Africa

Rwanda country profile

  • 4 February 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Rwanda

Rwanda, a small landlocked country in east-central Africa, is trying to recover from the ethnic strife that culminated in government-sponsored genocide in the mid-1990s.

In the genocide, an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by dominant Hutu forces in 100 days.

The country has struggled with its legacy of ethnic tension associated with the traditionally unequal relationship between the Tutsi minority and the majority Hutus.

Today, Rwanda is striving to rebuild its economy, with coffee and tea production among its main exports. The World Bank has praised Rwanda's recent "remarkable development successes", which it says have helped reduce poverty and inequality.

FACTS

Republic of Rwanda

Capital: Kigali

  • Population 11.2 million

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

  • Major languages 26,338 sq km (10,169 sq miles)

  • Major religions Christianity, indigenous beliefs

  • Life expectancy 54 years (men), 57 years (women)

  • Currency Rwandan franc

Getty Images

LEADER

President: Paul Kagame

Image copyright Getty Images

Paul Kagame has run Rwanda since his rebel army ended the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in 1994.

He was sworn in as vice-president and defence minister in the new, post-genocide government in July 1994, but was widely seen as the real power in Rwanda.

In 2000 parliament elected him president. He won presidential elections in 2003 and again in 2010, and gained approval by referendum to stand for an unprecedented third term in 2017.

To his admirers he is a visionary leader, but to his critics he is a despot who tolerates no opposition.

Mr Kagame has been criticised for trampling on freedoms, building up the army to assert his authority, and using anti-genocide legislation to clamp down on opponents.

Mr Kagame, born in 1957, left the country as a young child when around half a million fellow Tutsis fled following a bloody Hutu-led uprising. His family settled in Uganda, and Mr Kagame later helped Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni come to power.

From 1990 he led the military arm of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPF) in its war against the Hutu-controlled government.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Radio soap operas have been used to foster peace and reconciliation and to help heal the wounds left by the genocide

Newspaper readership is limited and press often exercise self-censorship.

Critical bloggers are often based abroad, notes US-based Freedom House.

State TV and radio reach the largest audiences, and state-owned publications predominate in the print sector.

Radio - the main source of news - had a role in the 1994 genocide. Notorious "hate" station Radio Tele Libre Mille Collines (RTLM) was a vehicle for virulent anti-Tutsi propaganda.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in the history of Rwanda:

1300s - 1916 - Tutsis migrate into what is now Rwanda, which was already inhabited by the Twa and Hutu peoples. In the 1600s the Tutsi King Ruganzu Ndori subdues central Rwanda and outlying Hutu areas; by the late 1800s it is a unified state until it becomes part of German East Africa in 1890. It is occupied by Belgian forces 26 years later.

1959 - Tutsi King Kigeri V, together with tens of thousands of Tutsis, forced into exile in Uganda following Hutu-Tutsi violence.

1961 - Rwanda proclaimed a republic.

1963 - About 20,000 Tutsis are killed following an incursion by Tutsi rebels based in Burundi. Fighting between the two ethnic groups continues intermittently over the next three decades.

1994 - Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira are killed in a rocket attack on their plane. Habyarimana's death triggers 100-day orgy of violence, perpetrated mainly by Hutus against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. About 800,000 people are killed. Hutu militia flee to Zaire, taking with them around 2 million Hutu refugees.

1996-2003 - Rwanda's invasion of DR Congo marks the beginning of its lengthy involvement in the neighbouring country's civil war, first helping to oust President Mobutu and install Joseph Kabila, and later to oppose Kabila.

2003 - Voters back a draft constitution which bans the incitement of ethnic hatred. Paul Kagame wins the first presidential elections since the 1994 genocide.

2005 July - Government begins the mass release of thousands who confessed to involvement in the 1994 genocide. Rwanda's 12 provinces are replaced by a smaller number of regions with the aim of creating ethnically-diverse administrative areas.

2010 - A former army chief who fell out with President Kagame and fled to South Africa survives apparent assassination attempts in 2010 and 2014. A former Rwandan spy chief, another exiled opponent of Mr Kagame, is murdered in South Africa in 2014.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thousands were killed and many more were displaced in the genocide of 1994

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