|General background: In 1959, three years before
independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group,
the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the
next several years thousands of Tutsis were killed,
and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries.
The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group,
the Rwandan Patriotic Front and began a civil war in
1990. The war, along with several political and economic
upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions culminating in
April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis
and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu
regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately
2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution
- fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and
Zaire. Since then most of the refugees have returned
to Rwanda. Despite substantial international assistance
and political reforms - including Rwanda's first local
elections in March 1999 - the country continues to struggle
to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster
reconciliation. A series of massive population displacements,
a nagging Hutu extremist insurgency, and Rwandan involvement
in two wars over the past four years in the neighboring
DROC continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts.
comparative: Slightly smaller than Maryland.
Climate: Temperate; two rainy seasons (February
to April, November to January); mild in mountains with
frost and snow possible.
grassy uplands and hills; relief is mountainous with
altitude declining from west to east.
Ethnic groups: Hutu 84%, Tutsi 15%, Twa (Pygmoid)
Religions: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Seventh-Day
Adventist 11.1%, Protestant 26%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous
beliefs 0.1%, none 1.7% (2001)
Language: Kinyarwanda (official) universal
Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official),
Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centres
Government type: Republic; presidential, multiparty
Legal system: Based on German and Belgian
civil law systems and customary law; judicial review
of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not
accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic overview: Rwanda is a rural country
with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly
subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated
country in Africa; landlocked with few natural resources
and minimal industry. Primary exports are coffee and
tea. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile
economic base, severely impoverished the population,
particularly women, and eroded the country's ability
to attract private and external investment. However,
Rwanda has made significant progress in stabilizing
and rehabilitating its economy. GDP has rebounded,
and inflation has been curbed. Rwanda received approval
for debt relief from the IMF in late 2000 and continued
to make progress on inflation, privatisation, and
GDP growth in 2001. However, export earnings were
hindered by low global coffee prices, depriving the
country of much needed hard currency. President KAGAME
is encouraging investors to take advantage of export
opportunities in Rwanda based on its membership in
the COMESA free trade area and its access to the US
and the EU markets through preferential trade agreements.
Communication/Telephone system: Telephone system
primarily serves business and government.
Places of interest: From the mountain gorillas
in reopened Parc Nacional des Volcans to the hundreds
of species of trees and birds in the magnificent rainforests
Travel tips: Caution still needs to be exercised
and the latest information sought.