Area: 26,338 sq. km. (10,169 sq. km.); about the size of Maryland.
Cities: Capital--Kigali (est. pop. 236,000). Other
Terrain: Uplands and hills.
Climate: Mild and temperate, with two rainy seasons.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Rwandan(s).
Population (1997 est.): 7.6 million.
Annual growth rate: Over 3%.
Ethnic groups: Hutu 85%, Tutsi 14%, Twa 1%.
Religions: Christian 80%, traditional African 10%, Muslim 10%.
Languages:: French, English, Kinyarwanda.
Education: Years compulsory--6. Attendance--70% (prewar).
Health: Infant mortality rate--123/1,000. Life expectancy--49 yrs.
Work force: Agriculture--92%. Industry and commerce, services and
Independence: July 1, 1962.
Constitution: June 10, 1991.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), prime minister
government). Broad-based government of national unity formed after the
1994 civil war for
transition to multi-party parliamentary democracy. Legislative--National
Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Court of
Administrative subdivisions: 12 prefectures, 154 communes.
Political parties: Five parties comprise the government: the
Rwandan Popular Front
(RPF), the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), the Social Democratic
Party (PSD), the
Liberal Party (PL), and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC).
Central government budget (1997 est.--billions of Rwandan francs):
billion. Expenditures--62 billion, excluding an estimated 80 billion in
expenditures financed by donors.
GDP (1996 est.): 425 billion Rwandan francs.
Real GDP growth rate (1996 est. ): 13%.
Per capita income (1997 est.): $234.
Average inflation rate (1996 est. ): 9%.
Natural resources: Cassiterite, wolfram, methane.
Agriculture (1996 est.): 35% of GDP. Products--coffee, tea,
cattle, hides and skin,
pyrethrum. Arable land--48%, 90% of which is cultivated.
Industry (1996 est.): 17% of GDP. Type--beer production, soft
furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals.
Trade (1996 est.): Exports--$68 million: coffee, tea, hides and
pyrethrum. Major markets--Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Pakistan.
food, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum products. Major
U.S., Tanzania, Kenya, France.
Official exchange rate: Approx. 300 Rwandan francs=U.S.$1
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. On the
western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake
Kivu and the Ruzizi
River valley, which form the western boundary with the People's Democratic Republic of
Congo (formerly Zaire) and constitute part of the Great Rift valley. The
are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at
reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern
Although located only two degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda's high
the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at
an altitude of
4,800 feet (1,463 meters) is 73o F (23o C). During the two rainy seasons
September-December), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with
Annual rainfall averages 80 centimeters (31 in.) but is generally heavier
in the western
and north western mountains than in the eastern savannas.
Rwanda's population density, even after the 1994 genocide, is among
the highest in
Sub-Saharan Africa (230 per sq. km.--590 per sq. mi.). Nearly every
family in this country
with few villages lives in a self-contained compound on a hillside. The urban
concentrations are grouped around administrative centers. The indigenous
consists of three ethnic groups. The Hutus, who comprise the majority of
(85%), are farmers of Bantu origin. The Tutsis (14%) are a pastoral people who arrived in
the area in the 15th century. Until 1959, they formed the dominant caste
under a feudal
system based on cattleholding. The Twa (1%) are thought to be the
remnants of the earliest
settlers of the region. About half of the adult population is literate,
but not more than
5% have received secondary education. During 1994-95, most primary
schools and more than
half of prewar secondary schools reopened. The national university in
Butare reopened in
April 1995; enrollment is over 4,000. Rebuilding the educational system
continues to be a
high priority of the Rwandan Government.
According to folklore, Tutsi cattle breeders began arriving in the
area from the Horn
of Africa in the 15th century and gradually subjugated the Hutu
inhabitants. The Tutsis
established a monarchy headed by a mwami (king) and a feudal hierarchy of
Tutsi nobles and
gentry. Through a contract known as ubuhake, the Hutu farmers pledged
their services and
those of their descendants to a Tutsi lord in return for the loan of
cattle and use of
pastures and arable land. Thus, the Tutsi reduced the Hutu to virtual
boundaries of race and class became less distinct over the years as some
until they enjoyed few advantages over the Hutu. The first European known
to have visited
Rwanda was German Count Von Goetzen in 1894. He was followed by
missionaries, notably the
"White Fathers." In 1899, the mwami submitted to a German
resistance. Belgian troops from Zaire chased the small number of Germans
out of Rwanda in
1915 and took control of the country.
After World War I, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and its
Burundi, to Belgium as the territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Following World
Ruanda-Urundi became a UN trust territory with Belgium as the
Reforms instituted by the Belgians in the 1950s encouraged the growth of
political institutions but were resisted by the Tutsi traditionalists who
saw in them a
threat to Tutsi rule. An increasingly restive Hutu population, encouraged
by the Belgian
military, sparked a revolt in November 1959, resulting in the overthrow
of the Tutsi
monarchy. Two years later, the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement
(PARMEHUTU) won an
overwhelming victory in a UN-supervised referendum.
During the 1959 revolt and its aftermath, more than 160,000 Tutsis
fled to neighboring
countries. The PARMEHUTU government, formed as a result of the September
was granted internal autonomy by Belgium on January 1, 1962. A June 1962
Assembly resolution terminated the Belgian trusteeship and granted full
Rwanda (and Burundi) effective July 1, 1962.
Gregoire Kayibanda, leader of the PARMEHUTU Party, became Rwanda's
president, leading a government chosen from the membership of the
unicameral National Assembly. Peaceful negotiation of international
problems, social and
economic elevation of the masses, and integrated development of Rwanda
were the ideals of
the Kayibanda regime. Relations with 43 countries, including the United
established in the first 10 years. Despite the progress made,
inefficiency and corruption
began festering in government ministries in the mid-1960s. On July 5,
1973, the military
took power under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Juvenal Habyarimana, who
National Assembly and the PARMEHUTU Party and abolished all political
In 1975, President Habyarimana formed the National Revolutionary
Development (MRND) whose goals were to promote peace, unity, and national
movement was organized from the "hillside" to the national
level and included
elected and appointed officials.
Under MRND aegis, Rwandans went to the polls in December 1978,
a new constitution, and confirmed President Habyarimana as president.
Habyarimana was re-elected in 1983 and again in 1988, when he was the
Responding to public pressure for political reform, President Habyarimana
July 1990 his intention to transform Rwanda's one-party state into a
On October 1, 1990, Rwandan exiles banded together as the Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF)
and invaded Rwanda from their base in Uganda. The rebel force, composed
ethnic Tutsis, blamed the government for failing to democratize and
resolve the problems
of some 500,000 Tutsi refugees living in diaspora around the world. The
war dragged on for
almost two years until a cease-fire accord was signed July 12, 1992, in
fixing a timetable for an end to the fighting and political talks,
leading to a peace
accord and power-sharing, and authorizing a neutral military observer
group under the
auspices of the Organization for African Unity. A cease-fire took effect
July 31, 1992,
and political talks began August 10, 1992.
On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying President Habyarimana and the
Burundi was shot down as it prepared to land at Kigali. Both presidents
were killed. As
though the shooting down was a signal, military and militia groups began
rounding up and
killing all Tutsis and political moderates, regardless of their ethnic
The prime minister and her 10 Belgian bodyguards were among the first
killing swiftly spread from Kigali to all corners of the country; between
April 6 and the
beginning of July, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness left up to1
million Tutsis and
moderate Hutus dead at the hands of organized bands of
militia--Interahamwe. Even ordinary
citizens were called on to kill their neighbors by local officials and
government-sponsored radio. The president's MRND Party was implicated in
aspects of the genocide.
The RPF battalion stationed in Kigali under the Arusha accords came
immediately after the shooting down of the president's plane. The
battalion fought its way
out of Kigali and joined up with RPF units in the north. The RPF then
invasion, and civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for two
months. French forces
landed in Goma, Zaire, in June 1994 on a humanitarian mission. They
southwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise,"
quelling the genocide
and stopping the fighting there. The Rwandan army was quickly defeated by
the RPF and fled
across the border to Zaire followed by some 2 million refugees who fled
Tanzania, and Burundi. The RPF took Kigali on July 4, 1994, and the war
ended on July 16,
1994. The RPF took control of a country ravaged by war and genocide. Up
to 800,000 had
been murdered, another 2 million or so had fled, and another million or
so were displaced
The international community responded with one of the largest
efforts ever mounted. The U.S. was one of the largest contributors. The
operation, UNAMIR, was drawn down during the fighting but brought back up
after the RPF victory. UNAMIR remained in Rwanda until March 8, 1996.
Following an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge
people in Eastern Zaire in
October 1996, a huge movement of refugees began which brought over
600,000 back to Rwanda
in the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed
at the end of
December 1996 by the return of another 500,000 from Tanzania, again in a
wave. Less than 100,000 Rwandans are estimated to remain outside of
Rwanda in late 1997,
and they are thought to be the remnants of the defeated army of the the
government and its allies in the civilian militias known as Interahamwe.
With the return of the refugees, a new chapter in Rwandan history
began. The government
began the long-awaited genocide trials, which got off to an uncertain
start in the closing
days of 1996 and inched forward in 1997. The success or failure of the
compact will be decided over the next few years, as Hutu and Tutsi try to
find ways to
live together again.
After its military victory in July 1994, the RPF organized a coalition
similar to that established by President Habyarimana in 1992. Called The
Government of National Unity, its fundamental law is based on a
combination of the
constitution, the Arusha accords, and political declarations by the
parties. The MRND
Party was outlawed. Political organizing is banned until 1999.
The biggest problems facing the government are reintegration of more
than 2 million
refugees returning from as long ago as 1959; the end of the insurgency and
counter-insurgency among ex-military and Interahamwe militia and the
Army, which is concentrated in the northwest; and the shift away from
crisis to medium-
and long-term development planning. The prison population will continue
to be an urgent
problem for the foreseeable future, having swelled to over 100,000 in the
after the war. Trying this many suspects of genocide will tax Rwanda's
Principal Government Officials
Vice President and Minister of Defense--Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame
Prime Minister--Celestin Rwigema
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Anastase Gasana
Ambassador to the United States--Theogene Rudasingwa
Ambassador to the United Nations--Gedeon Kayinamura
Rwanda maintains an embassy in the United States at 1714 New Hampshire
Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-232-2882).
The Rwandan economy is based on the largely rain-fed agricultural
production of small,
semi-subsistence, and increasingly fragmented farms. It has few natural
exploit and a small, uncompetitive industrial sector. While the
production of coffee and
tea is well-suited to the small farms, steep slopes, and cool climates of
Rwanda and has
ensured access to foreign exchange over the years, farm size continues to
Prewar population was growing at the high rate of 3% a year. By 1994,
farm size, on
average, was smaller than one hectare, while population density was more
than 450 persons
per square kilometer of arable land.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Rwanda's prudent financial policies, coupled
external aid and relatively favorable terms of trade, resulted in
sustained growth in per
capita income and low inflation rates. However, when world coffee prices
fell sharply in
the 1980s, growth became erratic.
Compared to an annual GDP growth rate of 6.5% from 1973 to 1980,
growth slowed to an
average of 2.9% a year from 1980 through 1985 and was stagnant from 1986
to 1990. The
crisis peaked in 1990 when the first measures of an IMF structural
adjustment program were
carried out. While the program was not fully implemented before the war,
key measures such
as two large devaluations and the removal of official prices were
consequences on salaries and purchasing power were rapid and dramatic.
particularly affected the educated elite, most of whom were employed in
civil service or
During the five years of civil war that culminated in the 1994
genocide, GDP declined
in three out of five years, posting a dramatic decline at more than 40%
in 1994, the year
of the genocide. The 9% increase in real GDP for 1995, the first post-war
the resurgence of economic activity.
The Government of Rwanda posted a 13% GDP growth rate in 1996 through
collection of tax revenues, accelerated privatization of state
enterprises to stop their
drain on government resources, and continued improvement in export crop
production. It is estimated that in 1997 that food production levels will
reach 81% of
prewar levels, and should continue to improve as more returned refugees
continue to put
land back into cultivation.
Tea plantations and factories continue to be rehabilitated, and
coffee, always a
smallholder's crop, is being more seriously rehabilitated and tended as
the farmers' sense
of security returns. However, the road to recovery will be slow. Coffee
about 15,000 tons in 1996 compares to a pre-civil war variation between
35,000 and 40,000
tons, while 1996 tea production reached 11,000 tons, compared to prewar
about 13,000 tons. Rwanda's natural resources are limited. A small
provides about 5% of foreign exchange earnings. Concentrates of the heavy
cassiterite, columbite-tantalite, and wolframite are most important,
followed by small
amounts of gold and sapphires. Production of methane from Lake Kivu began
in 1983, but to
date has been used only by a brewery. Depletion of the forests will
Rwandans to turn to fuel sources other than charcoal for cooking and
heating, given the
abundance of mountain streams and lakes, the potential for hydroelectric
substantial. Rwanda is exploiting these natural resources through joint
projects with Burundi and the PEOPLE's Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
Rwanda's manufacturing sector contributes about 15%-18% of GDP and is
dominated by the
production of import substitutes for internal consumption. The larger
beer, soft drinks, cigarettes, hoes, wheelbarrows, soap, cement,
mattresses, plastic pipe,
roofing materials and textiles. By mid-1997, up to 70% of the factories
the war had returned to production, at an average of 75% of their
capacity. Investments in
the industrial sector continue to mostly be limited to the repair of
plants. Retail trade, devastated by the war, has revived quickly, with
many new small
businesses established by Rwandan returnees from Uganda, Burundi, and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Industry received little external assistance from the end of the war
through 1995. In
1996-97, the government has become increasingly active in helping the
industrial sector to
restore production through technical and financial assistance, including
economic liberalization, and the privatization of state-owned
enterprises. In early 1998,
the government will set up a one-stop investment promotion center and
implement a new
investment code that should create an enabling environment for foreign
investors. An autonomous revenue authority should also begin operation,
collections and accountability.
Possibilities for economic expansion, however, are limited by
and transport and the small available market in this predominantly
Existing foreign investment is concentrated in commercial establishments,
coffee, and tourism. Minimum wage and social security regulations are in
force, and the
four prewar independent trade unions are back in operation. The largest
was created as an organ of the government but became fully independent
with the political
reforms introduced by the 1991 constitution. As security in Rwanda
improves, the country's
nascent tourism sector may expand. Centered around the attractions of a
mountain gorillas and a game park, tourism has potential as a source of
if the country's tourism infrastructure is improved.
In the immediate postwar period--mid-1994 through 1995--emergency
assistance of over U.S. $307.4 million was largely directed to relief
efforts in Rwanda
and in the refugee camps in neighboring countries where Rwandans fled
during the war. In
1996, humanitarian relief aid began to shift to reconstruction and
The United States, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Holland,
France, China, the
World Bank, the UN Development Program and the European Development Fund
will continue to
account for the substantial aid. Rehabilitation of government
particular the justice system, is an international priority, as is the
and expansion of infrastructure, health facilities, and schools.
Rwanda's government-run radio broadcasts 15 hours a day in English,
Kinyarwanda, the national languages. News programs include regular
international radio such as Voice of America and Radio France
International. There is a
fledgling television station. There are several independent newspapers,
Kinyarwanda, that publish on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.
nations, including the U.S., are working to encourage freedom of the
press, the free
exchange of ideas, and responsible journalism.
In the post-crisis period, U.S. Government interests have shifted from
humanitarian to include the prevention of renewed regional conflict, the
internal stability, and renewed economic development. A major focus of
is the Agency for International Development's (USAID)
which aims to promote internal stability and to increase confidence in
To achieve this, USAID is trying to achieve three strategic objectives
integrated strategic plan:
--Increased rule of law and transparency in governance;
--Increased use of health and social services and changed behavior
related to sexually
transmitted infections and human immuno-deficiency virus and maternal and
child health by
building service capacity in target regions; and
--Increased ability of rural families in targeted communities to
improve household food
The mission currently is implementing activities in humanitarian
rehabilitation -- women's income-generating initiatives, shelter, family
children--administration of justice, increased local government capacity,
service delivery, AIDS and STI prevention, and enhanced food security.
The U.S. Information Service maintains a cultural center in Kigali,
which offers public
access to English-language publications and information on the United
business interests have been small; currently, private U.S. investment is
limited to the
tea industry. Annual U.S. exports to Rwanda, under $10 million annually
from 1990-93, have
exceeded $40 million in 1994 and 1995.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Wanda L. Nesbitt
Director USAID program--George Lewis
Public Affairs Officer--Alice Lemaistre
The U.S. embassy is located on Boulevard de la Revolution, P.O. Box
28, Kigali (tel.
250-75601/02; fax 250-72128).
For more information, visit the State Departments home page.