Most of Rwanda is situated at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) or higher, and the country has a rugged relief made up of steep mountains and deep valleys. The principal geographical feature is the Virunga mountain range, which runs north of Lake Kivu and includes Rwanda's loftiest point, Volcan Karisimbi (14,787 ft/4,507 m). There is some lower land (at elevations below 3,000 ft/910 m) along the eastern shore of Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River in the west and near the Tanzanian border in the east. In addition to the capital, other towns include Butare, Gisenyi, and Ruhengeri.
About 85% of the inhabitants are Hutu, and the rest Tutsi, except for a small number of Twa, who are a Pygmy group. Since independence, ethnic violence has led to large-scale massacres and the creation of perhaps as many as three million refugees. Kinyarwanda (a Bantu tongue), French, and English are the official languages, and Swahili is also spoken. Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and its population has a high annual growth rate that is usually around 3%. About 90% of the people are Christian (more than half of these Roman Catholic, with Protestant and Adventist minorities) and 5% (mostly Tutsis) are Muslim. A small number follow traditional religious beliefs.
The economy of Rwanda is overwhelmingly agricultural, with most of the workers engaged in subsistence farming. Economic development in Rwanda is hindered by the needs of its large population and by its lack of easy access to the sea (and thus to foreign markets). The chief food crops are bananas, pulses, sorghum, and potatoes. The principal cash crops are coffee, tea, and pyrethrum. Large numbers of cattle, goats, and sheep are raised. Food must be imported, as domestic production has fallen below subsistence levels. Food shortages were exacerbated by the civil strife and severe refugee problems of the early 1990s, and exports were devastated. However, by the early 2000s the economy had revived to pre-1994 levels.
Cassiterite and wolframite are mined in significant quantities, and natural gas is produced at Lake Kivu. Rwanda's industries are limited to food processing, brewing, and small factories that manufacture furniture, footwear, plastic goods, textiles, and cigarettes. The country has a good road network but no railroads. Kigali has an international airport.
The annual value of Rwanda's imports is usually considerably higher than its earnings from exports. The main imports are foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, and construction materials; the principal exports are coffee, tea, hides, casseritite, wolframite, and pyrethrum. The chief trading partners are Kenya, Germany, Belgium, Uganda, and China. Rwanda depends on outside aid to balance its national budget, to finance foreign purchases, and to fund development projects.
Rwanda is governed under the constitution of 2003. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. There is a bicameral Parliament. The Senate has 26 members, 12 elected by local councils, 8 appointed by the president, and the rest representing political and educational groups; all serve eight-year terms. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 seats; 53 of the members are popularly elected on a proportional basis, and the rest are nominated from women, youth, and other groups. Deputies serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into five provinces.
The Twa were the original inhabitants of Rwanda and were followed (c.A.D. 1000), and then outnumbered, by the Hutus. In the 14th or 15th cent., the Tutsis migrated into the area, gained dominance over the Hutus, and established several states. By the late 18th cent. a single Tutsi-ruled state occupied most of present-day Rwanda. It was headed by a mwami (king), who controlled regionally based vassals who were also Tutsi. They in turn dominated the Hutus, who, then as now, made up the vast majority of the population. Rwanda reached the height of its power under Mutara II (reigned early 19th cent.) and Kigeri IV (reigned 1853-95). Kigeri established a standing army, equipped with guns purchased from traders from the E African coast, and prohibited most foreigners from entering his kingdom.
Nonetheless, in 1890, Rwanda accepted German overrule without resistance and became part of German East Africa. A German administrative officer was assigned to Rwanda only in 1907, however, and the Germans had virtually no influence over the affairs of the country and initiated no economic development. During World War I, Belgian forces occupied (1916) Rwanda, and in 1919 it became part of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi (which in 1946 became a UN trust territory). Until the last years of Belgian rule the traditional social structure of Rwanda was not altered; considerable Christian missionary work, however, was undertaken.
In 1957 the Hutus issued a manifesto calling for a change in Rwanda's power structure that would give them a voice in the country's affairs commensurate with their numbers, and Hutu political parties were formed. In 1959, Mutara III died and was succeeded by Kigeri V. The Hutus contended that the new mwami had not been properly chosen, and fighting broke out between the Hutus and the Tutsis (who were aided by the Twa). The Hutus emerged victorious, and some 100,000 Tutsis, including Kigeri V, fled to neighboring countries. Hutu political parties won the election of 1960; Grégoire Kayibanda became interim prime minister. In early 1961 a republic was proclaimed, which was confirmed in a UN-supervised referendum later in the year. Belgium granted independence to Rwanda on July 1, 1962.Independence and Civil Strife
Kayibanda was elected as the first president under the constitution adopted in 1962 and was reelected in 1965 and 1969. In 1964, following an incursion from Burundi, which continued to be controlled by its Tutsi aristocracy, many Tutsis were killed in Rwanda, and numerous others left the country. In 1971-72, relations with Uganda were bitter after President Idi Amin of Uganda accused Rwanda of aiding groups trying to overthrow him. In early 1973 there was renewed fighting between Hutu and Tutsi groups, and some 600 Tutsis fled to Uganda.
On July 5, 1973, a military group toppled Kayibanda without violence and installed Maj. Gen. Juvénal Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu who was commander of the national guard. In 1978 a new constitution was ratified and Habyarimana was elected president. He was reelected in 1983 and 1988. In 1988 over 50,000 refugees fled into Rwanda from Burundi.
Two years later Rwanda was invaded from Uganda by forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), consisting mainly of Tutsi refugees. They were repulsed, but Habyarimana agreed to a new multiparty constitution, promulgated in 1991. In early 1993, after Habyarimana signed a power-sharing agreement, Hutu violence broke out in the capital; subsequently, RPF forces launched a major offensive, making substantial inroads. A new accord was signed in August, and a UN peacekeeping mission was established. However, when Habyarimana and Burundi's president were killed in a suspicious plane crash in Apr., 1994, civil strife erupted on a massive scale. Rwandan soldiers and Hutu gangs slaughtered an estimated 500,000-1 million people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The RPF resumed fighting and won control of the country, but over 2 million Rwandans, nearly all Hutus, fled the country.
In a gesture of reconciliation, the RPF named Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, as president, but there were reprisals against Hutus by elements of the Tutsi-dominated army, and real power was believed to lie with RPF leader Paul Kagame, who became vice president and defense minister. The Hutu refugees remained crowded into camps in the Congo (then called Zaïre) and other neighboring countries, where Hutu extremists held power and, despite relief efforts by the United Nations and other international organizations, disease claimed some 100,000 lives. In 1995, a UN-appointed tribunal, based in Tanzania, began indicting and trying a number of higher-ranking people for genocide in the Hutu-Tutsi atrocities; however, the whereabouts of many suspects were unknown. In 2008 three former senior Rwandan defense and military officials were convicted of organizing the genocide. Many individuals were also tried in Rwandan courts. Over a million Hutu refugees flooded back into the country in 1996; by 1997, there was a growing war between the Rwandan army and Hutu guerrilla bands.
In 1998, Rwandan soldiers began aiding antigovernment rebels in the Congo who were attempting to overthrow the Congolese president, Laurent Kabila; Rwanda had helped Kabila overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko 18 months earlier. President Bizimungu resigned in Mar., 2000, accusing the parliament of using an anticorruption campaign to attack Hutu members of the government. Kagame officially succeeded Bizimungu as president in April, becoming the first Tutsi to be president of Rwanda.
Fighting in 1999 and 2000 between Rwandan and Ugandan forces in the Congo has led to tense relations between the two nations and occasional fighting between proxy forces in the Congo; each nation also has accused the other of aiding rebels against its own rule. Rwandan troops were withdrawn from the Congo in 2002 as the result of the signing of a peace agreement, but Rwanda forces fighting Hutu rebels have made incursions into the Congo and Burundi as well. Also in 2002, former president Bizimungu, who had become a critic of the government and established an opposition party, was arrested and charged with engaging in illegal political activity; he was convicted in 2004, but released in 2007 after being pardoned.
In May, 2003, votes approved a new constitution. In the subsequent presidential election in July, President Paul Kagame faced three Hutu candidates, the most prominent of which was former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu. The election, the first in which Rwandans could vote for an opposition candidate, was won by Kagame, with 95% of the vote, but some observers accused the government of voting irregularities, and the campaign was marred by continual government interference with opposition rallies. The RPF also won a majority of the elected seats in the Chamber of Deputies in September. The main Hutu rebel group, based in E Congo (Kinshasa), announced in Mar., 2005, that it would disarm and return peacefully to Rwanda, but the Rwandan government said that rebels who participated in the 1994 genocide would face trial when they returned.
In late 2006, a French judge investigating the crash that killed Habyarimana and provoked the genocide concluded that Kagame and a number of his aides should be tried for their roles in shooting down the plane; the judge was investigating the crash because of the deaths of the plane's French crew. The Rwandan government, which had accused extremist Hutus of assassinating Habyarimana and which also was investigating what it said was French complicity in the massacres that followed the crash, angrily denounced the judge's action and expelled the French ambassador. Ties between the two nations fully reestablished only in late 2009.
In Aug., 2008, a Rwandan report was released that accused France and French leaders of playing a direct part in the genocide (France rejected the charges), and a Jan., 2010, report again blamed Hutu extremists in the government for the killing of Habyarimana. In the Sept., 2008, legislative elections the RPF received more than 78% of the vote for the popularly elected seats. Rwanda joined the Commonwealth of Nations in Nov., 2009, becoming only the second nation with no historic ties to Britain to join that body.
See W. R. Louis, Ruanda-Urundi, 1884-1919 (1963); R. Lemarchand, Rwanda and Burundi (1970); F. Keane, Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey (1996); P. Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families (1998); L. Melvern, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide (2000).
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The Republic of Rwanda (or /rəˈwɑːndə/ in English, ɾwanda or [ɾɡwanda] in Kinyarwanda) is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. Home to approximately 10.1 million people, Rwanda supports the densest population in continental Africa, with most of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. A verdant country of fertile and hilly terrain, the small republic bears the title "Land of a Thousand Hills" (Pays des Mille Collines ; Igihugu cy'Imisozi Igihumbi).
The country has received most international attention due to the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Since then, the state has applied for membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, and a decision on its application is expected in 2009. In 2008, Rwanda became the first country in history to elect a majority female national legislature.
At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, there existed a Kingdom of Rwanda that covered modern-day Rwanda and parts of modern-day Congo-Kinshasa around Lake Kivu. It constituted a highly organized society that included its own religion and creation myths. The Banyarwanda were known even then for their military discipline, which enabled them to fend off attacks from outsiders and mount raids into the Kingdom of Burundi and the lands west of Lake Kivu.
All three classes paid tribute to the king in return for protection and various favours. Tutsi, who lost their cattle due to a disease epidemic such as Rinderpest, sometimes would be considered Hutu and likewise Hutu who obtained cattle would come to be considered Tutsi, thus climbing the ladder of the social strata. This social mobility ended abruptly with the onset of colonial administration. What had hitherto been often considered social classes took a fixed ethnic outlook.
A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict, rendering justice and reconciliation. The Tutsi king was the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases that ever reached him. Despite the traditional nature of the system, harmony and cohesion had been established among Rwandans and within the kingdom.
During World War I, 1916, Belgian forces advanced from the Congo into Germany's East African colonies. After Germany lost the War, Belgium accepted the League of Nations Mandate of 1923 to govern Ruanda-Urundi along with the Congo, while Great Britain accepted Tanganyika and other German colonies. After World War II Ruanda-Urundi became a United Nations (UN) "trust territory" administered by Belgium. The Belgian involvement in the region was far more direct than German involvement and extended its interests into education and agricultural supervision. The latter was especially important in the face of two droughts and subsequent famines in 1928-29 and in 1943. These famines forced large migrations of Rwandans to neighboring Congo. In 1933 ethnic identification cards were used to classify one's ethnicity.
The Belgian colonizers also accepted the prevailing class rule already in place, i.e., the minority Tutsi upper class and the lower classes of Hutus and Tutsi commoners. However, in 1926 the Belgians abolished the local posts of "land-chief", "cattle-chief" and "military chief," and in doing so they stripped the Hutu of their limited local power over land. In the 1920s, under military threat, the Belgians finally helped to bring the northwest Hutu kingdoms, who had maintained local control of land not subject to the Mwami, under the Tutsi royalty's central control. These two actions disenfranchised the Hutu. Large, centralized land holdings were then divided into smaller chiefdoms.
The fragmenting of Hutu lands angered Mwami Yuhi IV, who had hoped to further centralize his power enough to rid himself of the Belgians. In 1931 Tutsi plots against the Belgian administration resulted in the Belgians deposing the Tutsi Mwami Yuhi. This caused the Tutsis to take up arms against the Belgians, but because of their fear of the Belgians' military superiority, they did not openly revolt.
The Roman Catholic Church and Belgian colonial authorities considered the Hutus and Tutsis different ethnic races based on their physical differences and patterns of migration. However, because of the existence of many wealthy Hutu who shared the financial (if not physical) stature of the Tutsi, the Belgians used an expedient method of classification based on the number of cattle a person owned. Anyone with ten or more cattle was considered a member of the aristocratic Tutsi class. From 1935 on, "Tutsi", "Hutu" and "Twa" were indicated on identity cards.
The Roman Catholic Church, the primary educators in the country, subscribed to and reinforced the differences between Hutu and Tutsi. They developed separate educational systems for each. In the 1940s and 1950s the vast majority of students were Tutsi. In 1943, Mwami Mutari III became the first Tutsi monarch to convert to Catholicism.
The Belgian colonialists continued to depend on the Tutsi aristocracy to collect taxes and enforce Belgian policies. It maintained the dominance of the Tutsi in local colonial administration and expanded the Tutsi system of labor for colonial purposes. The United Nations later decried this policy and demanded a greater self-representation of the Hutu in local affairs. In 1954 the Tutsi monarchy of Ruanda-Urundi demanded independence from Belgian rule. At the same time it agreed to abolish the system of indentured servitude (ubuhake and uburetwa) the Tutsis had practiced over the Hutu until then.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, a wave of Pan-Africanism swept through Central Africa, with leaders such as Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. Anti-colonial sentiment stirred throughout central Africa, and a socialist platform of African unity and equality for all Africans was forwarded. Nyerere himself wrote about the elitism of educational systems, which Hutus interpreted as an indictment of the elitist educations provided for Tutsis in their own country.
Encouraged by the Pan-Africanists, Hutu advocates in the Catholic Church, and by Christian Belgians (who were increasingly influential in the Congo), Hutu sentiment against the aristocratic Tutsi was increasingly inflamed. The United Nations mandates, the Tutsi overlord class, and the Belgian colonialists themselves added to the growing unrest. The Hutu "emancipation" movement was soon spearheaded by Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU, who wrote his "Hutu Manifesto" in 1957. The group quickly became militarized. In reaction, in 1959 the UNAR party was formed by Tutsis who desired an immediate independence for Ruanda-Urundi, to be based on the existing Tutsi monarchy. This group also became quickly militarized. Skirmishes began between UNAR and PARMEHUTU groups. Then in July 1959, the Tutsi Mwami (King) Mutara III Charles was believed by Rwandan Tutsis to have been assassinated when he died following a routine vaccination by a Flemish physician in Bujumbura. His younger half-brother then became the next Tutsi monarch, Mwami (King) Kigeli V.
In November 1959, Tutsi forces beat up a Hutu politician, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, and rumors of his death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as "the wind of destruction." Thousands of Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighboring Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence. Several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in the violence. Tutsi refugees also fled to the South Kivu province of the Congo, where they called themselves Bunyamalengi. They eventually became a primary force in the First and Second Congo Wars.
In 1960, the Belgian government agreed to hold democratic municipal elections in Ruanda-Urundi, in which Hutu representatives were elected by the Hutu majorities. This precipitous change in the power structure threatened the centuries-old system by which Tutsi superiority had been maintained through monarchy. An effort to create an independent Ruanda-Urundi with Tutsi-Hutu power sharing failed, largely due to escalating violence. The Belgian government, with UN urging, therefore decided to divide Ruanda-Urundi into two separate countries, Rwanda and Burundi. Each had elections in 1961 in preparation for independence.
In 1961, Rwandans voted, by referendum and with the support of the Belgian colonial government, to abolish the Tutsi monarchy and instead establish a republic. Dominique Mbonyumutwa, who had survived his previous attack, was named the first president of the transitional government. Burundi, by contrast, established a constitutional monarchy, and in the 1961 elections leading up to independence, Louis Rwagasore, the son of the Tutsi Mwami and a popular politician and anti-colonial agitator, was elected as Prime Minister. However, he was soon assassinated. The monarchy, with the aid of the military, therefore assumed control of the country, and allowed no further elections until 1965.
Between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi guerrilla groups staged attacks into Rwanda from neighboring countries. Rwandan Hutu-based troops responded and thousands more were killed in the clashes.
Conflict between the two ethnic groups broke out when the Tutsi started calling for independence from the Belgium colonial rule in the 1950s. This upset the Belgians who then looked to the Hutu because they believed that the Hutu would be easier to control. Therefore, they began replacing the Tutsi chiefs with Hutus. This created the civil unrest between the two groups. The Belgians allowed the Hutu to commit violent acts against the Tutsis such as burning down the Tutsis’ houses.
On July 1, 1962, Belgium, with UN oversight, granted full independence to the two countries. Rwanda was created as a republic governed by the majority Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU), which had gained full control of national politics by this time. In 1963, a Tutsi guerrilla invasion into Rwanda from Burundi unleashed another anti-Tutsi backlash by the Hutu government in Rwanda, and an estimated 14,000 people were killed. In response, a previous economic union between Rwanda and Burundi was dissolved and tensions between the two countries worsened. Rwanda also now became a Hutu-dominated one-party state. In fact it was thought that in excess of 70,000 people had been killed, this certainly was the figure published in British newspapers at the time, it was thought for a while that British Royal Marines then stationed in Tanzania might be sent to Rwanda to stop the horrific loss of life there.
Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU (and a Hutu) was the first president (from 1962 to 1973), followed by Juvenal Habyarimana (who was president from 1973 to 1994). The latter, also a Hutu (from the northwest of Rwanda), took power from Kayibanda in a 1973 coup, claiming the government to have been ineffective and riddled with favoritism. He installed his own political party into government. This occurred partially as a reaction to the Burundi genocide of 1972, with the resultant wave of Hutu refugees and subsequent social unrest. Rwanda enjoyed relative economic prosperity during the early part of his regime.
Another 7 years of sporadic violence in Burundi (from 1965 - 1972) existed between the Hutus and Tutsis. In 1969 another purge of Hutus by the Tutsi military occurred. Then, a localized Hutu uprising in 1972 was fiercely answered by the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army in the largest Burundi genocide of Hutus, with a death toll nearing 200,000.
This wave of violence led to another wave of cross border refugees into Rwanda of Hutus from Burundi. Now there were large numbers of both Tutsi and Hutu refugees throughout the region, and tensions continued to mount.
In 1988, Hutu violence against Tutsis throughout northern Burundi again resurfaced, and in response the Tutsi army massacred approximately 20,000 more Hutu. Again thousands of Hutu were forced into exile into Tanzania and Congo to flee another genocide of Hutu.
However, Ugandans resented the Rwandan presence in the new Ugandan army, and in 1986 Paul Kagame, a Tutsi who had become head of military intelligence in Museveni's new Ugandan army, founded the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, together with Fred Rwigema. They began to train their army to invade Rwanda from Uganda, and many Tutsis who had been in the Ugandan military now joined the RPF. Kagame also received military training in the United States. In 1991, a radio station broadcasting RPF propaganda from Uganda was established by the RPF.
In 1990, the Tutsi-dominated RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Some members allied with the military dictatorship government of Habyarimana responded in 1993 to the RPF invasion with a radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda and with pogroms against Tutsis, whom it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus. Nevertheless, after 3 years of fighting and multiple prior "cease-fires," the government and the RPF signed a "final" cease-fire agreement in August 1993, known as the Arusha accords, in order to form a power sharing government. Neither side appeared ready to accept the accords, however, and fighting between the two sides continued unabated. By that time, over 1.5 million civilians had left their homes to flee the selective massacres against Hutus by the RPF army. They were living in camps, the most famous of them was called Nyacyonga.
The situation worsened when the first elected Burundian president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army in October 1993. In Burundi, a fierce civil war then erupted between Tutsi and Hutu following the army's massacre, and tens of thousands, both Hutu and Tutsi, were killed in this conflict. This conflict spilled over the border into Rwanda and caused the fragile Rwandan Arusha accords to quickly crumble. Tutsi-Hutu hatred rapidly intensified. Although the UN sent a peacekeeping force named the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), it was underfunded, under-staffed, and largely ineffective in the face of a two country civil-war, as detailed in Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil.
During the armed conflict in Rwanda, the RPF was blamed for the bombing of the capital Kigali. On April 6, 1994, the Hutu president of Rwanda and the second newly elected president of Burundi (also a Hutu) were both assassinated when their jet was shot down, allegedly by missiles from the Ugandan army, while landing in Kigali. A French tribunal has blamed this action on Kagame's RPF forces. Kagame and several members of Habyarimana's government, however, have claimed that disgruntled Hutus killed their own Hutu president, as well as the Hutu president of Burundi, to justify the upcoming genocide.
In response to the April killing of the two state presidents, over the next three months (April - July 1994) the Hutu-led military and Interahamwe militia groups killed about 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsi-led RPF continued to advance on the capital, however, and soon occupied the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country by June. Thousands of additional civilians were killed in the conflict. UN member states refused to answer UNAMIR's requests for increased troops and money. Meanwhile, although French troops were dispatched during Opération Turquoise to "stabilize the situation," they were only able to evacuate foreign nationals and in some cases the genocide continued in zones they occupied while many high-profile Hutu war criminals escaped the RPF though French-controlled areas.
Between July and August, 1994, Kagame's Tutsi-led RPF troops first entered Kigali and soon thereafter captured the rest of the country. Over 2 million Hutus then fled the country, causing the Great Lakes refugee crisis. Many went to Eastern Zaire (notably Northern Kivu province). Between 1994 and 1996, the Tutsi-controlled RPA government of Paul Kagame continued its retribution against Hutu in Rwanda. It destroyed the Nyacyonga camp for internally displaced people with heavy artillery. The RPF killed thousands of fresh returnees from Zaire in Kibeho camp. To continue its attacks against the Hutu Interahamwe forces, which had fled to Eastern Zaire, Kagame's RPF forces invaded Zaire in 1996, following talks by Kagame with US officials earlier the same year.
In this war, militarized Tutsi refugees in the South Kivu area of Zaire, known as Banyamulenge to disguise their original Rwandan Tutsi heritage, allied with the Tutsi RDF forces against the Hutu refugees in the North Kivu area, which included the Interahamwe militias.
In the midst of this conflict, Kabila, whose primary intent had been to depose Mobutu, moved his forces to Kinshasa, and in 1997, the same year Mobutu Sese Seko died of prostate cancer, Kabila captured Kinshasa and then became president of Zaire, which he then renamed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With Kabila's success in the Congo, he no longer desired an alliance with the Tutsi-RPF Rwandan army and the Ugandan forces, and in August 1998 ordered both the Ugandans and Tutsi-Rwandan army out of the DRC. However, neither Kagame's Rwandan Tutsi forces nor Museveni's Ugandan forces had any intention of leaving the Congo, and the framework of the Second Congo War was laid.
During the Second Congo War, Tutsi militias among the Banyamulenge in the Congo province of Kivu desired to annex themselves to Rwanda (now dominated by Tutsi forces under the Kagame government). Kagame also desired this, both to increase the resources of Rwanda by adding those of the Kivu region, and also to add the Tutsi population, which the Banyamulenge represented, back into Rwanda, thereby reinforcing his political base and protecting the indigenous Tutsis living there, who had also suffered massacres from the Interhamwe.
In the Second Congo War, Uganda and Rwanda attempted to wrest much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Kabila's forces, and nearly succeeded. However, due to the personal financial stakes of many leaders around Southern Africa in the Congo (such as Robert Mugabe and Sam Nujoma), armies were sent to aid Kabila, most notably those of Angola and Zimbabwe. These armies were able to beat back Kagame's Rwandan-Tutsi advances and the Ugandan forces.
In the great conflict between 1998 and 2002, during which Congo was divided into three parts, multiple opportunistic militias, called Mai Mai, sprang up, supplied by the arms dealers around the world that profit in small arms trading, including the US, Russia, China, and other countries. Over 5.4 million people died in the conflict, as well as the majority of animals in the region.
Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the DRC (Congo) in 2001, and was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. It is claimed by many in the Congo that Joseph Kabila was the son of a Rwandan Tutsi mother and his real father was a friend of Laurent Kabila's; he was adopted by Laurent Kabila only when Laurent took Joseph's Rwandan mother as one of his many wives. Joseph speaks fluent Kinyarwanda and was trained in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and China. After serving 5 years as the transitional government president, he was freely-elected in the Congo to be president, in 2006, largely on the basis of his support in the Eastern Congo.
Ugandan and Rwandan forces within Congo began to battle each other for territory, and Congolese Mai Mai militias, most active in the South and North Kivu provinces (in which most refugees were located) took advantage of the conflict to settle local scores and widen the conflict, battling each other, Ugandan and Rwandan forces, and even Congolese forces.
Ironically, it was the Banyamulenge, the large Tutsi refugee group in the Congo, that appeared to have ended the war. Tired of the prolonged war, they rebelled against Kagame's Rwandan troops and forced them to return to Rwanda, allowing Kabila to retake control of the Eastern Congo with the aid of the Angolan and Zimbabwean forces.
Rwandan RPF troops finally left Congo in 2002, leaving a wake of disease and malnutrition that continued to kill thousands every month. However, Rwandan rebels continue to operate (as of May 2007) in the northeast Congo and Kivu regions. These are claimed to be remnants of Hutu forces that cannot return to Rwanda without facing genocide charges, yet are not welcomed in Congo and are pursued by DRC troops. In the first 6 months of 2007, over 260,000 civilians were displaced. Congolese Mai Mai rebels also continue to threaten people and wildlife. Although a large scale effort at disarming militias has succeeded, with the aid of the UN troops, the last militias are only being disarmed in 2007. However, fierce confrontations in the northeast regions of the Congo between local tribes in the Ituri region, initially uninvolved with the Hutu-Tutsi conflict but drawn into the Second Congo War, still continue.
In Burundi, the Burundi Civil War from 1993 to 2006 coincided with the First and Second Congo Wars. At least 300,000 Burundians were killed, and refugees into Tanzania and Congo contributed to the region's major population displacements. In August 2005, a Hutu born-again Christian, Pierre Nkurunziza, was elected as Burundi president. At least three cease-fires between rebel groups and Burundi forces, in 2003, 2005, and September 2006, have been signed.
Rwandan stability is undoubtedly dependent both on stability in Eastern DRC (Congo) and in Burundi.
After it took control of the government in 1994 following the civil war, the Tutsi-dominated RDF party then wrote the history of the genocide and enshrined its version of events in the current constitution of 2003. It made it a crime to question the government's version of the genocide. In 2004, a ceremony was held in Kigali at the Gisozi Memorial (sponsored by the Aegis Trust and attended by many foreign dignitaries) to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide, and the country observes a national day of mourning each year on April 7. Hutu Rwandan genocidal leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the Rwandan National Court system, and, most recently, through the informal Gacaca village justice program. Recent reports highlight a number of reprisal killings of survivors for giving evidence at Gacaca.
Some have made claims that the memorialisation of the genocide without admission of the crimes by the Tutsi-RDF are one sided, and is part of ongoing propaganda by the Tutsi-led Rwandan government, which is essentially a one-party government at this time. The author of Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, has demanded that Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan president, be tried as a war criminal.
The first elections since the invasion of Rwanda by Kagame's forces in 1990 (and the subsequent creation of a military government by Kagame in 1994) were held in 2003. Kagame, who had already been appointed president by his own government in 2000, was then "elected" president by over 95% of the vote, with little opposition. Opposition parties were banned until just before the 2003 elections. Following the elections, in 2004, a constitutional amendment banned political parties from denoting themselves as being aligned with "Hutu" or "Tutsi." However, the RPF, a primarily Tutsi political organisation, was not disbanded and therefore continues its dominance. Most observers therefore do not believe the 2003 elections to have been fair nor representative. Elections have been compared to the "fair elections" of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe. The next presidential elections are due to be held in 2010.
The major markets for Rwandan exports are Belgium, Germany, and China. In April 2007, an investment and trade agreement, 4 years in the making, was worked out between Belgium and Rwanda. Belgium contributes €25-35 million per year to Rwanda. Belgian co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry continues to develop and rebuild agricultural practices in the country. It has distributed agricultural tools and seed to help rebuild the country. Belgium also helped in re-launching fisheries in Lake Kivu, at a value of US$470,000, in 2001.
In Eastern Rwanda, The Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, along with Partners in Health, are helping to improve agricultural productivity, improve water and sanitation and health services, and help cultivate international markets for agricultural products.
Since 2000, the Rwandan government has expressed interest in transforming the country from agricultural subsistence to a knowledge-based economy, and plans to provide high-speed broadband across the entire country.
A new constitution, written by the Kagame government, was adopted by referendum in 2003. The first post-war presidential and legislative elections were held in August and September 2003, respectively. Opposition parties were banned until just before the elections, so no true opposition to the ruling RPF existed. The RPF-led government has continued to promote reconciliation and unity amongst all Rwandans as enshrined in the new constitution that forbids any political activity or discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion. Right of return to Rwandans displaced between 1959 and 1994, primarily Tutsis, was enshrined in the constitution, but no mention of the return of Hutus that fled Kagame's RPF forces into the Congo in the great refugee crisis of 1994-1998 or subsequently, is made in the constitution. Nevertheless, the constitution guarantees "All persons originating from Rwanda and their descendants shall, upon their request, be entitled to Rwandan nationality" and "No Rwandan shall be banished from the country."
By law, at least a third of the Parliament representation must be female. It is believed that women will not allow the mass killings of the past to be repeated. Rwanda topped a recently conducted global survey on the percentage of women in Parliament with as much as 49 percent female representation, currently the highest in the world.
The Senate has at least 26 members, each with an 8 year term. Eight posts are appointed by the president. 12 are elected representatives of the 11 provinces and the city of Kigali. Four members are designated by the Forum of Political Organizations (a quasi-governmental organization that currently is an arm of the dominant political party); one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the public universities; one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the private universities. Any past President has permanent membership in the Senate. Under this scheme, up to 12 appointees to the Senate are appointed by the President and his party. The elected members must be approved by the Supreme Court. The 14 Supreme Court members are designated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 members, each with a 5 year term; 24 posts are reserved for women and are elected by province; 53 posts can be men or women and are also are elected by local elections; 2 posts are elected by the National Youth Council; 1 post is elected by Federation of the Associations of the Disabled.
The President and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies must be from different political parties. The President is elected every 7 years, and may serve a maximum of 2 terms. In 2006, however, the structure of the country was reorganized. It is unclear how this affects current elected representation proportions.
The current Rwandan government, led by Paul Kagame, has been praised by many for establishing security and promoting reconciliation and economic development, but is also criticized by some for being overly militant and opposed to dissent. The country now has many international visitors and is regarded as a safer place for tourists, with only a single isolated mortar attack in early 2007 around Volcanoes National Park near Gisenyi.
With new independent radio stations and other media arising, Rwanda is attempting a free press, but there are reports of journalists disappearing and being apprehended whenever articles question the government. The transmitter for Radio France International was banned by the government in Rwanda in 2006 when it became critical of Kagame and the RPF.
Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet (2,740 m). On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley, and constitutes part of the Great Rift Valley. The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region. Therefore the country is also fondly known as "Land of a Thousand Hills" (Pays des milles collines). In 2006, a British-led exploration announced that they had located the longest headstream of the River Nile in Nyungwe Forest.
The transport system in Rwanda centres primarily around the road network, with paved roads between the capital, Kigali and most other major cities and towns in the country. Rwanda is also linked by road to other countries in East Africa.This is an important trade route. The country has an international airport at Kigali, serving a domestic and several international destinations. There is limited water transport between the port cities on Lake Kivu. A large amount of investment in the transport infrastructure has been made by the government since the 1994 genocide, with aid from the USA, European Union, China, Japan and others.
The principal form of public transport in the country is share taxi, with express routes linking the major cities and local services serving most villages along the main roads of the country. Coach services are available to various destinations in neighbouring countries.
In 2006, the Chinese government proposed funding a study for the building of a railway link from Bujumbura in Burundi to Kigali in Rwanda to Isaki in Tanzania. A delegation from the American railroad BNSF also met with President Paul Kagame to discuss a route from Kigali to Isaka and at the same time the government announced that it had selected a German consulting company to undertake pilot work for the proposed mail line.
Travel and tourism information for Rwanda can be found here:
Check current requirements for entry into the Republic of Rwanda here: http://rwanda.visahq.com/requirements/Rwanda/ At the time of writing, US citizens and UK citizens do not require a visa to enter Rwanda for periods of up to 3 months.
Medical facilities in Rwanda do not match western standards. You must purchase adequate medical and travel insurance for your whole trip to Rwanda and make sure that this includes the option to be medi-vaced (flown) to Nairobi (Kenya) or South Africa in the event of a serious medical emergency. You should purchase this insurance in your home country before travelling. You should visit your own doctor/GP well in advance of travelling to Rwanda and have all necessary vaccinations. Rwanda is a malarious country and you need to visit your doctor/GP in advance of travelling to Rwanda for information about whether to take anti-malarials during your stay and what kind. It is sometimes difficult to source particular medicines/medical supplies in Rwanda and you should therefore ensure that you bring sufficient supplies of medication etc. for pre-existing conditions.
There are very few ATMs and very little use of credit/debit cards in Rwanda including VISA/American Express. The primary method of payment is by cash. You are advised not to bring travellers’ cheques as it is difficult to cash them. US$ or UK£ cash are both easily convertible.
Electricity in Rwanda is 220V. Travellers will need to bring with them appropriate step up/down transformers if their equipment does not already cope with voltages between 110 and 240V. Check your appliances and seek advice in your country before you travel. UK travellers do not require set up/down transformers to use electrical equipment in Rwanda.
The use of fixed telephone landlines is not widespread in the country. Many people use one of the two main mobile telephone networks: MTN or Terracom. MTN is the bigger operator of the two. Both networks operate mainly on a pay as you go basis and SIM cards and airtime for MTN can be bought throughout Rwanda. Both networks have good coverage of the country.
There are two main Internet Providers: Rwandatel/Terracom and MTN. The Rwandatel EVDO card is widely used but has been oversubscribed and therefore operates at a very low speed. Coverage is good throughout the country. The cost of purchasing equipment and operating costs are high in terms of quality of service. MTN operates a similar but cheaper system, although this is also slow. Both operators offer an extremely expensive, but higher speed fixed WIMAX variant wireless 'broadband' service in Kigali. This achieves very low speeds compared to western standards, but is capable of VOIP. Rwandatel offers ADSL in some areas of the country; but this is far from widespread.
Internet cafes exist, but generally provide cheap but slow connections.
The postal system is mostly reliable. Those wishing to receive post must register and pay for annually, a Post Office Box at the Post Office.
There is one national television station: Rwanda Television which broadcasts feeds from various international broadcasters during the day. The evening programming largely consists of locally produced news programming repeated in Kinyarwanda, English and French.
Subscription based satellite television is easily available; particularly in Kigali. There are currently two operators: South African based DSTV and UK owned GTV. At the moment, DSTV offers the widest range of programming but is more expensive. DTSV equipment and smart cards can be arranged through the DSTV agent in Rwanda: Tele-10. Initial enquiries must be made through Tele-10, although viewers can reduce costs by subscribing directly via DSTV in South Africa after the initial three month subscription period. Information concerning GTV can be obtained in Rwanda from the company's main office in Kigali.
According to the World Food Programme, it is estimated that 60% of the population live below the poverty line and 10-12% of the population suffer from food insecurity every year.
Land management is the single most important factor in the conflicts in west Africa. Although the feudal system of land use disappeared with the "Social Revolution" of 1959, sharecropping reappeared following the return of the RPF government in 1994, with the land use policies of the new RPF government being formalized in the 2005 land use laws. These land-use laws were meant to transform a jumble of small, fragmented, and minimally productive plots into more prosperous larger holdings producing for global (as well as for local) markets. The government is to determine how land holdings will be regrouped, which crops will be grown, and which animals will be raised. If farmers fail to follow the national plan, their land may be requisitioned with no compensation, and their land can be given to others.
Although a movement for individual ownership of land arose at the time of independence, land scarcity over much of Rwanda made this impractical over the long term. The current land reform system is somewhat similar to the "igikingi" system of land control that the Tutsi monarchy, and then the Belgian colonial government, used prior to the time leading up to independence. Northwest Rwanda had traditionally used a system of locally controlled land collectivization schemes, which were not under the Mwami's central control, called "ubokonde bw' isuka" in pre-colonial times. It is therefore the northwest of Rwanda that objects most strongly to the central control of land policy reminiscent of igikingi, taking control away from local owners. Some farmers who resisted the policy when it was begun in the 1990s were punished by fines or jail sentences; the policy remains the source of many disputes.
The law also affirms the policy of obligatory grouped residence under which persons living in dispersed homesteads must move to government-established "villages" called imidugudu. Instead of each family living on his own land, communal villages would be re-established, freeing up, presumably, more arable land. When implemented on a large-scale in the late 1990s, authorities in some cases used force, fines, and prison terms to make Rwandans relocate.
At least two imidugudu were created in northwestern Rwanda in 2005, leading to land loss for local farmers. Although the law claimed to accept the validity of customary rights to land, it rejected the customary use of marshlands by the poor and abolished important rights of prosperous landlords (abakonde) in the northwest.
However, the policy also ensured the ability of the government to exercise eminent domain for environmental reasons, which it did in 2007 by evicting encroaching settlers from the shores of Lake Kivu in an effort to protect the fragile environment there.
The government has also looked at ways to extract methane from Lake Kivu to help with the country's energy needs. The Capital Market Advisory Council [CMAC] of Rwanda was established in 2008. The monetary and financial markets are dominated by 9 banks and 6 insurance companies in which the state continues to be a major shareholder. Over 200 micro-credit institutions (also known as micro-finance institutions), often financed by international donors, sprung up in Rwanda (especially since 2004), but many were unregistered, unregulated, and often mismanaged. Several were shut down by the Rwandan government in 2006. In September 2006, the World Bank approved a US$10 million grant to Rwanda to develop information and communication technology.
Bourbon Coffee shop, a western style cafe, has opened a number of branches throughout Kigali and is very popular, especially with the ex-pat community.
Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA) has been set up to facilitate local and foreign investors.
Kenyan Supermarket chain 'Nakumatt' has recently opened in Kigali city centre (2008).
However, the current percentage for the Muslim population is believed to be around at 14%. This is after the rush of conversions to Islam in the decade following the genocide. The tiny Muslim community at the time of the genocide had played a vital role in saving countless Christian Tutsis from the Christian Hutus.
These converts have their own reasons for converting to Islam - some wanted to honor those who had saved them or their family members, some were introduced to Islam during their stay with their protectors, others chose Islam as another alternative because they simply could not go back to the Catholic Church which is seen as having played a critical role in aiding the perpetrators of the genocide, and a fraction converted because they realised that Muslim Tutsis did not die in the genocide since Muslim Hutus had refused to be swept away by Hutu hatred.
According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Rwanda hosted 54,200 refugees and asylum seekers in 2007. Approximately 51,300 refugees and asylum seekers were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 2,900 from Burundi.
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