The Republic of Rwanda is a sovereign state in central and east Africa. Located just south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Rwanda is a small country that draws visitors from all over the world, primarily to see its endangered mountain gorillas. Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 has not been forgotten and a worthy memorial museum stands in the capital Kigali as a present reminder of the atrocities suffered. Since then, Rwandans have actively sought to restore and improve way of life and the country has become a peaceful and safe destination for visitors. Rwanda’s infrastructure is good with most roads tarred and accessible.
The country is nobly leading the way in environmental protection through a ban on plastic bags – making it one of the cleanest countries in Africa. In this way, the awe-inspiring landscape of rolling hills and volcanoes can be fully appreciated. Kigali is experiencing a massive boom and the growth of construction has led to a positive and friendly atmosphere.
||Republic of RwandaCapital: Kigali
||“Ubumwe, Umurimo, Gukunda Igihugu” “Unity, Work, Patriotism”
||“Rwanda Nziza” – 2001 (Kinyarwanda for “Beautiful Rwanda”)
||1 July 1962
|Type of Government:
||Presidential Republic (Unitary Parliamentary)
||Five – Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province, Western Province, Kigali Province (2006)
||10.9 million (2011)
|Main Language spoken:
||French, Kinyarwanda, English, Swahili
||Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%
||Coffee, tea and minerals like tin, coltan, wolframite and cassiterite
||Gold, cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), methane, hydropower, arable land
||8.6% (2011), GDP per capita: $595 (2011)
For centuries, Rwanda was under the monarchy of a succession of Tutsi kings from a single clan – who over time ruled
through numerous cattle chiefs, land
chiefs, and later military chiefs. The population of Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa clans lived in symbiotic harmony under the supremacy of the King.
In 1885 European representatives met in Berlin to carve Africa up for colonisation.
Rwanda and Burundi were given to Germany and were administered as a joint colonial territory of Deutsch Ost Afrika. Germany did not intend to colonise Rwanda and Burundi for European habitation, and so adopted a form of indirect rule with a very small European presence. Rwanda became a German colony in 1899.
One of the first European accounts of Rwanda was by Duke Adolphus Frederick of Mecklenberg who said of Rwanda, “It is a land flowing of milk and honey where breeding cattle and bee culture flourish and cultivated soil bears rich crops of fruit; a hilly country, thickly populated, full of beautiful scenery and possessing a climate incomparably fresh and healthy in the heart of Africa” (National Geographic 1912).
In 1919, Rwanda became a mandate territory of the League of Nations and ruled by Belgium.
Batutsi began to be targeted from 1959 and hundreds of thousands died and nearly two million went into exile. Discrimination was institutionalised during the first and second Republics, which led to periodic massacres.
In 1979, refugees from exile formed The Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU), which sought to mobilise against divisive politics and genocide ideology.
In 1987, RANU became the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) and they continued to seek a peaceful transition. On 1 October 1990, the RPF launched an armed liberation struggle that ultimately ousted the dictatorship in 1994 and ended the genocide of over one-million Batutsi, as well as the countless massacres of moderate Bahutu who opposed the genocide.
After Kigali fell to RPF’s armed wingthe RPA on 4 July 1994, RPF formed a Government of National Unity headed by President Pasteur Bizimungu. This brought parties who did not participate in the genocide together. President Pasteur Bizimungu was voted out by Parliament in 2000 and RPF appointed Major General Paul Kagame to lead the coalition as President of the Republic. Kagame was previously the Vice-President and Minister of Defence.
President Paul Kagame was elected with landslide majority to serve a term of seven years in 2003. During those seven years, the country made unprecedented socio-economic and political progress and consolidated peace, stability as well as social cohesion. In 2010, President Kagame was re-elected to serve a second term and on a platform of rapid development for the transformation of the lives of all Rwandese people.
Government and politics
In Rwanda’s presidential republic, the President is head of state and government within a multi-party system. The government exercises executive power. Legislative power is held by both the government and the two chambers of parliament – the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Robust governance creates long-term stability
• Republic with elected President, Parliament of two houses (with most members elected from local bodies).
• Judiciary system includes Supreme, High, District as well as Commercial courts.
The new constitution was created by the Transitional National Assembly on 5 May 1995. The constitution is a melting pot of elements from the constitution of June 1991, the 1993 Arusha peace accord and the November 1994 multiparty protocol of understanding.
There are seven political parties represented in the Government of National Unity of the Republic of Rwanda: Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR), Parti Social Démocrate (PSD), Parti Libéral (PL), Parti Démocrate Centriste (PDC) Parti Démocratique Idéal (PDI), Parti Socialiste Rwandais (PSR) and Union Démocratique du Peuple Rwandais (UDPR).
The government represents all regions, ethnic groups and religions. Their level of representation of women in cabinet,
parliament, civil service and local and regional government is inspiring. The President also heads the cabinet, which is comprised of a body of ministers responsible for the conduct of national affairs. Ministers are appointed by the President upon consultation with leaders of political parties.
Ministers head the government departments or ministries. Some ministries also have Ministers of State – who are junior Ministers. The ministries are staffed by civil servants – the main implementers of government policy.
Rwanda has five provinces: Kigali Province, Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and Western Province.
The Supreme Court of Rwanda is the highest judicial power in Rwanda. The Supreme Court and the High Council of the Judiciary oversee the courts of lower ordinary jurisdictions and courts of the special jurisdictions in Rwanda.
Capital City Kigali – a gateway to Rwanda Located at the heart of Rwanda, the national capital City of Kigali is growing rapidly and is the country’s most important business centre and gateway port into Rwanda.
Now the largest city of Rwanda, Kigali was born in 1907 as a small colonial outpost.
This city has not only survived, it has grown into a deserving capital and a modern metropolis. The city is representative of the emerging Rwandan economy and as a result, is the pride of every Rwandan.
Kigali is one of the safest and friendliest African capitals. It has a moderate high altitude climate, although in a tropical location. The city is built on numerous hills, sprawling across four ridges with valleys in between. The commercial centre is located on one of these ridges, with the administrative centre on the other. It is also within three hours’ drive of the main tourist sites in Rwanda – making it a great access point and ideal springboard from which to explore this magical country.
City of Kigali is made up of three districts:
Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyarugenge. Its population is approximately one million inhabitants.
Kigali became the capital on independence in 1962 and it has been the economic, cultural, and transport hub of Rwanda ever since. It is serviced by an efficient International Airport and is easily connected to neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi by a tarred road network.
Services and Recreation Kigali is a cosmopolitan city and has a diverse range of offerings catering to a variety of interests – hotels, restaurants, banks, bureau de change, bookshops, markets and shopping, souvenir shops, car rentals, sports clubs, swimming pools, and nightclubs. The available hotels range from five-star rated establishments, to comfortable guesthouses. The city’s restaurants offer a variety of different cuisines from African dishes, international cuisine, to Italian, Ethiopian, Indian and Chinese menus.
The Kigali city sight-seeing tour includes the following sights: Gisozi Genocide Memorial Site, the Kaplaki Curio shops, the military memorial of the Belgian troops massacred during the genocide, Dr. Richard Kandt House – now turned into Rwanda Natural Museum, and the Mt. Rebero panoramic viewing point.
The city has made great strides in its recovery from the devastation of the 1994 war and genocide. Although damaged, the city’s structure has considerably recovered; and today forms a unique strategic site for its inhabitants, investors and tourists from all over the world.
International Relations and Twinning
Kigali city has an outlook of cooperation and developing working relations with cities all over the world. There are twining programmes with: capital cities in the East African Community; with Durban and Tshwane in South Africa; Lusaka in Zambia; Oklahoma, Philadelphia and San Bernardino in the United States of America; Mianz in Germany; Rome in Italy; Waramme in Belgium; as well as Chengdu, Jinan and Shenzhen in China.
The relationship with these cities brings diversity and cooperation. Kigali City is open and ready to embrace any synergy and twinning opportunity with any city from any part of the world.
Economy of Rwanda
Rwanda mainly exports coffee, tea, tin ore and hides. Its minimal natural resources include gold, cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), methane, hydropower, and arable land. Rwanda’s main industry is cement, agricultural products, soap and small-scale beverages. It also cultivates tea, coffee, bananas, pyrethrum and livestock.
||Rainy seasons: March to May and October to November (average of 110-200mm per month).
||24.6 – 27.6ºc. Hottest months: August and September.
||Ranges from 1,000 – 4,500m above sea level.
||Karisimbi volcano (4,507m)
|Lakes and rivers:
||Lake Kivu, Lake Muhazi, Lake Ihema, Lake Bulera, Lake Ruhondo, Lake Mugesera.
||Ranges from dense equatorial forest in the north-west of the country to tropical savannah in the east.
Rwanda is a landlocked country situated in central-east Africa. It is known as “the land of a thousand hills” owing to its five volcanoes, 23 lakes and numerous rivers – some forming the source of the Nile.
Rwanda is nestled 75 miles south of the equator in the Tropic of Capricorn – wedged in the heart of Africa. Rwanda shares borders with Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.
The variety and greenery of Rwanda’s landscapes is made up by the volcanoes in the north and Lake Kivu in the west.
Rwanda’s great wild animals are protected from poachers in the country’s national parks where they roam free in vast plains and forests.
The Volcanoes National Park, in the Virunga Volcanic Mountains with its high altitude forests, is world-famous for mountain gorillas and is rich with wildlife.
It is a mountainous area more dominated by rank vegetation and bamboo forest.
Lake Kivu offers beautiful beaches, jutting peninsulas and an archipelago of islands.
Rwanda’s natural rainforest once covered ne third of the country but was decreased by the effects of population expansion.
Now protected, the remaining large areas of forest are found at the Nyungwe Forest National Park and the Volcanoes National Park.
One of Africa’s oldest forests, the forest at Nyungwe is a true rainforest which receives over 2,000mm of rain per year. Its high biodiversity includes over 200 species of trees as well as orchids.
Most of Rwanda’s rolling highlands are typically covered by Montane grassland and moorland, although terraced agriculture is now dominant. The less-rich soil of the flatter east supports open savannah and broad-leafed woodland species such as acacias and grasses. The wetlands of the Akagera National Park are fringed by riverine forest and papyrus swamp.
The culture of Rwanda has rich tradition and customs. Even after the brutal genocide of 1994, people of all tribes live harmoniously and celebrate festivals of their culture.
Tribes and religion
There are mostly three ethnic tribes in Rwanda: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The people of Rwanda follow the religions of Islam, Christianity and some African religions.
Since the atrocities of genocide ended in 1994, the people of Rwanda live in complete harmony. Nearly 90% of Rwandans rely on agriculture, agro-processing and mineral work for their livelihood.
The Rwanda people speak French, English, Kiswahili, and the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda – which is spoken by the local ethnic groups. Refugees from Uganda and Kenya speak French and English – equating to nearly 10% of the population.
Art, music and tradition
Unique dances and songs form part of Rwanda’s culture, which denote folk tales and local fables. Rwandans are skilled in handicrafts, creating beautiful baskets, paintings, wood engravings and ceramics items by hand. Remarkable objects which share of the history of Rwanda’s culture are carefully kept in the National Museum of Rwanda.
Rwanda’s culture is renowned for its warmth and hospitality to guests as well as their simplicity of food. Food staples comprise of bananas, potatoes, beans, meat and dairy products. At ceremonies, only a piece of meat is served with drinks. When guests visit Rwandan homes, they are offered food as gifts and as such, should not be refused.
The host usually tastes the food first to assure his guests that the food is safe for consumption.
Rwandan people celebrate many festivals as a result of their diverse cultures and religions. Id-Ul-Fitr, Christmas and Easter are celebrated. There are also local festivals which depict traditions as well as national festivals celebrated by all. Annual National Holidays include National Day on 1 July and Independence Day on 4 July. Culture Day is celebrated on 8 September and Kamarampaka Day is on 25 September.
National Mourning Day is commemorated on 7 April every year.
Flying into Kigali’s international airport is the easiest way to get to Rwanda. Rwanda’s International Airport, Kigali International Airport (KGL), is small but efficient and is only 10 minutes from the city centre. Airlines flying here include: SN Brussels, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express.
A valid passport and a tourist visa are required for many nationalities. Tourist visas are available at Rwandan embassies and consulates worldwide.
Wildlife and National Parks
Rwanda’s remaining diversity of large wild animals is restricted to its protected areas.
The eastern Akagera National Park is home to typical savannah species: elephant, antelope, giraffe, zebra, hippo and buffalo, as well as rare sightings of lion and leopard.
The two forest parks, Nyungwe Forest National Park and Virunga Volcanoes National Park, are home to Central African forest specialists. There are up to 13 species of primate at Volcanoes National Park – which is a pristine mountain rainforest boasting arguably the best mountain gorilla trekking in the world.
Nyungwe Forest National Park on the other hand is home to chimpanzees and huge troops of colobus monkeys – as well as elusive forest birds of every shape and size. Other forest inhabitants include golden cat, forest hog and many small antelope species.
A gorilla visit can entail anything from a one to four-hour trek through the forest, led by experienced trackers. The enchanting treks weave through overhanging vines, moss-covered Hagenia trees and giant Lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate.
It is possible to see golden monkeys, buffalo, bush duiker and a wide variety of birds.
The highlight of the trek is arguable the greatest wildlife experience on earth – to spend an hour with the gentle giant gorillas as they go about their daily life of feeding, playing, sleeping, and raising their young.
This magical experience kept worldrenowned conservationist Dian Fossey living in this same forest in Rwanda for 18 years, to protect these magnificent animals.
• Tracking Mountain Gorillas – Rwanda’s tourist economy is centred on tracking mountain gorillas in the Parc National Volcans (PNV). The trip can be extended to include seeing the golden monkeys and the trek to Dian Fossey’s grave and research site.
• Kigali – Highlights include the Genocide Memorial Centre, the fruit market, lunch at the Hotel Mille Collines (of Hotel Rwanda fame) and a ride on a motorbike taxi through town.
• Butare – Rwanda’s pleasant University Town is home to the excellent National Museum.
• Akagera National Park – View elephants, hippos and crocodiles in this beautiful and recently rehabilitated national park.
• Nyungwe National Park – Home to 13 species of primate, this huge Montane forest in the south is where visitors can view chimps, colobus monkeys, as well as a variety of birds.
• Rwanda’s world-class parliament has 56% women – more than any other in the world.
• Plastic bags are prohibited in Rwanda.
• Education receives 25% of Rwanda’s national budget.
• Registration of ethnical background is prohibited since the genocide.
• About 350 of the world’s 700 mountain gorillas live in Rwanda.
• In 1894, Gustav Adolf von Götzen became the first European to explore Rwanda.
• Karisimbi Volcano (4,519m high), in the Virunga Mountains, is the highest point in Rwanda.
• Rwanda is also known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills”.
• Rwanda has a literacy rate of 70%.
• Agriculture and cattle is the traditional way of life in Rwanda. Rwandan people do not form villages but each family is surrounded by its own fields.
• The first of Rwanda’s ethnic groups to inhabit the region were the Twa (a Pygmy people).
• In 1985, author of “Gorillas in the Mist”, Dr. Dian Fossey, was killed in Rwanda – most likely by poachers. Dr. Fossey worked with mountain gorillas in the Parc des Volcans.
• In 1993, an agreement was reached to end the civil war (the Arusha Peace Accords).
• During the Rwandan War (1994-1995), Paul Rusesabagina saved 1,268 lives in his hotel. Today his name is famous in Africa and the movie “Hotel Rwanda” is based on his story.