Rwanda Basic Facts:Rwanda is a small East African country, that draws visitors from all over the world, primarily to see its endangered mountain gorillas. Rwanda's horrendous genocide in 1994 has not been forgotten, the memorial museum in Kigali is a "must-see". On the surface (and highly encouraged by officials) Rwandans have decided to move on to better things, and it is a peaceful and safe destination for visitors. Rwanda's infrastructure is good, most of the roads are paved making it easy to get around. The country has banned plastic bags and it certainly has kept it cleaner, all the better to marvel at the stunning landscape of rolling hills and volcanoes. The capital Kigali is booming, with a friendly vibe, lots of new construction and a generally positive atmosphere.
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. (See Map)
Area: Rwanda covers 26,338 sq km, slightly smaller than Maryland, US.
Capital City: Kigali
Population: Almost 10 million (Rwanda is Africa's most densely populated country).
Languages: Kinyarwanda, French, English, Kiswahili
Religion: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%
Climate: Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to April and November to January. Click here for daily temperatures.
When to Go: June - September (during the dry season).
Currency: Rwandan Franc (click here for a currency converter)
Rwanda's Main Attractions
- Tracking Mountain Gorillas - Rwanda's tourist economy is centered around tracking mountain gorillas in the Parc National Volcans (PNV) and it is well worth the trip, add on extra days to see the golden monkeys and trek to Dian Fossey's grave/research site.
- Kigali - A safe, friendly capital city. Highlights include the Genocide Memorial Center, 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 hosts the excellent National Museum
- Akagera National Park - see elephants, hippos and crocodiles in this attractive, recently rehabilitated, national park.
- Nyungwe National Park - home to 13 species of primate, this huge montane forest in southern Rwanda is where you can see chimps, colobus monkeys as well as lots of birds.
Travel to RwandaRwanda's International Airport: Kigali International Airport (KGL) is small but efficient and only 10 minutes from the town center. Airlines arriving here include: SN Brussels, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express.
Getting to Rwanda: Flying into Kigali's international airport is the easiest way to get to Rwanda. Daily buses travel between Kampala (Uganda) and Kigali, they take about 10 hours. You can catch a variety of minibus taxis to the Tanzanian border and travel onto Mwanza (Tanzania). The border to Burundi may be dangerous, but is easy to get to by minibus taxi. To get to the DRC travel via Gisenyi to Goma (DRC) by minibus taxi.
Rwanda's Embassies/Visas: A valid passport and a tourist visa are required for many nationalities. Tourist visas are available at Rwandan embassies and consulates around the world.
Rwanda Tourist Information Office: Rwanda Tourist Board (ORTPN), Boulevard de la Révolution n° 1, PO Box 905 Kigali, Rwanda. Tel (250) 576514 or 573396, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web Site: http://www.rwandatourism.com/
Rwanda's History/PoliticsIn 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 Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remained in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, and formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda. Rwanda held its first local elections in 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in 2003. Rwanda in 2009 staged a joint military operation with the Congolese Army in DRC to rout out the Hutu extremist insurgency there.
Rwanda's EconomyRwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and temporarily stalled 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. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with demand, 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 a Millennium Challenge Account Compact in 2008. Africa's most densely populated country is trying to overcome the limitations of its small, landlocked economy by leveraging regional trade. Rwanda joined the East African Community and is aligning its budget, trade, and immigration policies with its regional partners. The government has embraced an expansionary fiscal policy to reduce poverty by improving education, infrastructure, and foreign and domestic investment and pursuing market-oriented reforms.
More About Rwanda and SourcesGorilla Tracking in Rwanda
Kigali, Rwanda's Capital
CIA Factbook - Rwandan history and economy
Rwanda's Highlights - Volcanoes Safaris
Rwanda's Official Tourism Site