Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in November 2009, becoming its 54th
In 2008 the Government of Rwanda decided to change the medium of
education from French to English.
In September 2008 Rwanda became the first nation in the world to elect a
majority of women MPs: 45 of the 80 members of the Chamber of Deputies.
The number increased to 51 women deputies in the September 2013
Joined Commonwealth: November 2009
Population: 11,777,000 (2013)
GDP: 2.2% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: 2014: World ranking 151
Official language: Kinyarwanda, French, English
Timezone: GMT plus 2hr
Currency: Rwandan franc (Rwfr)
Area: 26,338 sq km
Capital city: Kigali
Population density (per sq. km): 447
The Republic of Rwanda is a landlocked country with land borders with
four countries: Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi and
Democratic Republic of Congo (clockwise from the north). Water covers
1,390 sq km of the country; the largest lakes include Bulera, Ihema,
Kivu (straddling the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo),
Mugesera and Muhazi, and there are many rivers. The country comprises
There are 14,000 km of roads, 19 per cent paved. There is no railway.
The main international airport is Kigali International.
Rwanda is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of
States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,
East African Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation
internationale de la Francophonie, United Nations and World Trade
Rwanda joined the East African Community in July 2007. Commonwealth
leaders, holding their biennial CHOGM in Port of Spain, Trinidad and
Tobago, admitted Rwanda as the association’s 54th member on 28 November
The terrain is rugged with steep hills and deep valleys, rising in the
north to the highest peak, Karisimbi (4,519 metres), which lies in a
range of volcanoes. The country is popularly known as the ‘land of a
Though the country is close to the Equator, the climate is tempered by
altitude; it is hot and humid in the valleys, and drier and cooler in
the higher elevations. The rainy seasons are March–May and
October–November; the hottest season August–September.
The most significant environmental issues are drought, limiting the
potential for agriculture; overgrazing; soil erosion and degradation;
and deforestation due to almost universal use of wood as a fuel.
Thick equatorial rainforest is found in the north and west of the
country – forest covering some 18 per cent of the total land area – and
savannah in the east. Forest cover has increased at 1.6 per cent p.a.
1990–2010. Arable land comprises 49 per cent and permanent cropland ten
per cent of the total land area.
National parks and game reserves cover some eight per cent of the
country and include the Volcanoes National Park (famous for its mountain
gorillas) and Akagera National Park (elephants, buffaloes, giraffes and
zebras). Some 20 mammal species and 14 bird species are thought to be
By the 17th century Tutsis had established a kingdom in present-day
Rwanda where Hutus, Tutsis and Twa were living. Rwanda became part of
German East Africa in 1899. After World War I, it came under Belgian
administration under a League of Nations mandate, and, from 1920, as
part of a UN trust territory, ‘Ruanda–Urundi’.
After World War II, Rwanda continued to be administered by Belgium. In
1959, as the independence movement gathered pace, the ruling Tutsi elite
formed a political party, Union Nationale Rwandaise. The Belgian
authorities encouraged the Hutu majority also to aspire to political
power and, in the same year, a rival party, Parti de l’émancipation du
peuple Hutu (Parmehutu), was established.
As the 1960 local elections approached, Parmehutu initiated a Hutu
uprising resulting in the death of many Tutsis and forcing King Kigeri V
and tens of thousands of Tutsis to flee into exile in Uganda and
Burundi. In 1961 the monarchy was abolished and Rwanda became a
republic, gaining independence from Belgium in 1962, with Parmehutu
leader Grégoire Kayibanda as President; many more Tutsis left the
country and those who remained faced continuing state-sponsored violence
and institutionalised discrimination. The most serious eruption of
violence at this time was triggered in 1963 by an incursion from Burundi
of exiled Rwandan Tutsis and resulted in the death of at least 15,000
Tutsis at the hands of Hutu gangs.
Kayibanda was overthrown in 1973 in a military coup led by army chief of
staff Juvénal Habyarimana. There then ensued a period of military rule,
until 1978, when a new constitution was promulgated and Habyarimana
In 1990 forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) entered the country
from Uganda and the civil war began. Though predominantly a Tutsi
movement, the RPF did win the support of a significant element of
moderate Hutus. A new constitution promoting multiparty democracy was
introduced in 1991. Peace talks brokered by the UN in August 1993
resulted in a power- sharing agreement between Habyarimana and the RPF,
the Arusha Accords.
In April 1994 an aircraft carrying Habyarimana and the Burundian
President was shot down on its return from Arusha to Kigali, killing all
the passengers. The President’s violent death triggered the co-ordinated
massacre of Tutsis – and some Hutus who opposed the government – by Hutu
militia and elements of the Rwandan army. In response the RPF began a
major offensive from the north. An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate
Hutus were killed in the months following the plane crash. In July 1994
the RPF took control of Kigali and formed an administration based on the
principles of power-sharing and national reconciliation which were the
basis of the 1993 Arusha Accords. The administration comprised five
political parties: the RPF, Christian Democratic Party, Liberal Party,
Republican Democratic Movement and Social Democratic Party. Pasteur
Bizimungu was inaugurated as President for a five-year term; the RPF
military chief Paul Kagame became Vice-President and Defence Minister.
The government’s priorities were security, rebuilding the economy and
national reconciliation; it prohibited any official recognition of
ethnicity. By February 2007 some 60,000 prisoners accused of genocide
had been released.
Shortly after the new government took office, a 70-member Transitional
National Assembly was formed, including representatives of the five
governing parties and three other smaller parties, the Democratic Union
for Rwandese People, Islamic Party and Socialist Party, as well as six
representatives of the Rwandese Patriotic Army.
The UN Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda (ICTR) in November 1994 to contribute to the process of national
reconciliation and to the maintenance of peace in the region. The
tribunal was established in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, in
February 1995, for the prosecution of those responsible for genocide and
other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in
Rwanda during 1994.
Some two million Hutus followed the Hutu militias into exile in Zaire,
where they were accommodated in UN refugee camps. Many other Hutus fled
to Tanzania. By 1995 the Hutu militias and Zairean government forces
were initiating attacks on Zairean Banyamulenge Tutsis who lived in
Eastern Zaire. In October 1996 Rwandan troops and Zairean Tutsis
attacked the refugee camps where the Hutu militia were based with the
aim of repatriating the refugees. In 1997 the Zairean regime was
overthrown, Laurent Kabila became President and the country was renamed
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, in 1998, when it was
clear that the new government of DRC was not going to return the Hutu
militias to Rwanda, Rwanda began to lend its support to forces that
opposed Kabila. However, in July 2002 Rwanda and the DRC agreed that
Rwanda would withdraw its troops and DRC would work with Rwanda in
disarming Hutu militia. By October 2002 Rwanda reported it had completed
its withdrawal, and in March 2005 the main Hutu rebel group, Forces
démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda, announced the end of its
armed struggle. In November 2007 Rwanda signed a peace agreement with
the DRC, under which DRC was to hand over those implicated in the 1994
genocide to Rwanda or to the ICTR.
Rwandan Genocide - The
slaughter of 800,000 people
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