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Rwanda

Rwanda Map and basic Facts

Location:
Rwanda is in East/Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo with Uganda to its north and Burundi to the south. Rwanda also shares its eastern border with Tanzania.

Land Boundaries:
Burundi 290 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 km, Tanzania 217 km, and Uganda 169 km.

Geography:
Size 26,338 sq km slightly smaller than Maryland, US. Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to April and November to January. The temperature is mild in mountains with frost and snow possible at higher altitudes. Rwanda's terrain consists of mostly grassy uplands and hills with a mountainous altitude declining from west to east. Its lowest point is the Rusizi River at 950 m and its highest point is Volcan Karisimbi which stands at 4,519 m. Rwanda is a land locked country and most of its population is rural.

Population:
Just under 10 million people live in Rwanda making it the most densely populated country in Africa. Life expectancy is around 49 years. Birth rate is on average 5.37 per woman. Literacy rate is just over 70%.

Languages:
Kinyarwanda (official) which is a universal Bantu vernacular; French (official); English (official), and Kiswahili (Swahili) which is used in commercial centers.

Ethnic Groups:
Hutu (Bantu) 84%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 15%, and Twa (Pygmy) 1%

Religion:
Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous beliefs 0.1%, and none 1.7% (2001)

Brief Political History:
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 (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 the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remained in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaire) and formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF tried in 1990. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms - including Rwanda's first local elections in March 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003 - the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output, and ethnic reconciliation is complicated by the real and perceived Tutsi political dominance. Kigali's increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent, the nagging Hutu extremist insurgency across the border, and Rwandan involvement in two wars in recent years in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts to escape its bloody legacy.

Economic Overview:
Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. Primary foreign exchange earners 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 substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels, although poverty levels are higher now. GDP has rebounded and inflation has been curbed. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, requiring food imports. Rwanda continues to receive substantial aid money and obtained IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative debt relief in 2005-06. Rwanda also received Millennium Challenge Account Threshold status in 2006. Kigali's high defense expenditures have caused tension between the government and international donors and lending agencies. Energy shortages, instability in neighboring states, and lack of adequate transportation linkages to other countries continue to handicap growth.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Further Reading:
Rwanda Travel Guide
Gorilla Safaris
Swahili for Travelers
Tanzania Travel Information
Uganda Travel Information
Kenya Travel Information
Cheap Flights to Africa
Health and Safety Tips for Travelers to Africa

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