Country Profiles:
Rwanda

Rwanda is a landlocked country in east-central Africa, located a few degrees south of the Equator. Rwanda is bordered by UgandaTanzaniaBurundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; its geography is dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. Rwanda is often referred to as le pays des mille collines (French: “land of a thousand hills”). Rwanda is among the smallest countries on the continent with the highest  population density. The capital is Kigali, located in the center of the country on the Ruganwa River.

Rwanda’s ethnic groups are structured into various clans: the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. The Tutsi Nyiginya clan grew to be the more dominant, and during the 19th century, under the reign of King Kigeli Rwabugiri, reached its greatest expansion. The territory of Rwanda was assigned to Germany as part of German East Africa in 1884. Under German ruling, the existing hierarchy remained intact, and power was delegated to the local chiefs. A more direct form of ruling came during World War I when Belgian forces introduced a more centralized power structure. During this time frame Belgium also improved educational, health, and agricultural endeavors. In 1959 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 known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990.

The war, along with numerous other political 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. As a result, approximately 2 million Hutu refugees – many fearing Tutsi retribution – fled to neighboring BurundiTanzaniaUganda, and the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remain in neighboring Democratic Republic of the CongoRwanda gained independence from Belgium July 1st. 1962. 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. The country has made a remarkable recovery under the leadership of Kagame, and is now considered to be a model for developing countries, although to his critics he’s a despot leader who tolerates no opposition, according to the BBC.

Rwanda has achieved stability, international integration and economic growth. The current government is one of the most efficient and honest on the continent and it is also regarded as the safest country in East and Central Africa, according to the World Atlas. Rwanda’s primary mineral resources are tin (cassiterite) and tungsten (wolfram); other resources include tantalite, columbite, beryl, and gold. Methane gas from Lake Kivu is used as a nitrogen fertilizer and is also converted into compressed fuel for trucks. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export and pyrethrum extract, tin, tantalite, and gold are the main minerals for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner.

The major ethnic groups in Rwanda are Hutu constituting about 85% and Tutsi 14%, of the population as in Burundi, respectively. The Twa group constitute less than 1 percent of the population. There are three official languages: Kinyarwanda,  English, and French.

Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture, ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings in a form of storytelling.

Drums are commonly used musical instrument and the most famous traditional and highly choreographed intore dance. The dance consists of three components: the umushagiriro, or cow dance, performed by women; the intore, or dance of heroes, performed by men; and the drumming, also traditionally performed by men, on drums known as ingoma. The best known dance group is the National Ballet; established by President Habyarimana in 1974, and performs nationally and internationally.

Cuisine in Rwanda is based on local staple foods produced by subsistence agriculture such as bananas, plantains (known as ibitoke), pulsessweet potatoes, beans, and cassava (manioc). Dishes include; Bananas with Split Green Peas, Isombe (cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach), Mizuzu (fried plantains), Umutsima (a dish of cassava and corn), Kachumbari Cassava Porridge (Ubugali), Brochettes (Meat on a stick), Nyama choma (roasted meat).

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