutsi commoners. However, in 1926 the Belgians abolished the local posts of "land-chief", "cattle-chief" and "military chief", and in doing so they stripped the Hutu of their limited local power over land. In the 1920s, under military threat, the Belgians finally helped to bring the northwest Hutu kingdoms, who had maintained local control of land not subject to the Mwami, under the Tutsi royalty's central control. These two actions disenfranchised the Hutu. Large, centralized land holdings were then divided into smaller chiefdoms. The fragmenting of Hutu lands angered Mwami Yuhi IV, who had hoped to further centralize his power enough to rid himself of the Belgians. In 1931 Tutsi plots against the Belgian administration resulted in the Belgians deposing the Tutsi Mwami Yuhi. This caused the Tutsis to take up arms against the Belgians, but because of their fear of the Belgians' military superiority, they did not openly revolt.

The Roman Catholic Church and Belgian colonial authorities considered the Hutus and Tutsis different ethnic races based on their physical differences and patterns of migration. However, because of the existence of many wealthy Hutu who shared the financial (if not physical) stature of the Tutsi, the Belgians used an expedient method of classification based on the number of cattle a person owned. Anyone with ten or more cattle was considered a member of the aristocratic Tutsi class. From 1935 on, "Tutsi", "Hutu" and "Twa" were indicated on identity cards. The Roman Catholic Church, being the primary educator in the country, subscribed to and reinforced the differences between Hutu and Tutsi, developing separate educational systems for each. In the 1940s and 1950s the vast majority of students were Tutsi. In 1943, Mwami Mutari III became the first Tutsi monarch to convert to Catholicism.

The Belgian colonialists continued to depend on the Tutsi aristocracy to collect taxes and enforce Belgian policies. It maintained the dominance of the Tutsi in local colonial administration and expanded the Tutsi system of labor for colonial purposes. The United Nations later decried this policy and demanded a greater self-representation of the Hutu in local affairs. In 1954 the Tutsi monarchy of Ruanda-Urundi demanded independence from Belgian rule. At the same time it agreed to abolish the system of indentured servitude (ubuhake and uburetwa) the Tutsis had practiced over the Hutu until then.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, a wave of Pan-Africanism swept through Central Africa, with leaders such as Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. Anti-colonial sentiment stirred throughout central Africa, and a socialist platform of African unity and equality for all Africans was forwarded. Nyerere himself wrote about the elitism of educational systems, which Hutus interpreted as an indictment of the elitist educations provided for Tutsis in their own country.

Encouraged by the Pan-Africanists, Hutu advocates in the Catholic Church, and by Christian Belgians (who were increasingly influential in the Congo), Hutu sentiment against the aristocratic Tutsi was increasingly inflamed. The United Nations mandates, the Tutsi overlord class, and the Belgian colonialists themselves added to the growing unrest. The Hutu "emancipation" movement was soon spearheaded by Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of Parmehutu, who wrote his "Hutu Manifesto" in 1957. The group quickly became militarized.

In reaction, in 1959 the UNAR party was formed by Tutsis who desired an immediate independence for Ruanda-Urundi, to be based on the existing Tutsi monarchy. This group also became quickly militarized. Skirmishes began between UNAR and PARMEHUTU groups. Then in July 1959, the Tutsi Mwami (King) Mutara III Charles was believed by Rwandan Tutsis to have been assassinated when he died following a routine vaccination by a Flemish physician in Bujumbura. His younger half-brother then became the next Tutsi monarch, Mwami (King) Kigeli V.

In November 1959, Tutsi forces beat up a Hutu politician, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, and rumors of his death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as "the wind of destruction." Thousands of Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighboring Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence. Several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in the violence. Tutsi refugees also fled to the South Kivu province of the Congo, where they called themselves Banyamulenge. They eventually became a primary force in the First and Second Congo Wars.

In 1960, the Belgian government agreed to hold democratic municipal elections in Ruanda-Urundi, in which Hutu representatives were elected by the Hutu majorities. This precipitous change in the power structure threatened the centuries-old system by which Tutsi superiority had been maintained through monarchy. An effort to create an independent Ruanda-Urundi with Tutsi-Hutu power sharing failed, largely due to escalating violence. The Belgian government, with UN urging, therefore decided to divide Ruanda-Urundi into two separate countries, Rwanda and Burundi. Each had elections in 1961 in preparation for independence.

In 1961, Rwandans voted, by referendum and with the support of the Belgian colonial government, to abolish the Tutsi monarchy and instead establish a republic. Dominique Mbonyumutwa, who had survived his previous attack, was named the first president of the transitional government. This attack was the pretext used to explain that Tutsis were dangerous and had to be killed. Burundi, by contrast, established a constitutional monarchy, and in the 1961 elections leading up to independence, Louis Rwagasore, the son of the Tutsi Mwami and a popular politician and anti-colonial agitator, was elected as Prime Minister. However, he was soon assassinated. The monarchy, with the aid of the military, therefore assumed control of the country, and allowed no further elections until 1965.

Between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi guerrilla groups staged attacks into Rwanda from neighboring countries. Rwandan Hutu-based troops responded and thousands more were killed in the clashes.

On July 1, 1962, Belgium, with UN oversight, granted full independence to the two countries. Rwanda was created as a republic governed by the majority Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (Parmehutu), which had gained full control of national politics by this time. In 1963, a Tutsi guerrilla invasion into Rwanda from Burundi unleashed another anti-Tutsi backlash by the Hutu government in Rwanda, and an estimated 14,000 people were killed. In response, a previous economic union between Rwanda and Burundi was dissolved and tensions between the two countries worsened. Rwanda also now became a Hutu-dominated one-party state. In excess of 70,000 people had been killed. It was thought for a while that British Royal Marines then stationed in Tanzania might be sent to Rwanda to stop the horrific loss of life there.

 

Post-independence

Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of Parmehutu (and a Hutu) was the first president (from 1962 to 1973), followed by Juvenal Habyarimana (who was president from 1973 to 1994). The latter, also a Hutu (from the northwest of Rwanda), took power from Kayibanda in a 1973 coup, claiming the government to have been ineffective and riddled with favoritism.

He installed his own political party into government. This occurred partially as a reaction to the Burundi genocide of 1972, with the resultant wave of Hutu refugees and subsequent social unrest. Rwanda enjoyed relative economic prosperity during the early part of his regime.

 

Related events in Burundi

The situation in Rwanda had been heavily influenced by the situation in Burundi. Both countries had Hutu majorities, yet an army-controlled Tutsi government in Burundi persisted for decades. After the assassination of Rwagasore, his UPRONA party was split into Tutsi and Hutu factions. A Tutsi Prime Minister was chosen by the monarch, but a year later in 1963, the monarch was compelled to appoint a Hutu prime minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, to appease growing Hutu unrest.

Nevertheless, the monarch soon replaced him with another Tutsi prince. In Burundi's first elections following independence, in 1965, Ngendandumwe was elected Prime Minister. He was immediately assassinated by a Tutsi extremist and was succeeded by another Hutu, Joseph Bamina. Hutus won 23 of the 33 seats in national elections a few months later, but the monarch nullified the elections.

Bamina was also quickly assassinated and the Tutsi monarch installed his own personal secretary, Leopold Biha, as the Prime Minister in his place. This prompted a Hutu coup; the Mwami fled the country and Biha was shot (although not killed). The Tutsi-dominated army, led by Michel Micombero responded brutally: almost all Hutu politicians were killed.

Micombero assumed control of the government and a few months later deposed the new Tutsi monarch (son of the previous monarch) and abolished the monarchy. He then threatened to invade Rwanda. A military dictatorship persisted in Burundi for 27 years, until free elections were held in 1993.

Sporadic violence continued to erupt between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi until 1972. In 1969, another purge of Hutus by the Tutsi military occurred. A localized Hutu uprising in 1972 was fiercely answered by the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army in the largest Burundi genocide of Hutus, with a death toll that approached 200,000.

This wave of violence set off another wave of Hutu refugees from Burundi to Rwanda. Now there were large numbers of both Tutsi and Hutu refugees throughout the region, and tensions continued to mount.

In 1988, Hutu violence against Tutsis throughout northern Burundi resurfaced, and in response the Tutsi army massacred approximately 20,000 more Hutu. Again thousands of Hutu were forced into exile into Tanzania and Congo to flee another genocide of Hutu.

 

Civil war and genocide

The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda's Tutsis and Hutu political moderates by Hutus under the Hutu Power ideology. Over the course of approximately 100 days, from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana on 6 April through mid-July, at least 500,000 people were killed. Most estimates indicate a death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000.

The beginnings of the genocide are to be found in the 1980s. In 1986, Yoweri Museveni's guerrilla forces in Uganda had succeeded in taking control of the country, overthrowing the Ugandan dictatorship of Milton Obote. Many exiled refugee Rwandan Tutsis in Uganda had joined its rebel forces and had then become part of the Ugandan military, now made up from Museveni's guerrilla forces. However, Ugandans resented the Rwandan presence in the new Ugandan army, and in 1986 Paul Kagame, a Tutsi who had become head of military intelligence in Museveni's new Ugandan army, founded the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, together with Fred Rwigema. They began to train their army to invade Rwanda from Uganda, and many Tutsis who had been in the Ugandan military now joined the RPF. Kagame also received military training in the United States. In 1991, a radio station broadcasting RPF propaganda from Uganda was established by the RPF.

In 1990, the Tutsi-dominated RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Some members allied with the military dictatorship government of Habyarimana responded in 1993 to the RPF invasion with a radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda and with programs against Tutsis, who it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus. Nevertheless, after 3 years of fighting and multiple prior "cease-fires," the government and the RPF signed a "final" cease-fire agreement in August 1993, known as the Arusha accords, in order to form a power sharing government. Neither side appeared ready to accept the accords, however, and fighting between the two sides continued unabated. By that time, over 1.5 million civilians had left their homes to flee the selective massacres against Hutus by the RPF army. They were living in camps, the most famous of which was called Nyacyonga.

The situation worsened when the first elected Burundian president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army in October 1993. In Burundi, a fierce civil war then erupted between Tutsi and Hutu following the army's massacre, and tens of thousands, both Hutu and Tutsi, were killed in this conflict. This conflict spilled over the border into Rwanda and caused the fragile Rwandan Arusha accords to quickly crumble. Tutsi-Hutu hatred rapidly intensified, and a UN-sent peacekeeping force, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was unable to calm down tensions.

During the armed conflict in Rwanda, the RPF was blamed for the bombing of the capital Kigali. On April 6, 1994, the Hutu president of Rwanda and the second newly elected president of Burundi (also a Hutu) were both assassinated when their jet was shot down.

In response to the April killing of the two presidents, over the next three months (April - July 1994) the Hutu-led military and Interahamwe militia groups killed about 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsi-led RPF continued to advance on the capital, however, and soon occupied the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country by June.

 

First and Second Congo Wars

In this invasion Kagame allied with Laurent Kabila, a revolutionary in Eastern Zaire who had been a foe of Zaire's long-time dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. In addition to Rwandan forces, Laurent Kabila's AFDL forces were also supported by Ugandan forces (with whom Kagame had trained in the late 1980s), which then invaded Eastern Zaire from the northeast. This became known as the First Congo War.

In this war, militarized Tutsi elements in the South Kivu area of Zaire (bordering Burundi), known as Banyamulenge to disguise their original Tutsi heritage, allied with the Tutsi RDF forces against the Hutu refugees in the North Kivu area (bordering Rwanda), which included the Hutu Interahamwe militias.

In the midst of this conflict, Kabila, whose primary intent had been to depose Mobutu, moved his forces to Kinshasa, and in 1997, the same year Mobutu Sese Seko died of prostate cancer, Kabila captured Kinshasa and then became president of Zaire (which he then renamed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo). With Kabila's success in the Congo, he no longer desired an alliance with the Tutsi-RPF Rwandan army and the Ugandan forces, and in August 1998 ordered both the Ugandans and Tutsi-Rwandan army out of the DRC. However, neither Kagame's Rwandan Tutsi forces nor Museveni's Ugandan forces had any intention of leaving the Congo, and the framework of the Second Congo War was laid.

During the Second Congo War, Tutsi militias among the Banyamulenge in the Congo province of South Kivu desired to annex themselves to Rwanda (now dominated by Tutsi forces under the Kagame government). Kagame also desired this, both to increase the resources of Rwanda by adding those of the Kivu region, and also to add the Tutsi population, which the Banyamulenge represented, back into Rwanda, thereby reinforcing his political base and protecting the indigenous Tutsis living there, who had also suffered from ongoing battles with the Interhamwe.

In the Second Congo War, Uganda and Rwanda attempted to wrest much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Kabila's forces, and nearly succeeded. However, the DRC was a member of the regional SADC (Southern Africa Development Community), so President Laurent Kabila asked for the assistance of SADC armies friendly to Kabila, most notably those of Angola and Zimbabwe. These armies were able to beat back Kagame's Rwandan-Tutsi advances and the Ugandan forces. As this happened, some 700,000 Tutsi Banyamulenge fled to Rwanda and were repatriated there.

In the great conflict between 1998 and 2002, during which time Congo was divided into three parts, multiple opportunistic militias, called Mai-Mai, sprang up, supplied by the arms dealers around the world that profit in small arms trading (including the US, Russia, China, and other countries). These militias were most active in the South and North Kivu provinces (in which most refugees were located) and took advantage of the conflict to settle local scores (including Hutu/Tutsi rivalries) and widen the conflict, battling each other, Ugandan and Rwandan forces, and even Congolese forces. Over 5.4 million people died in the conflict, as well as the majority of animals in the region.

In 2001 Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the DRC (Congo), and he was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. Educated in Tanzania and Uganda in his earlier years, Joseph had completed his military training in China. He had served as both the officer in charge of the rebel forces that had defeated Mobutu's army and of the Congolese forces that subsequently pushed the Ugandan and Rwandan armies out of the Congo (with the help of the SADC coalition).

The Second Congo War ended when a ceasefire was signed in Sun City (South Africa) and elections in a now-unified Congo were decided upon after an additional transitional period. (After serving as president for 5 transitional years, Joseph Kabila won the presidential elections in 2006, largely based on his support in the Eastern Congo.)

Rwandan RPF troops finally left the Eastern Congo in 2002, leaving a wake of disease and malnutrition that continued to kill an estimated 45,000 people every month. However, Rwandan rebels continue to operate (as of June 2009) in the northeast Congo and Kivu regions. These were claimed to be remnants of Hutu forces that were not allowed to return to Rwandawithout facing genocide charges, yet were not welcomed in Congo and were pursued by DRC troops. In the first 6 months of 2007, over 260,000 civilians were displaced However, Tutsi Banyamulenge rebel groups also continued to operate in the region. Congolese Mai Mai rebels threatened both people and wildlife.

Although a large scale effort at disarming militias largely succeeded in 2007, with the aid of the UN troops, fierce confrontations in the northeast regions of the Congo between local tribes (initially uninvolved with the Hutu-Tutsi conflict but drawn into the Second Congo War) persisted in the Ituri region. Further, between 2007 and 2009, ongoing battles between Hutu rebel groups and Tutsi rebel groups continued in the North and South Kivu regions of the Congo, despite an amnesty for remaining militias that was passed by the Congo government in an attempt to end such skirmishes. In early 2009, a major Tutsi rebel (Banyamulenge) commander, Laurent Nkunda, wanted for war crimes in the Congo, took refuge in Rwanda after being "captured" by the Rwandan army in early 2009.

In Burundi, the Burundi Civil War from 1993 to 2006 coincided with the First and Second Congo Wars. At least 300,000 Burundians were killed, and refugees into Tanzania and Congo contributed to the region's major population displacements. In August 2005, a Hutu born-again Christian, Pierre Nkurunziza, was elected as Burundi president. At least three cease-fires between rebel groups and Burundi forces, in 2003, 2005, and September 2006, have been signed.

Rwandan stability is undoubtedly dependent both on stability in Eastern DRC (Congo) and in Burundi.

 

Post-civil war

After the Tutsi RPF took control, Kagame installed a Hutu president, Pasteur Bizimungu, in 1994. Many believed him to be a puppet president, however, and when Bizimungu became critical of the Kagame government in 2000, he was removed as president and Kagame took over the presidency himself. Bizimungu immediately founded an opposition party (the PDR), but it was banned by the Kagame government. Bizimungu was arrested in 2002 for treason, sentenced to 15 years in prison, but released by a presidential pardon in 2007.

After it took control of the government in 1994 following the civil war, the Tutsi-dominated RDF party then wrote the history of the genocide and enshrined its version of events in the current constitution of 2003. It made it a crime to question the government's version of the genocide. In 2004, a ceremony was held in Kigali at the Gisozi Memorial (sponsored by the Aegis Trust and attended by many foreign dignitaries) to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide, and the country observes a national day of mourning each year on April 7. Hutu Rwandan genocidal leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the Rwandan National Court system, and, most recently, through the informal Gacaca village justice program. Recent reports highlight a number of reprisal killings of survivors for giving evidence at Gacaca.

Some have made claims that the memorialisation of the genocide without admission of the crimes by the Tutsi-RDF are one sided, and is part of ongoing propaganda by the Tutsi-led Rwandan government, which is essentially a one-party government at this time. The hero depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, has demanded that Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan president, be tried as a war criminal.

The first elections since the invasion of Rwanda by Kagame's forces in 1990 (and the subsequent creation of a military government by Kagame in 1994) were held in 2003. Kagame, who had already been appointed president by his own government in 2000, was then elected president by over 95% of the vote, with little opposition. Opposition parties were banned until just before the 2003 elections. Following the elections, in 2004, a constitutional amendment banned political parties from denoting themselves as being aligned with "Hutu" or "Tutsi." However, the RPF, a primarily Tutsi political organisation, was not disbanded and therefore continues its dominance. Most observers therefore do not believe the 2003 elections to have been fair nor representative. Elections have been compared to the "fair elections" of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe.[citation needed] The next presidential elections are due to be held in 2010.

In 2008, parliamentary elections were held, but no opposition parties participated; only a coalition of parties loyal to the RPF participated, continuing an effective one-party rule in Rwanda.

 

Rebuilding

The major markets for Rwandan exports are Belgium, Germany, and People's Republic of China. In April 2007, an investment and trade agreement, four years in the making, was worked out between Belgium and Rwanda. Belgium contributes €25-35 million per year to Rwanda. Belgian co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry continues to develop and rebuild agricultural practices in the country. It has distributed agricultural tools and seed to help rebuild the country. Belgium also helped in re-launching fisheries in Lake Kivu, at a value of US$470,000, in 2001.]

In Eastern Rwanda, The Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, along with Partners in Health, are helping to improve agricultural productivity, improve water and sanitation and health services, and help cultivate international markets for agricultural products. Since 2000, the Rwandan government has expressed interest in transforming the country from agricultural subsistence to a knowledge-based economy, and plans to provide high-speed broadband across the entire country. On 2 December 2009, Rwanda became the first country to be declared free of landmines under the Ottawa Treaty.

 

Politics

After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front organized a coalition government loosely based on the 1993 Arusha accords. The National Movement for Democracy and Development (Habyarimana's party that was accused of instigating and implementing the genocidal ideology) and the CDR) (another national Hutu party) were banned, with most of its leaders either arrested or forced into exile. It is not clear whether any Hutu parties are currently allowed in Rwanda. After the 1994 genocide, the RPF installed a single-party "coalition-based" government. Paul Kagame became Vice-President. In 2000, he was elected president of Rwanda by the single-party parliament.

A new constitution, written by the Kagame government, was then adopted by referendum in 2003. The first post-war presidential and legislative elections were held in August and September 2003, respectively. Opposition parties were banned until just before the elections, so no true opposition to the ruling RPF existed. The stated RPF-led government goals were to promote reconciliation and unity among all Rwandans through the new constitution by forbidding any political activity or discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion. Right of return to Rwandans displaced between 1959 and 1994, primarily Tutsis, was enshrined in the constitution, but no mention of the return of Hutus that fled Kagame's RPF forces into the Congo in the great refugee crisis of 1994-1998 or subsequently, is made in the constitution. Nevertheless, the constitution guarantees "All persons originating from Rwanda and their descendants shall, upon their request, be entitled to Rwandan nationality" and "No Rwandan shall be banished from the country."

By law, at least a third of the Parliamentary representation must be female. In the parliamentary election of September 2008, 56% of seats were won by women.

The Senate has at least 26 members, each with a term of eight years. Eight posts are appointed by the president. 12 are elected representatives of the former 11 provinces and the city of Kigali. Four members are designated by the Forum of Political Organizations (a quasi-governmental organization that currently is an arm of the dominant political party); one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the public universities; one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the private universities. Any past President has permanent membership in the Senate. Under this scheme, up to 12 appointees to the Senate are appointed by the President and his party. The elected members must be approved by the Supreme Court. The 14 Supreme Court members are designated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 members, each with a 5 year term; 24 posts are reserved for women and are elected by province; 53 posts can be men or women and are also are elected by local elections; 2 posts are elected by the National Youth Council; 1 post is elected by Federation of the Associations of the Disabled.

The President and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies must be from different political parties. The President is elected every seven years, and may serve a maximum of two terms. In 2006, however, the structure of the country was reorganized. It is unclear how this affects current elected representation proportions.

The current Rwandan government, led by Paul Kagame, has been praised by many for establishing security and promoting reconciliation and economic development, but is also criticized by some for being overly militant and opposed to dissent. The country now has many international visitors and is regarded as a safer place for tourists, with only a single isolated mortar attack in early 2007 around Volcanoes National Park near Gisenyi.

With new independent radio stations and other media arising, Rwanda is attempting a free press, but there are reports of journalists disappearing and being apprehended whenever articles question the government. The transmitter for Radio France International was banned by the government in Rwanda in 2006 when it became critical of Kagame and the RPF.

 

Administrative divisions

Rwanda is divided into five provinces (intara) and subdivided into thirty districts (akarere). The provinces are:

  • North Province
  • East Province
  • South Province
  • West Province
  • Kigali Province

Prior to 1 January 2006, Rwanda was composed of twelve provinces (known as prefectures up to 2001), but these were abolished in full and redrawn as part of a program of decentralization and reorganization.

 

Geography

This small country, slightly smaller than the US state of Massachusetts or half the size of Scotland, is located near the center of Africa, a few degrees south of the Equator. It is separated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley to the west; it is bounded on the north by Uganda, to the east by Tanzania, and to the south by Burundi. The capital, Kigali, is located in the center of the country.

Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet (2,743 m).

On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley, and constitutes part of the Great Rift Valley. This western section of the country lies within the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion.

The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region. Therefore the country is also fondly known as "Land of a Thousand Hills" (Pays des mille collines). In 2006, a British-led exploration announced that they had located the longest headstream of the River Nile in Nyungwe Forest.

 

Transport

The transport system in Rwanda centres primarily around the road network, with paved roads between the capital, Kigali and most other major cities and towns in the country. Rwanda is also linked by road to other countries in East Africa, notably to the port of Mombasa via Kampala and Nairobi, which provides Rwanda's most important trade route. The country has an international airport at Kigali, serving one domestic and several international destinations. There is no public water transport between the port cities on Lake Kivu, although a limited private service exists. A large amount of investment in the transport infrastructure has been made by the government since the 1994 genocide, with aid from the USA, European Union, Japan and others.

The principal form of public transport in the country is share taxi, with express routes linking the major cities and local services serving most villages along the main roads of the country. Coach services are available to various destinations in neighbouring countries.

In 2006, the Chinese government proposed funding a study for the building of a railway link from Bujumbura in Burundi to Kigali in Rwanda to Isaka in Tanzania. A delegation from the American railroad BNSF also met with President Paul Kagame to discuss a route from Kigali to Isaka and at the same time the government announced that it had selected a German consulting company to undertake pilot work for the proposed rail line.

 

Communications

The use of fixed telephone landlines is not widespread in the country.

Internet cafes exist, and generally provide cheap but slow connections.

The postal system is mostly reliable. Those wishing to receive post must register and pay for annually, a Post Office Box at the Post Office.

There is one national television station: Rwanda Television which broadcasts feeds from various international broadcasters during the day. The evening programming largely consists of locally produced news programming repeated in Kinyarwanda, English and French.


Subscription-based satellite television is easily available; particularly in Kigali. There is currently only one operator: South African based DSTV.

 

Economy

 

Gorilla mother and baby at Volcans National Park

 

Rwanda's economy suffered heavily during the 1994 genocide, with widespread loss of life, failure to maintain the infrastructure, looting and neglect of important cash crops causing a large drop in GDP and destroying the country's ability to attract private and external investment. The country has since strengthened, with per-capita GDP (PPP) estimated at $951 in 2008, compared with just $390 in 1994. Major export markets include China, Germany and the United States. The currency is the Rwandan franc and the economy is managed by the central National Bank of Rwanda, although Rwanda recently joined the East African Community and there are plans for a common East African shilling, which could be in place by 2010.

Rwanda is a country of few natural resources, and the economy is based mostly on semi-subsistence agriculture by local farmers using simple tools. An estimated 90% of the working population farms, and agriculture comprised an estimated 39.4% of GDP in 2006. Since the mid 1980s, farm sizes and food production have been decreasing, due in part to the resettlement of displaced people. Thus despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, requiring food imports. Crops grown in the country include coffee, tea, pyrethrum, bananas, beans, sorghum and potatoes. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export, with the high altitudes, steep slopes and volcanic soils providing favourable conditions. Reliance on agricultural exports makes Rwanda vulnerable to shifts in their prices. Livestock are raised throughout the country, with animal husbandry contributing around 8.8% of GDP in 2006. Animals raised in Rwanda include cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chicken and rabbits, with geographical variation in the numbers of each Production systems are mostly traditional, although there are a few intensive dairy farms around Kigali. Shortage of land, water shortage, insufficient and poor quality feed and regular disease epidemics with insufficient veterinary service are major constraints, restricting output in this sector. Fishing takes place on the country's lakes, but stocks are very depleted and live fish are now being imported in an attempt to revive the industry. The industrial sector is small and uncompetitive. Products manufactured include cement, agricultural products, small-scale beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, cigarettes. Despite being a landlocked country of few natural resources, Rwanda's mining industry is an important contributor, generating US$93 million in 2008 Minerals mined include cassiterite, wolfram, gold and coltan, which is used in the manufacture of electronic and communication devices such as mobile phones.

Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner, generating US$214 million in 2008, up by 54% on the previous year Despite the genocide, the country is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination and one million people are estimated to have visited the country in 2008, up from 826,374 in 2007 The country's most popular tourist activity is the tracking of mountain gorillas, which takes place in the Volcanoes National Park.

Other attractions include Nyungwe Forest, home to chimpanzees, Ruwenzori colobus and other primates, the resorts of Lake Kivu, and Akagera, a small savanna reserve in the east of the country. Each year in June, the country celebrates Kwita Izina - The Baby Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony. People come from all over the country and the world to participate in this unique event.

It has a low gross national product (GNP), and it has been identified as a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). In 2005, its economic performance and governance achievements prompted International Funding Institutions to cancel nearly all its debts.

According to the World Food Program, it is estimated that 60% of the population live below the poverty line and 10-12% of the population suffer from food insecurity every year.

Land management is the single most important factor in the conflicts in the region. Although the feudal system of land use disappeared with the "Social Revolution" of 1959, sharecropping reappeared following the return of the RPF government in 1994, with the land use policies of the new RPF government being formalized in the 2005 land use laws These land-use laws were meant to transform a jumble of small, fragmented, and minimally productive plots into more prosperous larger holdings producing for global (as well as for local) markets. The government is to determine how land holdings will be regrouped, which crops will be grown, and which animals will be raised. If farmers fail to follow the national plan, their land may be requisitioned with no compensation, and their land can be given to others.

Although a movement for individual ownership of land arose at the time of independence, land scarcity over much of Rwanda made this impractical over the long term. The current land reform system is somewhat similar to the "igikingi" system of land control that the Tutsi monarchy, and then the Belgian colonial government, used prior to the time leading up to independence. Northwest Rwanda had traditionally used a system of locally controlled land collectivization schemes, which were not under the Mwami's central control, called "ubokonde bw' isuka" in pre-colonial times. It is therefore the northwest of Rwanda that objects most strongly to the central control of land policy reminiscent of igikingi, taking control away from local owners. Some farmers who resisted the policy when it was begun in the 1990s were punished by fines or jail sentences; the policy remains the source of many disputes.

The law also affirms the policy of obligatory grouped residence under which persons living in dispersed homesteads must move to government-established "villages" called imidugudu. Instead of each family living on his own land, communal villages would be re-established, freeing up, presumably, more arable land. When implemented on a large-scale in the late 1990s, authorities in some cases used force, fines, and prison terms to make Rwandans relocate.

At least two imidugudu were created in northwestern Rwanda in 2005, leading to land loss for local farmers. Although the law claimed to accept the validity of customary rights to land, it rejected the customary use of marshlands by the poor and abolished important rights of prosperous landlords (abakonde) in the northwest.

However, the policy also ensured the ability of the government to exercise eminent domain for environmental reasons, which it did in 2007 by evicting encroaching settlers from the shores of Lake Kivu in an effort to protect the fragile environment there.

The government has also looked at ways to extract methane from Lake Kivu to help with the country's energy needs. The Capital Market Advisory Council [CMAC] of Rwanda was established in 2008. The monetary and financial markets are dominated by nine banks and six insurance companies in which the state continues to be a major shareholder. Over 200 micro-credit institutions (also known as microfinance institutions), often financed by international donors, sprung up in Rwanda (especially since 2004), but many were unregistered, unregulated, and often mismanaged. Several were shut down by the Rwandan government in 2006. In September 2006, the World Bank approved a US$10 million grant to Rwanda to develop information and communication technology.

Rwanda is part of the East African Community and a potential member of the planned East African Federation.

 

Demographics

Most Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda, one of the country's three official languages, and in market towns many people speak Swahili. Educated Rwandans speak French and about 5% (as of 2008) speak English. In 2008 the Rwandan government announced that English will become the co-official language of the nation, alongside Kinyarwanda and replacing French. They switched the language of education from French to English, and required government officials to learn it.

This is partly an attempt to enable Rwanda to become a part of the global economic community—English and Swahili will be the principal languages of the East African Community,—but is above all a result of a long-running feud between President Kagame and France over the apportioning of blame for the 1994 genocide. Rwanda was admitted in November 2009 to membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. The ethnic breakdown of this nation of 10 million is roughly 84% Hutu, 15% Tutsi, and 1% Twa, with smaller minorities of South Asians, Arabs, French, British, and Belgians.

Do listen to and buy some local Kenyan music. Reggae is also quite a frequent feature of matatu journeys.

 

Religion

 

Most Rwandans are Christian, with significant changes since the genocide.

A 2006 study reported that 56.5 percent of the population were Catholic (with a 6.9% increase since the 2001 survey), 37.1 percent Protestant (of which 11.1 Adventists, and 14,000 Jehovah's Witnesses), 4.6 percent Muslim, 1.7 claimed no religious beliefs, and 0.1 percent practiced traditional indigenous beliefs.

Figures from 2001 survey were 49.6 % Catholic, 43.9 % Protestant, 4.6 % Muslim, 1.7 % no religious beliefs, and 0.1 % traditional indigenous beliefs. This represented a 19.9 percent increase in the number of Protestants, a 7.6 percent drop in the number of Catholics, and a 3.5 percent increase in the number of Muslims from the U.N. Population Fund survey in 1996.

There has been a proliferation of small, usually Christian-linked schismatic religious groups since the 1994 Genocide. The figures for Protestants include the growing number of members of Jehovah's Witnesses and evangelical Protestant groups. There also is a small population of Baha'is and Jews.

The Muslim community may have grown in part because Muslims are suggested to have saved the lives of many Tutsis from Hutu attacks. Some estimate the Muslim population of the country to be as high as 14%.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Rwanda hosted 54,200 refugees and asylum seekers in 2007. Approximately 51,300 refugees and asylum seekers were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 2,900 from Burundi.

 

Health

Fertility is at about six births per woman. HIV prevalence was at about 3 % of the 15-49 year olds in 2005. Public expenditure was at 4.3 % of the GDP in 2004, whereas private expenditure was 3.2 %. There were 5 physicians per 100,000 people in 2000-2004. Infant mortality was at 118 per 1,000 live births in 2005.

 

Culture

Homosexuality is legal in Rwanda, although no specific laws regarding homosexuality exist. On December 16, 2009, Rwanda discussed legislation that would criminalize homosexuality, proposing 5–10 years imprisonment. This legislation is similar to the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the neighboring country of Uganda, which would penalize homosexuals with imprisonment and (in cases of relations with a minor or a disabled person, in cases where the offender is HIV-positive and in cases of repeated homosexual acts) the death penalty. Uganda's bill would also penalize people with knowledge of individuals who are homosexual but do not report them.

 

Education

Net primary enrollment rate was at 74 % in 2004. Public expenditure was at 3.8 % of the GDP in 2002-2005. A significant minority of the adult population of Rwanda is illiterate, particularly women. Public primary education has become fee-free. Kinyarwanda, French and English are taught generally. Rwanda has several universities.

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