Background Information on Rwanda
Geography Rwanda is a small, densely populated state in East Africa, bordering on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Tanzania. The country consists of three distinct regions: the (south-)eastern basin, the central plateau, and the continental divide between the Congo and Nile river systems, which extends from North to South along Lake Kivu. In the Northeast, the chain of the Virunga volcanoes rises, with Mount Karisimibi (4507 m) being the highest peak in Rwanda. Most of the country is hilly, so that Rwanda is called the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. Rwanda is a tropical country, though the heat is moderated by the elevation (average daily temperature 18° C). There are two rainy seasons, February to May and September to December, with the heaviest rainfall in the western and north-western mountains, less in the eastern savannas.
Basic facts Official languages: Kinyarwanda, French, English Capital: Kigali; 800 000 inhabitants (by comparison: Berlin: 3 million) Government: presidential constitutional republic Chief of state and of government: President Paul Kagame Area: 26 000 km² (Germany: 358 000 km²) Population: 9 million (Germany: 83 million) Population density: 300 inhabitants per km² (Germany: 231) Currency: Rwanda franc Per person income per year: ca. 180 Euros (Germany: 27 253 Euros) Independence from Belgium on 1 July, 1962 Ethnic affiliation in Rwanda and Burundi: 85 % Hutu 14 % Tutsi 1 % Twa Religious affiliation in Rwanda: 55 % Catholic Christians 38 % Protestant Christians 5 % Muslims 2 % other Religious affiliation in Burundi: 65 % Catholic Christians 20 % traditional African religionists 13 % Protestant Christians 2 % Muslims
Historical benchmarks 1884–1916/18: Rwanda formed part of the German colony, “Deutsch-Ostafrika”, which included modern Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania. 1918–1962: Ruanda-Urundi was assigned to Belgium as a League of Nations mandate territory, whereas Tanganyika fell to Britain. The Tutsi minority continued to dominate the Hutu majority. In 1959, violence between the two groups broke out; thousands of Tutsis were killed or forced to flee to neighbouring countries. 1962: Rwanda and Burundi achieved independence as separate countries. 1962–1973: in the first Rwandan republic: the Hutu majority took control. Again thousands of Tutsi were killed or forced into exile in Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, the Congo and Kenya. Meanwhile, many Hutus fled from Burundi into Rwanda 1973–1994: the second republic: social tensions led to an un-bloody military putsch, replacing President Kayibanda by General Habyarimana, also a Hutu, in the president’s office. He established a one party state and was re-elected in 1978, 1983 and 1988. He opposed the return of Rwandan Tutsi exiles. 1 October, 1990: the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), composed of Rwandan Tutsi exiles in Uganda, invaded Rwanda to force the return of the exiles. Soon they occupied portions of northern Rwanda. The government attempted to reduce social tensions by allowing the formation of other political parties. Meanwhile Muslim leaders warned against ethnic violence and took a public stand for non-violence. July, 1992: international negotiations achieved a cease-fire between the government and the Tutsi rebels, but it was hardly observed by either side.. 4 August, 1993: representatives of the Hutu government and the Tutsi rebels signed the Arusha Accords, calling for a permanent cease-fire. Violence, however, continued.
October 1993: in neighbouring Burundi, Hutu President Ndadaye was murdered by a Tutsi, setting off a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi there, which spilled over into Rwanda. 6 April, 1994: after a meeting between Rwandan President Habyarimana and the new Burundian President Ntaryamira to promote better observance of the Arusha Accords, their plane was shot down over Kigali, killing both presidents. 6 April – 15 July, 1994: Blaming the Tutsi rebels for the incident, the Hutu government in Rwanda began systematic mass murder of the Tutsis. Within 100 days, some 1 million Tutsi and opposition Hutu were killed. Only 10 % of the Rwandan Tutsis survived, many of them thanks to Muslim protection. The RPF rose up again against the Hutu regime and soon occupied the whole of the country. 19 July, 1994: Under the leadership of Paul Kagame, the victorious RFP established a coalition government with the moderate Hutu Pastor Bizimungu as President. In a speech to mark the inauguration of the first Muslim minister, President Bizimungu asked the Muslims “to teach other Rwandans how to live together”. 1998: The Congo War began. Rwanda took part – officially to overcome the Hutu militia who had taken refuge there, but in fact also to grab a share of the Congolese natural resources. 30 July, 2002: Rwanda signed a peace treaty with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, providing that the Rwandan army withdraw from the Congo and that the Hutu militia operating out of the Congo be disarmed. March, 2000: President Bizimungu was ousted by Paul Kagame, hitherto head of the government. Kagame installed himself as president. May – October, 2003: for the first time since the RFP take-over, presidential and parliamentary elections were held and a new constitution was approved in a referendum. Kagame was re-elected by a margin of 95 % with little or no opposition. Although other parties were allowed to run in the parliamentary elections, the RFP maintained its domination.
Religion, Languages Already under German rule, but above all during the Belgian colonial rule after World War I, Christian missionaries became active in the country. This led to a predominance of Roman Catholics, who, shortly before the genocide accounted for some two-thirds of the population (currently 55 %). Protestants (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Adventists, Methodists and Baptists) made up another 38 %. Since the genocide, charismatic, adventististic, and other re-born Christian groups have been expanding in the country. Some 5 % of the population professes Islam. The native ancestor cults play little or no role in public life but continue to be practiced by a major portion of the population. Particularly significant is the Ryangombe cult, a monotheistic religion with a Creator God (Imana) and a prominent person (Ryangombe), who like Jesus serves as a mediator and representative of God on earth. Because of these similarities to Christianity, it was easy to win over Rwandans to the Christian faith. The mother tongue of almost all Rwandans is the Bantu language Kinyarwanda. Roughly 90 % of the population know only this language. French and English are also official languages. French goes back to the time of Belgian colonial rule. English was spread after 1994 by returning refugees from Tanzania and Uganda.