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(ro͝oän`dä), officially Republic of Rwanda, republic (2015 est. pop. 11,630,000), 10,169 sq mi (26,338 sq km), E central Africa. It borders on Congo (Kinshasa) in the west, on Uganda in the north, on Tanzania in the east, and on Burundi in the south. KigaliKigali
, city (1997 pop. 330,000), central Rwanda, capital of Rwanda. It is the country's main administrative and economic center. The city has an international airport and road access to all of the country's borders.
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 is the capital and largest town.

Land and People

Most of Rwanda is situated at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) or higher, and the country has a rugged relief made up of steep mountains and deep valleys. The principal geographical feature is the Virunga mountain range, which runs north of Lake Kivu and includes Rwanda's loftiest point, Volcan Karisimbi (14,787 ft/4,507 m). There is some lower land (at elevations below 3,000 ft/910 m) along the eastern shore of Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River in the west and near the Tanzanian border in the east. In addition to the capital, other towns include Butare, Gisenyi, and Ruhengeri.

About 85% of the inhabitants are Hutu, and the rest Tutsi, except for a small number of Twa, who are a Pygmy group. Since independence, ethnic violence has led to large-scale massacres and the creation of perhaps as many as three million refugees. Kinyarwanda (a Bantu tongue), French, and English are the official languages, and Swahili is also spoken. Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and its population has a high annual growth rate that is usually around 3%. About 90% of the people are Christian (more than half of these Roman Catholic, with Protestant and Adventist minorities) and 5% (mostly Tutsis) are Muslim. A small number follow traditional religious beliefs.


The economy of Rwanda is overwhelmingly agricultural, with most of the workers engaged in subsistence farming. Economic development in Rwanda is hindered by the needs of its large population and by its lack of easy access to the sea (and thus to foreign markets). The chief food crops are bananas, pulses, sorghum, and potatoes. The principal cash crops are coffee, tea, and pyrethrum. Large numbers of cattle, goats, and sheep are raised. Food must be imported, as domestic production has fallen below subsistence levels. Food shortages were exacerbated by the civil strife and severe refugee problems of the early 1990s, and exports were devastated. However, by the early 2000s the economy had revived to pre-1994 levels.

Cassiterite and wolframite are mined in significant quantities, and natural gas is produced at Lake Kivu. Rwanda's industries are limited to food processing, brewing, and small factories that manufacture furniture, footwear, plastic goods, textiles, and cigarettes. The country has a good road network but no railroads. Kigali has an international airport.

The annual value of Rwanda's imports is usually considerably higher than its earnings from exports. The main imports are foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, and construction materials; the principal exports are coffee, tea, hides, casseritite, wolframite, and pyrethrum. The chief trading partners are Kenya, Germany, Belgium, Uganda, and China. Rwanda depends on outside aid to balance its national budget, to finance foreign purchases, and to fund development projects.


Rwanda is governed under the constitution of 2003 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term and is eligible for a second term. Constitutional amendments adopted in 2015 change the presidential term to five years beginning in 2024 and exempted President Paul Kagame from the two-term limit. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. There is a bicameral Parliament. The Senate has 26 members, 12 elected by local councils, 8 appointed by the president, and the rest representing political and educational groups; all serve eight-year terms. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 seats; 53 of the members are popularly elected on a proportional basis, and the rest are nominated from women, youth, and other groups. Deputies serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into five provinces.


History to Independence

The Twa were the original inhabitants of Rwanda and were followed (c.A.D. 1000), and then outnumbered, by the Hutus. In the 14th or 15th cent., the Tutsis migrated into the area, gained dominance over the Hutus, and established several states. By the late 18th cent. a single Tutsi-ruled state occupied most of present-day Rwanda. It was headed by a mwami (king), who controlled regionally based vassals who were also Tutsi. They in turn dominated the Hutus, who, then as now, made up the vast majority of the population. Rwanda reached the height of its power under Mutara II (reigned early 19th cent.) and Kigeli IV (reigned 1853–95). Kigeli established a standing army, equipped with guns purchased from traders from the E African coast, and prohibited most foreigners from entering his kingdom.

Nonetheless, in 1890, Rwanda accepted German overrule without resistance and became part of German East AfricaGerman East Africa,
former German colony, c.370,000 sq mi (958,300 sq km), E Africa. Dar es Salaam was the capital. German influence emerged in the area in 1884 when Carl Peters, the German explorer, obtained treaties over parts of the territory.
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. A German administrative officer was assigned to Rwanda only in 1907, however, and the Germans had virtually no influence over the affairs of the country and initiated no economic development. During World War I, Belgian forces occupied (1916) Rwanda, and in 1919 it became part of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-UrundiRuanda-Urundi
, former colonial territory, central Africa, now divided between the independent states of Rwanda and Burundi. The original inhabitants of the area were the Twa, a Pygmy people, who around A.D.
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 (which in 1946 became a UN trust territory). Until the last years of Belgian rule the traditional social structure of Rwanda was not altered; considerable Christian missionary work, however, was undertaken.

In 1957 the Hutus issued a manifesto calling for a change in Rwanda's power structure that would give them a voice in the country's affairs commensurate with their numbers, and Hutu political parties were formed. In 1959, Mutara III died and was succeeded by Kigeli V. The Hutus contended that the new mwami had not been properly chosen, and fighting broke out between the Hutus and the Tutsis (who were aided by the Twa). The Hutus emerged victorious, and some 100,000 Tutsis, including Kigeli V, fled to neighboring countries. Hutu political parties won the election of 1960; Grégoire Kayibanda became interim prime minister. In early 1961 a republic was proclaimed, which was confirmed in a UN-supervised referendum later in the year. Belgium granted independence to Rwanda on July 1, 1962.

Independence and Civil Strife

Kayibanda was elected as the first president under the constitution adopted in 1962 and was reelected in 1965 and 1969. In 1964, following an incursion from Burundi, which continued to be controlled by its Tutsi aristocracy, many Tutsis were killed in Rwanda, and numerous others left the country. In 1971–72, relations with Uganda were bitter after President Idi Amin of Uganda accused Rwanda of aiding groups trying to overthrow him. In early 1973 there was renewed fighting between Hutu and Tutsi groups, and some 600 Tutsis fled to Uganda.

On July 5, 1973, a military group toppled Kayibanda without violence and installed Maj. Gen. Juvénal Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu who was commander of the national guard. In 1978 a new constitution was ratified and Habyarimana was elected president. He was reelected in 1983 and 1988. In 1988 over 50,000 refugees fled into Rwanda from Burundi.

Two years later Rwanda was invaded from Uganda by forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), consisting mainly of Tutsi refugees. They were repulsed, but Habyarimana agreed to a new multiparty constitution, promulgated in 1991. In early 1993, after Habyarimana signed a power-sharing agreement, Hutu violence broke out in the capital; subsequently, RPF forces launched a major offensive, making substantial inroads. A new accord was signed in August, and a UN peacekeeping mission was established. However, when Habyarimana and Burundi's president were killed in a suspicious plane crash in Apr., 1994, civil strife erupted on a massive scale. Rwandan soldiers and Hutu gangs slaughtered an estimated 500,000–1 million people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The RPF resumed fighting and won control of the country, but over 2 million Rwandans, nearly all Hutus, fled the country.

The RPF named Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, as president, but there were reprisals against Hutus by elements of the Tutsi-dominated army, and real power lay with RPF leader Paul KagameKagame, Paul
, 1957–, Rwandan political leader. Kagame was born into a Tutsi family that fled (1960) ethnic violence in Rwanda. Raised in Uganda, he became a member of Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army, was active in the guerrilla war (1980–86) that brought
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, who became vice president and defense minister. The Hutu refugees remained crowded into camps in the Congo (then called Zaïre) and other neighboring countries, where Hutu extremists held power and, despite relief efforts by the United Nations and other international organizations, disease claimed some 100,000 lives. In 1995, a UN-appointed tribunal, based in Tanzania, began indicting and trying a number of higher-ranking people for genocide in the Hutu-Tutsi atrocities; however, the whereabouts of many suspects were unknown. A number of former senior Rwandan government and military officials were convicted of organizing the genocide or having participated in it. Many more individuals were tried and convicted in Rwandan courts over the next two decades, with nearly 2 million suspects, most of whom were accused of looting and other property crimes, tried in semitraditional community courts. Over a million Hutu refugees flooded back into the country in 1996; by 1997, there was a growing war between the Rwandan army and Hutu guerrilla bands.

In 1998, Rwandan soldiers began aiding antigovernment rebels in the Congo who were attempting to overthrow the Congolese president, Laurent Kabila; Rwanda had helped Kabila overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko 18 months earlier. President Bizimungu resigned in Mar., 2000, accusing the parliament of using an anticorruption campaign to attack Hutu members of the government. Kagame officially succeeded Bizimungu as president in April, becoming the first Tutsi to be president of Rwanda.

Fighting in 1999 and 2000 between Rwandan and Ugandan forces in the Congo has led to tense relations between the two nations and occasional fighting between proxy forces in the Congo; each nation also accused the other of aiding rebels against its own rule, charges that were repeated at times in subsequent years. Rwandan troops were withdrawn from the Congo in 2002 as the result of the signing of a peace agreement, but Rwanda forces fighting Hutu rebels subsequently made incursions into the Congo and Burundi as well. (In 2010 a leaked UN report on the Congo civil war accused Rwanda's army and its Congolese allies of massacring civilian Rwandan and Congolese Hutus during the conflict.) Also in 2002, Bizimungu, who had become a critic of the government and established an opposition party, was arrested and charged with engaging in illegal political activity; he was convicted in 2004, but released in 2007 after being pardoned.

In May, 2003, votes approved a new constitution. In the subsequent presidential election in July, President Kagame faced three Hutu candidates, the most prominent of which was former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu. The election, the first in which Rwandans could vote for an opposition candidate, was won by Kagame, with 95% of the vote, but some observers accused the government of voting irregularities, and the campaign was marred by continual government interference with opposition rallies. The RPF also won a majority of the elected seats in the Chamber of Deputies in September. The main Hutu rebel group, based in E Congo (Kinshasa), announced in Mar., 2005, that it would disarm and return peacefully to Rwanda, but the Rwandan government said that rebels who participated in the 1994 genocide would face trial when they returned.

In late 2006, a French judge investigating the crash that killed Habyarimana and provoked the genocide concluded that Kagame and a number of his aides should be tried for their roles in shooting down the plane; the judge was investigating the crash because of the deaths of the plane's French crew. The Rwandan government, which had accused extremist Hutus of assassinating Habyarimana and which also was investigating what it said was French complicity in the massacres that followed the crash, angrily denounced the judge's action and expelled the French ambassador. Ties between the two nations were fully reestablished only in late 2009.

In Aug., 2008, a Rwandan report was released that accused France and French leaders of playing a direct part in the genocide (France rejected the charges), and a Jan., 2010, report again blamed Hutu extremists in the government for the killing of Habyarimana. A new French investigation concluded in Jan., 2012, that the most likely perpetrators of the attack on Habyarimana were elite Rwandan presidential troops. In Dec., 2017, Rwanda released a report it had commissioned from independent investigators that accused France of being complicit in the genocide.

In the Sept., 2008, meanwhile, legislative elections the RPF received more than 78% of the vote for the popularly elected seats. Rwanda joined the Commonwealth of Nations in Nov., 2009, becoming only the second nation with no historic ties to Britain to join that body. In Feb., 2010, Human Rights Watch accused the government of intimidating the opposition in advance of the presidential election scheduled for August; Kagame's government has also been accused of killing and attempting to kill Rwandan dissidents abroad. Kagame won reelection with 93% of the vote, but the only candidates he faced were from parties in the governing coalition; opposition candidates were excluded from the campaign. In mid-2012 Rwanda's military was accused of aiding antigovernment rebels in Congo-Kinshasa, and a number of nations cut or suspended aid to Rwanda. The RPF won the Sept., 2013, legislative elections by a landslide (76%) nearly identical to that in 2008; the elections five years also produced nearly identical results. In Dec., 2015, a referendum approved a constitutional amendment that exempted Kagame from the presidential term limits. In the 2017 presidential election Kagame was reelected with 99% of the vote against two weak opponents; other opposition candidates were disqualified. One disqualified candidate, Diane Rwigara, was charged with forgery and inciting insurrection; she was acquitted in 2018.


See W. R. Louis, Ruanda-Urundi, 1884–1919 (1963); R. Lemarchand, Rwanda and Burundi (1970); F. Keane, Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey (1996); P. Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families (1998); L. Melvern, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a state in East Africa. Rwanda is bounded by Uganda in the north, Tanzania in the east, Burundi in the south, and Zaire in the west. Lake Kivu forms part of the western border. Area, 26,300 sq km. Population, 4.12 million (1974). The capital is Kigali. Administratively, Rwanda is divided into ten prefectures.

Rwanda is a republic. The state and government are headed by a president, who is vested with extensive powers: he appoints and removes all high civil, military, and judicial officials; he appoints, accredits, and recalls ambassadors; he concludes international treaties and agreements; and he has the right to declare a state of emergency. The government consists of 12 ministers appointed by the president. The prefectures and communes are administered by prefects and burgomasters appointed by the president; communal councils include both elected officials and appointed officials (for example, burgomasters).

The judicial system of Rwanda includes a Supreme Court (court of highest instance), an appellate court, courts of first instance, and a number of special courts, such as military tribunals, commercial courts, and criminal-correction courts.


Most of Rwanda is a rugged upland, with elevations ranging’ between 1,500 and 2,000 m and composed primarily of Precam-brian crystalline and metamorphic rocks. The more elevated western rim of the upland is between 2,500 and 3,000 m in elevation and drops off abruptly to Lake Kivu in the west. The volcanic Virunga mountains, including Mount Karisimbi, which rises to an elevation of 4,507 m, are in the extreme northwest.

The climate of Rwanda is subequatorial. There is a rainy season, and temperatures are moderated by the region’s considerable elevation. In Kigali, situated at an elevation of 1,550 m, the monthly temperature averages about 20°C–21°C the year round. Annual precipitation is approximately 1,000–1,500 mm, and in the Virunga mountains, 2,000 mm. The dry season is from June through August or September. The dense network of rivers lies mostly in the Nile River basin. The largest river is the Kagera; there are many small lakes in its basin.

The dominant vegetation is second-growth savanna vegetation, which has replaced the deciduous and evergreen tropical forests cut down by man; red humic and ferralitic mountain soils predominate. The Virunga mountains have rain forests and high-mountain tropical vegetation. Wildlife, once abundant, has been drastically reduced, and most of the large animals survive only in preserves. Buffalo, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, warthog, zebra, lion, leopard, crocodile, and various species of antelope are found in Kagera National Park in the northwest; the mountain gorilla is found in the Volcanoes National Park in the northwest.

Three ethnic groups in the Bantu-Banyaruanda language family make up more than 80 percent of the population of Rwanda: Hutu (Bahutu), Tutsi (Batutsi or Watutsi), and Twa (Batwa). Of these, Hutu account for 90 percent, Tutsi 9 percent, and Twa 1 percent. Rwanda’s other inhabitants include Europeans, especially Belgians, and Asians. Kinyarwanda and French are the official languages. More than half of the population are Christian (Roman Catholic). Many retain local traditional beliefs. The Gregorian calendar is the official calendar.

Between 1963 and 1972 the population increased at a rate of 3.2 percent per year. About 1.9 million persons are economically active; about 91 percent work in agriculture (1970). Seasonal employment in industry in Rwanda and neighboring countries is common among the rural population. The average population density is about 152 persons per sq km (1973). The overwhelming majority of the population lives in rural areas, where separate farmsteads predominate. Only 2 to 3 percent live in cities; the largest cities are Kigali (1974 population, 30,000), Butare, Ruhengeri, and Gisenyi.

Little is known of the history of Rwanda before the advent of the Europeans. Bantu-speaking tribes subjugated tribes of Pygmies, the aboriginals. Between the 14th and 16th centuries, Nilo-Hamitic tribes moved from the north into what is now Rwanda.

In the centuries that followed, a feudal state emerged, and with it, the main ethnic groups; the Hutu, descended from the Bantu-speaking tribes; the Tutsi, descended from the Nilo-Hamitic tribes that settled the area in the 14th and 15th centuries; and the Twa, who are Pygmies. The Tutsi, who were for the most part stock raisers, dominated the country. From them emerged the Rwandan feudal elite and the dynasty of Rwandan kings. Most of the Hutu were oppressed farmers, and the Twa were the outcasts of Rwandan society.

A centralized Rwandan state came into existence late in the 19th century. However, the Hutu principalities in the north long refused to submit to the king; they were included in the kingdom only in the 1920’s by the military force of the colonialists. Rwanda attained its greatest power under King (mwami) Kigeri Rwabugiri (ruled 1853–95), who expanded the kingdom during his reign. He was absolute ruler of the country, owner of all land and livestock in the state, and the possessor of a strong standing army. The reign of his successor, King Yuhi Musinga (ruled 1895–1931), was marked by internecine wars, a crisis of royal authority, and the colonial enslavement of the country.

German colonialists began moving into Rwanda in the 1890’s. In 1898 the military authorities established a German residence in Kigali, and King Musinga recognized the authority of the resident. Rwanda was made part of German East Africa. During World War I, Belgian troops occupied Rwanda in 1916. After the war, Rwanda and neighboring Burundi were joined together in a single administrative unit, Ruanda-Urundi, a League of Nations mandate administered by Belgium. On Aug. 21, 1925, Ruanda-Urundi was administratively united to the Belgian Congo, of which it became a separate vice-government. In December 1946 the UN declared Ruanda-Urundi a Belgian trust territory.

The Belgian colonialists retained the system of indirect rule that had been introduced by the Germans. The king kept his throne, but the Belgian resident superivised all his actions; the Belgian resident was himself subordinate to the vice-governor-general, known from 1959 as the general resident. Local chiefs carried out administrative and judicial functions under the supervision of the Belgian administration. The Belgian administration carried out certain reforms in Rwanda—most importantly, the abolition of a number of feudal duties and the head tax.

After World War II, African society in Rwanda underwent certain changes. As commodity export crops, such as coffee and cotton, were grown on a wider scale, a well-to-do Hutu rural elite emerged, an elite that was economically tied to Belgian companies. The new social strata expressed dissatisfaction with the feudal vestiges and with the privileges of the Tutsi. The Belgian colonialists attempted to win the support of the rural elite.

At the end of the 1950’s, the anti-imperialist movement in Rwanda took on an organized character. Of the many political parties then formed, two were of lasting importance: the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (Parmehutu), founded in 1959 and later renamed the Republican Democratic Movement Parmehutu, or RDM Parmehutu; and the Ruandese National Union (UNAR), also founded in 1959. The program of the Parmehutu party provided for the complete separation of Rwanda from Burundi, defense of the interests of the Hutu people, and an end to feudal privileges. It also called for Africanization of the Rwandan administration; however, it did not at first demand an immediate end to the Belgian trust. The UNAR, formed by the upper and middle groups of the Tutsi hierarchy, demanded the withdrawal of Belgian troops, the creation of an independent federation of Rwanda and Burundi, and the setting of an exact date for the granting of independence.

As the liberation movement grew, the Belgian colonialists, seeking to maintain their dominance, exploited and in every way inflamed the hostility between the Hutu and the Tutsi. At the end of 1960, with the help of the Belgian administration, the first provisional government was formed, headed by the founder of the Parmehutu, G. Kayibanda, and consisting primarily of Parmehutu leaders. On Jan. 28, 1961, the monarchy officially ceased to exist, and Rwanda was declared a republic. In the first general elections to the Legislative Assembly, held in September 1961, the Parmehutu, with 77 percent of the vote, won a resounding victory. In a referendum held at the same time, the majority of the voters (83 percent) declared their opposition to the monarchy. Meanwhile, the Rwandans were insistently demanding independence.

On June 27, 1962, a session of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an end to the Belgian trusteeship over Ruanda-Urundi as of July 1, 1962. On July 1, 1962, Rwanda was declared an independent state. The leader of the RDM Parmehutu, Kayibanda, was elected president of the Republic of Rwanda by the Legislative Assembly (from November 1962, the National Assembly). In November 1962 the republic’s constitution was adopted. Rwanda has been a member of the UN since September 1962.

In the first years of Rwanda’s independence, relations between the two main ethnic groups—the Hutu and the Tutsi—came to a head. Between late 1963 and 1965 the Hutu and Tutsi fought bloody clashes. Kayibanda’s government took measures to develop the country’s economy; at the same time, however, it concluded a series of agreements with Western countries, thus increasing Rwanda’s economic dependence upon Western monopolies. In 1963, Rwanda joined the Afro-Malagasy Union (from 1974 the Afro-Mauritian Common Organization).

On July 5, 1973, the government of Rwanda was overthrown. President Kayibanda was arrested and the National Assembly and RDM Parmehutu party disbanded. Major General J. Habyarimana, minister of the national guard and police in the previous government, took power, assuming the responsibilities of president of the republic, chairman of the newly created Committee for National Peace and Unity, head of state, and minister of national defense. The new government continues the policy of attracting Western capital and supports African regional cooperation. Diplomatic relations between Rwanda and the USSR were established in October 1963.


Rwanda has an underdeveloped and agrarian economy. Foreign, chiefly Belgian, capital is strongly entrenched in the Rwandan economy, particularly in industry and commerce. At the same time, the state and the cooperatives are playing an increasingly larger role in the economy; thus, the company Rwandex, 50 percent of whose stock is owned by the state, and the cooperative Trafipro are increasingly more active in export operations and in the importation of several food and industrial commodities.

Economic development plans that give a high priority to agriculture have been implemented since 1966. The gross domestic product was 25.6 billion Rwandan francs in 1973; of this, agriculture accounted for more than 60 percent and industry, together with construction, for only about 8 percent. The per capita gross domestic product was about $50 annually.

Agriculture. Small and dwarf peasant holdings are the rule in agriculture; the average family plot is between 0.6 and 1 hectare (ha). A few peasant farms are joined in cooperatives, primarily supply and marketing cooperatives; cooperatives are encouraged by the government. Seventy percent of Rwanda’s land area, or 1,765,800 ha, is suitable for agriculture; of this, cultivated land, including fallow land, accounts for 30 percent, and pastureland, 31 percent.

The peasants of Rwanda rely on hoe cultivation based on shifting agriculture; methods of intensive farming—such as terracing and irrigation—are used but rarely. New lands are being reclaimed; paysannats, planned peasant settlements that specialize primarily in the production of export crops, are being built on the reclaimed lands. The three chief export crops—coffee, tea, and pyrethrum—account for 60 percent of the gross national product. The main export crop is coffee; in 1973, 24,000 ha planted in coffee yielded 15,500 tons of coffee beans. Tea was planted on 4,100 ha and yielded a harvest of 2,800 tons. Pyrethrum, planted on 3,200 ha, yielded 57 tons of extract. Cotton (about 300 tons of raw cotton) and cinchona (311 tons of bark) are also grown for export.

The chief food crops are beans (160,000 ha, 133,000 tons in 1973), sorghum (131,100 ha, 141,600 tons), corn (55,000 ha, 55,000 tons), yams (73,600 ha, 426,000 tons), manioc (30,000 ha, 360,000 tons), and bananas (156,000 ha, 1.767 million tons). Other crops, grown primarily for domestic consumption, include sugarcane, peanuts, and tobacco. Livestock are pastured, which has resulted in extremely low productivity; but stock raising nonetheless plays an important role in the consumer sector. In 1973 there were 740,000 head of cattle, 53,000 hogs, 628,000 goats, and 243,000 sheep. There are also poultry farming (chickens and ducks) and beekeeping. Lake Kivu and other lakes yield fish.

Industry. Industry is only beginning to develop in Rwanda. In 1972, 33 million kilowatt-hours (kW-hr) of electricity were generated. Rwanda has hydroelectric power plants at Ntaruka (11.2 megawatts) and Gisenyi (1.2 megawatts) and several steam power plants. In addition, Rwanda obtains electric power from the Mururu Hydroelectric Power Plant in Zaire; power lines run from the plant directly to Kigali.

The mining industry, controlled chiefly by Belgian capital, is growing in importance. A joint Belgian-Rwandan mining company, 49 percent of whose stock is owned by the state, has recently been organized. Cassiterite (yielding 2,030 tons of tin in 1973), tungsten (688 tons), columbite-tantalite, and beryl are mined. Natural gas—about 1 million cu m of methane—is extracted from Lake Kivu by underwater drilling.

The manufacturing industry consists primarily of small enterprises for the initial processing of agricultural products, such as coffee beans, tea, and pyrethrum, and small enterprises of the food and condiment industry, such as breweries, flour mills, sugar refineries, milk plants, vegetable-oil mills, and plants for the production of soap and tobacco. Rwanda also has a plant for the production of aluminum ware, a paint factory, and enterprises for the assembly of transistor radios. There are several state-owned enterprises, some for the processing of pyrethrum and tea.

Transportation. Motor vehicles are the primary means of transportation in Rwanda. There are 8,000 km of roads, including 3,100 km of highways. Various commercial vessels ply Lake Kivu, calling at the ports of Kibuye, Gisenyi, and Cyangugu. There is an international airport at Kigali and several local airports. Rwanda ships its exports through the seaports of Mombasa (Kenya), Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), and Matadi (Zaire).

Foreign trade. In 1973 the total value of Rwanda’s exports came to 2.37 billion Rwandan francs, and that of its imports, 2.844 billion Rwandan francs. Coffee accounted for 62.5 percent of the value of Rwanda’s exports, cassiterite for 15.8 percent, tungsten for 5.2 percent, tea for 7.1 percent, pyrethrum for 4 percent, and hides, cinchona bark, and raw cotton for the rest. The main imports are textiles, food, machinery and equipment, transportation equipment, and petroleum products. Rwanda’s exports go primarily to the USA (40 percent by value) and to Belgium and Luxembourg (28 percent). Rwanda’s imports come primarily from Belgium and Luxembourg (17 percent), Japan (15 percent), the Federal Republic of Germany (11 percent), and the USA (17 percent). Trade relations with the USSR and other socialist countries are growing. The USSR and Rwanda signed a trade agreement in May 1974.

The monetary unit is the Rwandan franc; 92.8 Rwandan francs equal US$ 1 (April 1975).


Medicine and public health. According to the World Health Organization, births averaged 51.8 per 1,000 inhabitants per year in the period 1965–70, and mortality, 23.3 per 1,000. Infant mortality, which is very high, averaged 132.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases are the most common diseases and the leading causes of death. The most widespread (1972) are malaria, amebiasis, pulmonary tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, various strains of typhus and paratyphoid, venereal diseases, leprosy, and childhood diseases.

Rwanda has 22 hospitals, with 3,300 beds (1971); 11 are state hospitals, with 2,000 beds. If smaller medical facilities, maternity homes, a rehabilitation center, and a tuberculosis center are taken into account, the total number of beds is about 5,000, more than 3,000 of which are in state medical facilities. There are only 1.3 beds per 1,000 persons (1971). Rwanda has a mobile leprosy unit, a national institute of public health, and an experimental and educational health care center for mothers and children.

In 1971, Rwanda had 67 physicians, (1 physician per 57,000 inhabitants), 25 of whom were native Rwandans. In 1972 and 1973 there were 28 native Rwandan physicians, 20 of whom had been trained at the National University of Rwanda in Butare. In 1971 there were also 158 doctors’ aides and more than 800 intermediate-level medical personnel, who had been trained at five medical schools in Rwanda. In 1970 expenditures for public health made up 6.5 percent of the state budget.


Veterinary services. Several particularly dangerous animal diseases are found in Rwanda, including rinderpest, cattle peripneumonia, rabies, anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease, and Newcastle disease. Trypanosomiasis, piroplasmidoses, and helminthiases are common. Because of poor veterinary services and ignorance of good veterinary practices on the part of many stock raisers, the struggle against infectious diseases in animals has been difficult.

In the late 1960’s about 80 percent of the adult population of Rwanda was illiterate. A 1966 law providing for free and compulsory primary education is not being implemented. In 1974 tuition was introduced for primary schools, and the tuition in secondary schools and higher educational institutions was increased. Children enter primary school at the age of seven. Primary school lasts six years; instruction is in Kinyarwanda. Secondary school lasts six years (two courses of study, each of three years); instruction is in French. There were 416,000 primary-school pupils in the 1970–71 academic year, and about 9,000 secondary-school students. Of the latter, 6,500 were in standard-curriculum schools, 1,000 were in technical schools, and 1,500 were in pedagogical schools.

The National University of Rwanda, located in Butare, has faculties of letters, medicine, sciences, and social and economic sciences. It was founded in 1963 and has a library of 49,000 volumes. In the 1970–71 academic year, it had more than 400 students. The National Pedagogical Institute, also in Butare, had 250 students in the 1974–75 academic year.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry operates the Institute of Agronomical Sciences of Rwanda (founded 1932), located in Butare. The National Institute for Scientific Research (founded in 1947 as the Central African Institute of Scientific Research) is associated with the National University of Rwanda. Under a 1964 agreement, supervision of the institute was entrusted to Belgium for a period of 12 years; the institute includes the Museum of Rwanda. In 1965, with the aid of UNESCO, the Center for Research of Pedagogical Documentation was founded in Kigali. The Rwandan Academy of Culture was founded in 1971.

There are several weekly newspapers in Rwanda, including Imwaho (founded 1960; circulation 5,500 in 1974), which is published in Kinyarwanda; Rwanda-Carrefour d’Afrique (founded 1962; circulation 3,500), published in French; and Kinya Mateka (founded 1959; circulation 7,000–8,000), published by the Catholic church in both Kinyarwanda and French.

The government has broadcast radio programs since 1965. The radio station in Kigali transmits in Kinyarwanda, French, Swahili, and English. The Federal Republic of Germany’s Deutsche Welle has had a radio relay station in Rwanda since 1968.

Literature. Historically, Rwanda has seen the development of three basic kinds of oral poetry—dynastic, military, and pastoral—each with professional authors and professional performers. A. Kagame (born 1912)—abbot, historian, linguist, ethnographer, and student of Rwanda’s oral tradition—is the founder of Rwanda’s written literature and the author of several narrative poems in Kinyarwanda. His most important poem is lsoko y’Amajyambere (1949), an epic poem about the advent of the Christian church in Rwanda. The epic’s first two parts—Divine Pastorale (1952) and The Birth of the Universe (1955)—have come out in French.

S. Naigiziki (born 1915) is a prose stylist and the first Rwandan author to write in French. He has written an autobiographical novel in two parts—Rwandan Escapade (1950) and My Fears at Thirty (1955)—and a play, The Optimist (1954).

The poet Bruno Nkuliyingona and the prose writers Victoria Kantengwa and Agnès Niyonkindi made their debut in a literary competition held in Rwanda in 1970. Nkuliyingona writes in Kinyarwanda; Kantengwa and Niyonkindi write in French.

In independent Rwanda, literary activity has concentrated on drama with essentially a didactic character. Plays—whether those by local authors or those adapted from the European classics—are not published but are staged by amateur theater troupes.


Traditional rural dwellings in Rwanda are for the most part situated on hillsides and are generally enclosed by paling. The traditional Banyarwanda dwelling is a round hut made of clay packed over a wooden framework and thatched with layers of rushes arranged in a spiral pattern. The interior is divided by partitions into several separate sections. Some houses are done in the European style. Basket weaving, mat weaving, and the manufacture of metal ornaments and wooden utensils are the most common arts and crafts.


Evseev, V. Ruanda. Moscow, 1974.
Karpushina, V. “Narody Ruanda-Urundi pod ‘opekoi’ bel’giiskikh kolonizatorov.” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1960, no. 6.
Lemarchand, R. Rwanda and Burundi. New York, 1970.
Sovremennye literatury Afriki: Severnaia i Zapadnaia Afrika. Moscow, 1973.
Kagamé, A. “Les Trois Grands Genres littéraires du Ruanda.” Jeune Afrique, 1951, no. 16.
Jadot, J. M. Les Ecrivains africains du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. [Brussels, 1959.]
Coupez, A., and Th. Kamanzi. Littérature de cour au Rwanda. Oxford, 1970.
Rwanda carrefour d’Afrique, 1972, no. 111, p. 5.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Rwanda

Capital city: Kigali

Internet country code: .rw

Flag description: Three horizontal bands of sky blue (top, double width), yellow, and green, with a golden sun with 24 rays near the fly end of the blue band

National anthem: “Rwanda Nziza”

Geographical description: Central Africa, east of Demo­cratic Republic of the Congo

Total area: 10,169 sq. mi. (26,338 sq. km.)

Climate: Temperate; two rainy seasons (February to April, November to January); mild in mountains with frost and snow possible

Nationality: noun: Rwandan(s); adjective: Rwandan

Population: 9,907,509 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Hutu (Bantu) 84%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 15%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%

Languages spoken: Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers

Religions: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adven­tist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous religions 0.1%, none 1.7%

Legal Holidays:

Assumption DayAug 15
ChristmasDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Genocide Memorial DayApr 7
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Heroes' DayFeb 1
Independence DayJul 1
Labor DayMay 1
National Liberation DayJul 4
New Year's DayJan 1
Patriotism DayOct 1
Second Day of ChristmasDec 26
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in central Africa: part of German East Africa from 1899 until 1917, when Belgium took over the administration; became a republic in 1961 after a Hutu revolt against the Tutsi (1959); fighting between the ethnic groups broke out repeatedly after independence, culminating in the genocide of Tutsis by Hutus in 1994. Official languages: Rwanda, French, and English. Religion: Roman Catholic, African Protestant, Muslim, and animist. Currency: Rwanda franc. Capital: Kigali. Pop.: 8 481 000 (2004 est.). Area: 26 338 sq. km (10 169 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
It is believed that the Banyarwanda are in fact the largest ethnic group today, larger than even the Baganda and other major native ethnic groups in the country.
They ensure that Guma Guma participants act 'as if' they believe in the government's banyarwanda project, regardless of whether or not its narrative silences their own experiences and memories.
Individual ethnic groups in the southwest include the Banyankole and Bahima, 10%; the Bakiga, 8%; the Banyarwanda, 6%; the Bunyoro, 3%; and the Batoro, 3%.
Any form of dissent that threatens this Banyarwanda identity is swiftly outlawed, as the RPF increasingly charges any individual who expresses disagreement with GNU policies 'divisionist' and subsequently a genocidaire.
Canon de Lacger and many others have shown that at the eve of colonization, the terms Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa implied social classes; that neither 'ethnicity' nor 'race', 'caste' or 'Hamite' were known among the Banyarwanda people.
This article discusses the question of the citizenship of the Kinyarwanda and Kirundi-speaking populations of eastern DRC, herein referred to as the Banyarwanda. The article is both historical and analytical.
Among them were Rwigyema (second in command of the army, and later assistant defense minister) and Kagame, though Museveni's later withdrawal of hospitality forced the Banyarwanda RPF/RPA to leave Uganda and invade Rwanda.
(27.) Yolamu Rufunda Barongo, "Problems of Integrating Banyarwanda Refugees among Local Communities in Uganda: A Study of Refugee Settlements in Hoima and Kabarole Districts," in A.G.G.
But in the 1920s, as the Belgians increased their exploitation in Rwanda, the Banyarwanda peasants began to emigrate to Uganda.
The Banyarwanda newsletter at the time thanked [the American] for his "daily efforts and contacts on their behalf." [He] became a committed lobbyist for John Garang, the rebel leader and Museveni ally of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), and for the cause of the RPF in Washington.
The Banyarwanda, whether the Bahutu, Batutsi or Batwa, have historically been harmonious, have shared the same culture, religion, speak the same language, and have always intermarried and lived side by side on the same hill sides.