In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries.
The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees – many fearing Tutsi retribution – fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remain in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda in March 2000. In August of 2003, he won a landslide victory in the first national elections since his government took power in 1994. Under Kagame’s leadership, the country has made a remarkable recovery and is now considered to be a model for developing countries.
Rwanda has achieved stability, international integration and economic growth. The average income over the past ten years has tripled. The current government is one of the most efficient and honest in Africa. It is also regarded as the safest country in East and Central Africa.
- Official Name Republic of Rwanda
- Population 9,720,694
- Capital City Kigali (pop. 965,398)
- Currency Rwanda Franc
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- Languages Kinyarwanda, French, local dialects
- Religions Catholic, traditional beliefs
Land Area 24,950 sq km (9,633 sq miles)