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A small country in east central Africa. It is bounded in the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lake Kivu, on the north by Uganda, on the east by Tanzania, and on the south by Burundi.


Rwanda occupies a mountainous region where the equatorial climate is modified by the altitude. Set on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley, at the head of Lake Tanganyika, it is also volcanic.


Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world. Subject to drought and famine and with a high incidence of parasitic and other diseases, it has one of the highest population densities in Africa and a high birth-rate. Coffee and tea are the main exports, and plantains, sweet potatoes, and cassava are staple crops. The principal mineral resource is cassiterite (a tin ore), but exports are at a standstill since the collapse in world tin prices. Other mineral resources include wolframite, gold and unexploited natural gas reserves. Limited manufacturing industry comprises mostly food-processing.


Rwanda obtained its present boundaries in the late 19th century under pastoral Tutsi kings who ruled over the agriculturalist Bahutu (Hutu). In 1890 Germany claimed it as part of German East Africa. Belgian forces took it in 1916, and administered it under a League of Nations mandate. Following civil war (1959) between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, Rwanda was declared a republic in 1961 and became independent in 1962. The now dominant Hutu forced large numbers of Tutsi into exile, but after the accession to power of President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1973 domestic stability improved. In 1975 Habyarimana's party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) declared itself the sole legal political organization; he was re-elected in 1978, 1983, and 1988. In October 1990 Uganda-based rebels of the Front Patriotique Rwandaise (FPR), many of whose members were Tutsi, invaded. Belgian and French forces helped to repel them, while the Organization of African Unity negotiated. In 1991 a new constitution legalized opposition parties, but the FPR refused to participate. In 1992 a coalition government was formed pending a general election, but Tutsi–Hutu tension persisted. In 1994 Habyarimana was assassinated and some 500,000 Tutsis were massacred by the Hutu-dominated army. The FPR emerged victorious in the ensuing civil war, but this provoked millions of Hutus to flee the country for fear of reprisals. Although a broad-based government was established ethnic violence continued. By the late 1990s, however, some million refugees returned and the UN set up an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for genocide. A new constitution came into force in 2003, and in 2005 a Hutu rebel group announced its disarmament.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)




26,338 sq km (10,169 sq miles)


8,574,000 (2005)


1 Rwanda franc


Roman Catholic 49.5%; Protestant 39.4%

Ethnic Groups:

Hutu 85.0%; Tutsi 14.0%; Twa 1.0%


Rwanda, French (both official); Swahili

International Organizations:

UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement; WTO

Subjects: African Studies — History.

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