Rwanda Highlights


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General Information

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Rwanda is a landlocked republic lying south of the Equator in East Central Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland. The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda but in this group there are 3 sub groups; Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Twa are the pygmy people. The origins of the Hutu and Tutsi’s seem to differ but most believe they are derived from former social castes. Others state they arrived from different countries. Rwanda is a developing economy which suffered badly in the wake of the 1994 genocide but has since strengthened. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture, coffee and tea are the major export cash crops. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of only two countries in which the mountain gorillas can be visited safely (2010). The country’s economy is overwhelmingly agricultural, with the majority of the workforce engaged in agricultural pursuits. Dry beans, sorghum, bananas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava (manioc) are the primary crops grown in Rwanda. Arabica coffee (first introduced by European missionaries), tea, and tobacco are the principal cash crops, with coffee constituting the prime export.  Important trading partners are China, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Although the country has shown consistent economic progress in the years following the genocide, the country still runs large annual trade deficits. Investment programs are almost entirely covered by external sources of financing.


Over the years the Hutu led government set the rules. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic front started a civil war 1990. The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, both Hutus, died together when their plane was shot down on April 1994. Social tensions erupted in the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu. (In just over 100 days!) The Tutsi led Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the genocide with a military victory. Paul Kagame became the new President. The years that followed have been characterized by reconstruction and ethnic reconciliation. Since the end of the 1994 genocide, many Tutsi have returned to Rwanda to reclaim their heritage. For additional coverage of the genocide, see Rwanda genocide of 1994.


Rwanda is often referred to as le pays des mille collines (French: “land of a thousand hills”). It has extraordinary biodiversity, with incredible wildlife living throughout its volcanoes, mountain rainforest and sweeping plains. Must do is to try and get a glimpse of the magnificent gorillas.