Rwanda Travel Information

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Rwanda National Parks

Facts About Rwanda

Background: In 1959, three years before independence, 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 (RPF) 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, now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC). 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.

Government type: republic; presidential, multiparty system
Capital: Kigali
Currency: 1 Rwandan franc (RWF) = 100 centimes

Geography of Rwanda

Location: Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Geographic coordinates: 2 00 S, 30 00 E
total: 26,338 sq km
land: 24,948 sq km
water: 1,390 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 893 km
border countries: Burundi 290 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 km, Tanzania 217 km, Uganda 169 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; two rainy seasons (February to April, November to January); mild in mountains with frost and snow possible
Terrain: mostly grassy uplands and hills; relief is mountainous with altitude declining from west to east
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Rusizi River 950 m
highest point: Volcan Karisimbi 4,519 m
Natural resources: gold, cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), methane, hydropower, arable land
Land use:
arable land: 35%
permanent crops: 13%
permanent pastures: 18%
forests and woodland: 22%
other: 12% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 40 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts; the volcanic Birunga mountains are in the northwest along the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo
Environment - current issues: deforestation results from uncontrolled cutting of trees for fuel; overgrazing; soil exhaustion; soil erosion; widespread poaching.
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Nuclear Test Ban
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: landlocked; most of the country is savanna grassland with the population predominantly rural.

People of Rwanda

Rwanda's population density, even after the 1994 genocide, is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (230 per sq. km.--590 per sq. mi.). Nearly every family in this country with few villages lives in a self-contained compound on a hillside. The urban concentrations are grouped around administrative centers. The indigenous population consists of three ethnic groups. The Hutus, who comprise the majority of the population (85%), are farmers of Bantu origin. The Tutsis (14%) are a pastoral people who arrived in the area in the 15th century. Until 1959, they formed the dominant caste under a feudal system based on cattleholding. The Twa (1%) are thought to be the remnants of the earliest settlers of the region. Over half of the adult population is literate, but not more than 5% have received secondary education. During 1994-95, most primary schools and more than half of prewar secondary schools reopened. The national university in Butare reopened in April 1995; enrollment is over 7,000. Rebuilding the educational system continues to be a high priority of the Rwandan Government.

Population: 8,440,820 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  42.4% 
15-64 years:  54.73% 
65 years and over:  2.87%
Population growth rate: 1.16% 
Birth rate: 33.97 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 21.13 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -1.21 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 118.92 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  38.99 years
male:  38.35 years
female:  39.65 years 
Total fertility rate: 4.89 children born/woman 
noun: Rwandan(s)
adjective: Rwandan
Ethnic groups: Hutu 84%, Tutsi 15%, Twa (Pygmoid) 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 52.7%, Protestant 24%, Adventist 10.4%, Muslim 1.9%, indigenous beliefs and other 6.5%, none 4.5% (1996)
Languages: Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population:  48%
male:  52%
female:  45% (1995 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Rwanda > Map Economy History